Updated 03/15/2013 10:51 AM
Track and Field Community Mourns Unexpected Death of Beloved Coach
The local track and field community is mourning the loss of its biggest diplomat. Cedric Walker, the founder of the Flower City Track Club, died unexpectedly at his Rochester home Tuesday.
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"He taught me everything about the game of life," said Demetrius Bennett, Greece Olympia track coach.
Bennett first met Cedric Walker 33 years ago. He was a young runner at Marshall High School when Walker took him under his wing. In 1986, Bennett was one of the first members of Walker's newly formed Flower City Track Club.
Now a special education math teacher and track coach in the Greece Central School District, Bennett says he owes everything to Walker.
"Cedric's vision was just to help young people to have an opportunity to run against the best in the country and leave Rochester just to see a different part of the world. That meant a lot to us. We were kids who grew up in the city who liked to run. He gave us an opportunity to rise and go out and run against the best," Bennett said.
Penfield High School track coach Dave Hennessey says he's known Walker since Cedric was a young runner for Madison High School. The two have worked closely ever since and were together as recently as last weekend at a national track meet in New York City.
"He looked great. He was excited about the meet being almost ending and getting home. He was looking forward to a clinic he had planned that was supposed to be this Saturday," Hennessey said.
Walker not only helped local track and field athletes, he also guided some from other countries, including Ukrainian long jumper and 2008 Olympian Viktoriya Rybalko.
But it was the Section V athlete that always came first.
"He never forgot his roots. No matter how high he went being a coach on international trips, being involved in the USATF, all that sort of thing, he always remembered the kids back in Section V. If you went to him and had a question or you needed some help getting a kid, making in a college or something like that, he would help you," Hennessey said.
Demetrius Bennett says Cedric will be sorely missed. He and others will take it upon themselves to keep Walkers mission alive.
"His legacy is going to be bigger than life itself and that's something we're all going to miss, but we all have to take in that part that he taught us and continue striving to be the best because that's what he'd want us to be."
Cedric Walker was 49.
A wake will be held at Aenon Baptist Church on Genesee Street on Wednesday from 9 am to 12 pm. A funeral service will follow.