By Larry Isch, Director of Public Relations Clarksville, Ark.-Kenneth Little wasted no time making his mark as a track and field athlete at University of the Ozarks.
Little, who competed at Ozarks from 1978-1981, won the triple jump competition in the very first collegiate track meet he competed in, setting the standard for a highly successful career. The Plaquemine, La., resident will be inducted into the U of O Sports Hall of Fame on January 27. “It’s a great honor to be a part of the sports Hall of Fame at my alma mater,” said Little. “Track has been a big part of my life and some of the best times of my life were competing in track at Ozarks. This is a very exciting honor.” Little was a standout triple and long jumper for Ozarks and also ran on the school’s relay teams. He is the co-holder of the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference (AIC) record in the triple jump (50-feet and one-half inch) and qualified for the NAIA National Championships all four years he competed. He was also a two-time All-AIC selection. “Kenneth was a great one,” said former Ozarks Track Coach Jerry Wagoner. “He came to Ozarks as a very good long jumper, but he really blossomed in the triple jump at Ozarks. He had great speed and explosive ability, which made him an ideal triple jumper. We didn’t have a lot of depth in those days and really couldn’t compete as a team against some of the larger schools in the AIC, but individually, Kenneth was as good as they came in the conference.” Little was know around the Ozarks campus by his nickname “Chief,” which he acquired in high school in Bayou Goula, La. As an explosive 6-foot basketball player with a 42-inch vertical leap in high school, Little earned the nickname because he was “chief of the backboards.” But it was in track and field where Little made his mark in high school, winning the Louisiana Class AA long jump championship in both his junior and senior years and leading his school to a state track title. At Ozarks, Little qualified for the NAIA Championships in both the long jump and triple jump as a freshman and sophomore and in the triple jump as a junior and senior. As a junior, he finished fourth in the 1980 NAIA Championships at Abilene Christian University with a triple jump of 50-10 3/4, earning him All-American honors. A hamstring injury limited his success during his senior season, but he still qualified for the National Championships, making him one of the few Ozarks athletes to qualify for national competition for four consecutive seasons. Before the injury in his senior season, Little finished fourth in the Kansas Relays against competitors from Division I schools. “It was really devastating to get injured as a senior because I think I had a great chance to improve on my fourth place finish in the Nationals,” Little said. “I always wondered how well I could have done if I hadn’t gotten hurt. But when I look back on my career at Ozarks, I don’t have any regrets. I had a good career.” Little, who has worked in the chemical industries field in the Baton Rouge, La., area for 26 years, is currently a supervisor at Turner Industries. He continues to be involved in track and field, serving as a volunteer coach in the jumping and relay events for Plaquemine High School for the past eight years. “I love track and field and it’s something that will always be in my blood,” he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to coach some state champions here and there’s nothing better than helping a young person achieve their potential.” Little still has fond memories of his time at Ozarks. “When I first arrived at Ozarks in 1977, the people were so friendly,” he said. “Coach Wagoner treated me like his own son and I met some great people at the college. I got a great education there as well. If I ever went back to college and got another degree, I would come back to Ozarks in a minute.” Little lives in Plaquemine with his wife, Janell, and their three children, Miranda, Kenneth Jr., and Diamond. Little and Lori (Myers) Hines, who was a standout basketball player from 1994-97, make up the 2007 Hall of Fame class. The induction ceremony will take place following the women’s basketball game on January 27. The women’s game is set to begin at 1:00 p.m. A lunch honoring Little and Hines will be held in the Seay Student Center cafeteria at 11:30 a.m. that day. Current members of the Hall of Fame will also be introduced during the induction ceremony. Tickets to the luncheon can be purchased by calling the alumni office at (479) 979-1234.