HOOVER, Ala. (WBRC) - The sport of track and field won’t be the same in our state as legendary coach Mary Birdwell has passed away.
The Alabama High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame coach died Wednesday morning at the of 82. Birdwell, who coached track for more than 40 years at all levels, won 12 state championships and 14 runner-up trophies in her 16-year career at Barry and Hoover High School.
The Bucs dedicated their track to her in 2003 after she retired. She then began helping out at Birmingham Southern and coached there until last spring at the age of 81.
“She was like Coach Bear Bryant, but for track. She loved coaching so much and that’s all she wanted to do. Coach and help her athletes,” said one of Birdwell’s former track athletes Mike Abercrombie.
“I took over at Hoover after she retired. It was just her passion and she’s a great example, if you have a passion just keep going with it until you can’t go anymore. I think she did that. Physically, she wasn’t able to go anymore, but she was a blessing to a lot of people for many years,” said Hoover track coach Devin Hind.
Whether if it was middle school, high school, or officiating meets, Mary Birdwell changed track and field in Alabama and the track community says she will be dearly missed.
“Her van was packed full of track gear. She had batons, jerseys, cones, starting blocks, we always said she could have a track meet anytime, anywhere,” said Mountain Brook assistant track coach Greg Echols. “The biggest thing I take away from her, and I’ve coached against her for forty plus years, is how she loved her kids. She loved track, but her kids ran hard and competed for her and that shows what kind of coach she was.”
A memorial service for Coach Mary Birdwell will be held April 18th at Hoover High School at 1pm.