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Knowles, Woodside-Johnson honoured at Red-Line Track Classic

Dianne Woodside-Johnson and Sonja Knowles.

Dianne Woodside-Johnson and Sonja Knowles.

By BRENT STUBBS

Senior Sports Reporter

bstubbs@tribunemedia.net

TWO phenomenal women, Sonja Knowles and Dianne Woodside-Johnson, were recognised for their contributions to sports, particularly track and field, as they were honoured on Saturday at the inaugural Red-Line Track Classic.

Knowles is a long-time principal at St Augustine’s College where the Red-Line Athletic Track Club gave birth three years ago.

And Woodside-Johnson, who retired as head coach of Club Monica, made way for the athletes to find a new home with Red-Line Athletics.

Red-Line Athletics’ founder and head coach Tito Moss said he couldn’t find two women more deserving of the recognition from the club.

“Mrs Woodside-Johnson gave me my first opportunity to coach in a club environment with Club Monica and I learned a hell of a lot sitting at her feet for years and I am eternally grateful for her for all she taught me,” Moss said.

“Even today, I can still give her a call and she is quite willing and able to give me some advice, so I’m very proud of that.”

As for Knowles, whom he dubbed “my principal,” Moss said when he graduated from SAC in 1992, she was in her first year as principal and for the past 16 years, she afforded him the opportunity to serve as an assistant coach on the Big Red Machine track team.

“People always say to me that they thought I was on SAC’s staff because I was always at SAC,” he said. “But people who know me, know that I bleed red, so I can’t say enough for Mrs Knowles because without her, there won’t be any Red-Line Athletics today.”

Long before she took over as principal at SAC from the late Leviticus ‘Uncle Lou’ Adderley, Knowles was a sporting gem, having contended for the women's national title in bowling at the old Village Bowling Lanes and she went on to represent the Bahamas in a number of international competitions.

An alumni of SAC, Knowles began her teaching career in 1975 in the Mathematics Department before she was elevated to head of the department and assistant principal.

In her role as principal, Knowles became the long-time chairman of the Sports Committee for the Bahamas Association of Independent Secondary Schools (BAISS) and she was a cheerleader for the Big Red Machine in many local and international events.

“I’m not one for wanting to be in the spotlight, but I do thank Red-Line Athletics for considering me for this. It’s been my long life working with sports,” said Knowles, who also devoted her time to serving as a bowling coach for Special Olympics Bahamas.

“That is why I came out. That is why I continue to support all of our athletes and to encourage them. So I just want to say thank you for this honour.”

When Moss decided to launch Red-line Athletics, Knowles said she knew it would be successful and she has watched how it has expanded to include other athletes outside of SAC. “It is God’s calling for him to go and work with athletes,” said Knowles, the proud mother of two sons, Alonzo and Chane, both graduates of SAC and grandmother of three, Melina, Aurielle and Xavion.

As for her, she will be demitting office as principal in 2022 and so it’s an early going away present for her, although Moss has already indicated that the meet will become an annual one in her honor.

Woodside-Johnson, on the other hand, is probably the most decorated Bahamian female coach in any sport period. She has represented the Bahamas at every level from Carifta to the Olympic Games as either an assistant and head coach or manager and even a meet director for both the Chris Brown Invitational in 2013 and 2015 and the Grenada Invitational in 2017.

Another alumni of SAC, Woodside-Johnson excelled in the hurdles before she and her twin sister Dawn Woodside-Johnson went on to Murray State University where they continued to flourish.

A medalist at the Carifta Games and Junior Central American and Caribbean Games, Woodside-Johnson also held the Bahamian national record in the women’s 100m hurdles for 16 years from 1989-2005.

Upon her retirement, Woodside-Johnson founded Club Monica in honor and recognition of her and her versatile siblings’ greatest supporter, their mother, the late Monica Woodside.

The club lasted for 15 years when it was dissolved in 2018, making way for the introduction of Red-Line Athletics.

“I feel pretty good about it. I am proud of Red-Line, which came through Club Monica and after I retired, it was good to see that the kids had somewhere to go and train,” said Woodside-Johnson, who was recognized by the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations d the Coach of the Year in 2005, 2010 and 2012.

“I appreciate it. I really do.”

Woodside-Johnson, who also coached the Big Red Machine for a number of years, said she doesn’t miss coaching as she devote more time to her husband Terrance Johnson and her 14-yeqr-old daughter Rayanne Jayde.

Some of the athletes, who participated in the meet, expressed their gratitude to the two honorees.

Tarajh Hudson

As a graduate of SAC in 2020, Hudson said he’s aware of the athletic prowess that Knowles possessed for the Big Red Machine,” said Tarajh Hudson, who produced a Bahamian junior national record in winning the under-20 men’s shot put.

“I have a lot of respect for Mrs Knowles. I see how much she has done for the school. She’s done a lot for me. I see how much she cares a out it from a sports standpoint.

“I could remember when we lost those BISS md the emotions she showed and that inspired me to work harder because I didn’t want to see her with those emotions again the next year,” he added.

In reference to Woodside-Johnson, Hudson said at one point he was scared of her because she ad this stern look on her face.

“But she’s actually a nice person once you start to talk to her,” he stressed. “I’ve never done track, so I’ve never had a chance to work with her, but from what I’ve heard, she was very diligent in her work.”

Clinton Laguerra, who qualified for Carifta in the under-17 boys 400m hurdles, had nothing but high marks for both Knowles and Woodside-Johnson.

“Mrs Knowles was my principal. She’s a good principal,” he proclaimed. “Mrs Johnson trains me sometimes in the hurdles and she helps me to get better. They helped to keep me together whenever I get down.”

And versatile sprinter/hurdler/long jumper Otto Laing was just as appreciative of both women’s contributions to him.

“Mrs Knowles is a great person. She gave me n opportunity when I was in the seventh grade, so I’m really glad that she got this recognition,” he pointed out.

“Mrs Johnson is also a great coach, so I’m happy for her too. Well deserved.”

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