TEXAS A&M University track and field head coach Pat Henry considered college standout Deon Lendore a part of his family.
Lendore, a three-time Trinidad and Tobago Olympian who died in a car accident in Texas on Monday night, competed for Texas A&M (Aggies) from 2012-2015.
Lendore, 29, served as a volunteer assistant coach for 400m and 800m athletes for the past two seasons while training professionally under contract with Puma. He was returning home from practice when he got into the accident.
The quarter-mile specialist was the first male athlete from the South Eastern Conference (SEC) to win (2014) the Bowerman – collegiate track and field’s highest honour, awarded every December by the US Track and Field Cross Country Coaches Association to the most outstanding male and female athletes.
The three-time TT Olympian leaves a legacy of Aggies performances, setting several records and capturing multiple titles in the men’s 400m and 4x400m relay events.
“This is very difficult to express, I can’t even express this loss. Over the years our relationship had changed to not only one of my athletes to coach, but he (Lendore) was loved by my wife, children and grandchildren.
“He was part of my family. It hurts, it really hurts. My thoughts are with his family and the efforts to get through this very difficult period of time,” Henry said in a statement from Texas A&M on Wednesday.
The Bowerman paid tribute to TT’s 2012 Olympic men’s 4x400m relay bronze medallist by outlining Lendore’s lengthy list of college accolades.
A memorial posting online read, “Lendore put together one of the most dominant collegiate campaigns ever eight years ago. He ran in eight 400m finals in 2014, winning them all and going 1-0 in 200-meter finals to boot.
“His 45.03 seconds to win the 400m at the SEC Indoor Championships was the fastest indoor mark in the world that year. Lendore’s 44.36s outdoors, which completed the sweep of SEC crowns, was the fastest among collegiate athletes that year.
“In addition to winning both the indoor and outdoor national titles in the 400m, Lendore anchored the winning 4×400m relay and the runner-up 4×100m relay at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) division one Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
“Don’t forget that Lendore also clocked the fastest relay split in collegiate indoor history of 44.63 to lead Texas A&M to a collegiate record of 3:03.20 at the SEC meet.”
After his record-setting season in 2014, he was named Texas A&M's first and only male winner of the Bowerman. He was named the university’s Male Athlete of the Year in 2014 (in a tie) and 2015.
University director of athletics Ross Bjork also highlighted Lendore’s contribution to the Aggies over the past seven years.
“Deon Lendore leaves an enormous legacy not only at Texas A&M, but on the world stage. It is an unthinkable tragedy and tremendous loss for the track and field community and for Aggies everywhere.
“He was a wonderful representative of Texas A&M Athletics both as a student-athlete and a volunteer coach, and we offer sincere condolences to Deon's family, teammates and his friends,” he said.
For TT, alongside his Olympic bronze, Lendore accumulated five world medals, including a gold as a member of the 4x400m relay at the IAAF World Relays in 2019.
He earned his first world championship medal as a member of the 4x400m relay in 2015 before earning bronze in the 400m and 4x400m 2016 world indoor championships and bronze at the 2018 world indoor championships.
Shante Moore, US Embassy charge d’affaires, also sent condolences to Lendore’s family and friends.
His statement read, “On behalf of the US Embassy of Port of Spain, I extend condolences to the family, friends and fans of Trinbagonian Olympian Deon Lendore upon his untimely and tragic passing.”