Donna Dye: 2023 Doug Speck Award for Excellence and Innovation

by Steve Underwood

“Donna on the Side” was one of the most beloved features of the creation of the late, pioneering Hall of Famer John Dye for more than a decade. But the ground-breaking high-school track & field website might never have been the special partnership it became if not for that feeling Donna Dye had when her husband was first off covering meets.

“One fall weekend, I found myself at home with two dogs, two cats and an empty house,” she recalls. “John had gone off to a meet somewhere. After a few of those weekends, I vowed, I would not be a track and field widow. So I announced to John that I wanted to go with him and contribute in some way. He encouraged me.”

The Dyes’ state-champion children – high-jumper Derek and pole-vaulter Natalie – had gone off to college, and Donna didn’t know a whole lot more about the sport. But she fearlessly went all in, “asking questions, observing, and eventually talking with athletes. That was the start, a sort of pre-Donna on the Side. I kept attending meets, notepad in hand, trying different things while learning about the sport.”

She came to realize that while John’s photos, stories and stats featured the best of the best, she could give due attention to everyone else. “I kept on trying to find ways to present track and field as a more comprehensive family-oriented activity. At the time there was no social media, no way for ordinary people to get on the internet. Eventually, I came up with The Wave. I roamed the sidelines just asking athletes, family and friends and meet workers to smile and wave at the camera.”

Since Donna’s realm was the sideline and her work was sort of a “sidebar” to the core meet coverage, “Donna on the Side” was born. “This gave people a way of getting online, while at the same sharing the sport outside of track and field … And I had a ball!”

Sadly, John passed last fall, but this winter, Donna was honored at The Armory with her son, Derek, at the Hall of Fame Invitational, and reunited with DyeStat editor Doug Binder and photographer John Nepolitan.

Our Partners