Just think: If a couple of Middletown HS (MD) kids named Derek and Natalie Dye in 1996 had focused on, say, basketball or soccer – instead of getting into track and field – then a certain “dad,” John Dye, would have continued being an “avid sports fan who only paid attention to track and field every four years during the Olympics.”
But Derek and Natalie did get into the sport and excelled. “Dad” wanted to know how his kids ranked against others in the region, so he started an email newsletter for five Western Maryland counties. The next year, when Derek won the state high jump and Natalie the pole vault, Dye wanted to know where his kids ranked nationally. At 61, he was an older father, but he had plenty of savvy and experience on the fledgling “world wide web.” He could cheaply start a website and start publishing news and rankings online.
So DyeStat.com, “the internet home of high school track,” was born. He started taking reports from correspondents, and his interest in the sport bloomed. Armed with a laptop and a video camera from which he took stills, he started going to meets himself. Derek and Natalie may have graduated, but “Dad” was hooked. Soon, he was traveling to indoor and outdoor nationals, Foot Locker Finals and major invites nation-wide. For the first time, through this online track and field pioneer, same day or even instant news was available to athletes, coaches and fans around the country.
DyeStat.com was exploding in popularity. The site’s coverage of the prep distance running boom during 1999-2001, fueled by the record-breaking efforts of the likes of Alan Webb, Dathan Ritzenhein and Ryan Hall, drove traffic and ignited the wildly popular TrackTalk message board. In fact, in a 2008 Running Times article, Jay Johnson, then heralded director of the Boulder Running Camps and former assistant coach at Colorado credited the American distance renaissance at the world stage to Dye and Coach Jack Daniels. Many track and field aficionados would agree.
Deciding to make his hobby a second career, Dye retired from the U.S. government after 30 years as an auditor and financial manager at HUD, Energy, Labor and SBA. Meanwhile, his wife Donna became involved by joining him at meets, armed with her own camera, snapping countless photos of family and fans on the sidelines. Hence, the extremely popular feature: Donna on the Side. Support also came from Derek, who later designed the TFX ranking system.
Dye continued to forge partnerships, first with Nike and then Student Sports, supporting the new Nike Team Nationals XC Championships (now NXN) in 2004. More funding and support enabled him to hire editors and photographers to help with coverage and feature stories. DyeStatCal and DyeStat Illinois were launched. The massive information network fueled the sport, because now great performances from one part of the country were inspiring others everywhere else.
Then 2008 brought another new beginning, as ESPN bought Student Sports and DyeStat, providing more resources than ever – as well as significant changes. Ultimately, “ESPN RISE” was shuttered in 2012, leaving Dye searching for another partner. Now in his late 70s, and having had an amazing 15-year run, he decided it would be a good time to retire. Late that year, Runnerspace.com and its founder, Ross Krempley, decided to purchase DyeStat and have kept it going to this day.
Did You Know?
The DyeStat TrackTalk message boards, at their peak, had more than 10,000 members.