From the time Ken Klatka was 10 years old, he wanted to attend Springfield College. He chose to do so when he became a college freshman in 1966. After his days running as a student-athlete for Springfield, he became the assistant men’s track and field coach and eventually head coach.
From the day he stepped foot on Alden Street in 1966, Klatka has felt a link to SC. On Saturday, Oct. 15, Klatka will be inducted into the Springfield College Athletics Hall of Fame, forever linking him with his alma mater.
Klatka was sitting at home when he got the call from the Director of Alumni Relations, Tamie Kidess Lucey.
“I was very, very surprised and I’m very humbled and gracious for this honor,” said Klatka. “It’s hard to put into words. It’s hard to think of myself along some of the great coaches that have been here.”
Although Klatka may believe he is unworthy to be in the same class as some of the elite coaches in Springfield history, his numbers show that he is right up there with the best of them.
In his 36 seasons as head coach of the men’s track and field team, Klatka has complied 433 wins and a 75 percent winning percentage.
He is also a three-time NCAA Division III Outdoor Regional Coach of the Year and a four-time ECAC Division III Outdoor Coach of the Year. While Springfield was in Division II, Klatka was also named NCAA Division II Indoor Coach of the Year.
“I’ve worked hard and I just tried to carry on a tradition of past coaches,” said one of the newest members of the Hall of Fame.
As an athlete, Klatka was just as successful. He was captain of the cross country team in 1969, and in 1967, he played a pivotal role in Springfield’s IC4A (Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America) championship team. That Springfield squad went on to finish seventh at nationals.
However, take away all the championships and achievements and Klatka is still happy to be where he is at.
“I love what I do,” said the Manchester, N.H. native. “I’ve been lucky to be at a position where you can’t wait to get up in the morning and go to work.”
Springfield is important to him. That is why he returned to Springfield in 1969 as a graduate assistant for the track team. It is also why he became the full-time assistant to Vern Cox from 1970 until 1976, when Cox stepped down and handed the reins to Klatka.
“To be teaching and coaching here is a lifelong dream,” said Klatka.
Klatka knows that this great ride cannot last forever and someday he will have to say goodbye to SC.
“Somewhere along the line, I’d imagine I’d have to pack it in, but for right now, I’m not even thinking about it,” said Klatka.
The Hall of Fame inductions start at 6 p.m. on Oct. 15 in the Richard B. Flynn Campus Union.
Terrence Payne may be reached at email@example.com