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A Family Affair

Tom Wood treasures the student-athletes he has coached in three decades with NC State’s track and field team.

Photograph courtesy of NC State Athletics

By Jack Daly ’01

Tom Wood traces his career as a track and field coach by talking about athletes he has worked with, and a former athlete at the University of North Carolina is perhaps the best place to start Wood’s story.

Sharon Couch was the reason Wood moved to North Carolina. The two started working together when Wood was still a high school coach in rural Virginia. Couch eventually made her way to UNC; when she graduated, her focus shifted to the Olympics. Wood was her coach and relocated to Raleigh in 1992, finding work as an assistant coach at NC State.

Three decades later, Wood is still an assistant for the Wolfpack track and field team, and rates Couch’s appearances in the Olympics as a career apex. “After I did that, I said: ‘I don’t know if I want to do that again — that was too much for me,’” Wood says.

Tom Wood with Jakerra Covington, a junior from Rockingham, N.C., who competes in throwing events.

Instead, Wood focused on the dreams of Wolfpack throwers and athletes who compete in events such as the heptathlon. Athletes like Alyssa Dunn ’17, who wasn’t much of a shot-putter when she started in 2013. By 2016, she had progressed to the point she scored in the ACC Championship, prompting the team to celebrate as if they had won a national championship. “For each person, it’s watching them become the best they can be,” he says.

“For each person, it’s watching them become the best they can be.”
– Coach Tom Wood

Wood stays in touch with many of them. Tremanisha Taylor ’14 was a two-time All-American and the 2013 ACC Champion in shot put and now works in public health in Granville County. She called Wood one night late last year and they spent 45 minutes catching up. Ursula McLean ’03 was a three-time letter-winner from 1999–2001 and now lives in Virginia. When she came to NC State for a football game last fall, she made a point of visiting Wood.

“These people,” Wood says, “will be in my family until I die.”

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