Today@Sam Article

Bearkat Legends: Lane Dennis

May 24, 2024
SHSU Media Contact: Campbell Atkins

The following story is part of a series featuring the Bearkats inducted into Sam Houston State University’s Hall of Honor this fall. All seven inductees will be featured in Today@Sam articles throughout the academic year outlining their lives and athletic journeys.

LaneDennisAward.jpgLane Dennis may no longer compete in front of thousands of spectators on some of the biggest stages track and field has to offer, but the 2023 Sam Houston State University Hall of Honor inductee still spends his days racing against time. Only now, it often means life or death instead of a state or conference title.

“One of the biggest lessons I have learned from running is that there is always another hurdle that you are going to have to clear,” Dennis said. “With each one you clear, there is going to be a bigger one. But the blessing is also going to be bigger and bigger each time.”

For the last decade, one of the most decorated sprinters in Bearkat history has worked as a firefighter at Station 1 for Dallas Fire-Rescue. The attributes of devotion, hard work and perseverance were instilled into him from an early age by the supportive environment he experienced growing up in East Texas and continue to supply him with a unique perspective on life.

“My days of competing on the track may be over, but the race is never ending,” said the Trinity native. “The hurdles have never stopped because life hasn’t stopped.”

Dennis first embarked on his racing life at the age of seven, when his uncle would hold charity fun runs through their local church. He quickly discovered his aptitude for distance running. While this skill came naturally, he fostered it early and often through intense training and dedication.

“I would wake up early and run the two miles to the track behind my father’s truck while he drove, do my training at the track and run the two miles back,” he said. “During my sophomore year of high school, I began to come out of my shell and blossom.”

During his career at Huntsville High School, Dennis began to establish himself as a force in the 300 and 400-meter relays. He would go head-to-head in these events with a plethora of future professional athletes in his district and region but worked his way into their category through his persistence.

“It was a man’s race. These guys were running wild,” he said. “I wasn’t scared. Mentally, I was ready, but I wasn’t ready physically.”

After reaching regionals in his sophomore season, Dennis earned his first taste of the spotlight during the summer entering his junior year when he qualified for the 400-meter event’s finals at nationals, held at the University of Tennessee. He admitted he felt complacent by simply qualifying for the finals at such a young age, but his longtime coach, Earl Woods, reminded him to never be satisfied.

“As far as coaches go, my dad will always be in his own category, but Coach Earl is the best coach I have ever had from a training, knowledge and mental standpoint,” Dennis said. “He believed in his athletes, and you need a coach who believes.”

During his junior season, he focused on the 300-meter hurdles and went on to win regionals, which took place at SHSU. He would ultimately draw fourth place in the state competition at the University of Texas at Austin.

“As I crossed the finish line, I went straight to my parents and told them I was going to win state next year. Period. I had already made up my mind” he said. “That very next week, as school was ending prior to summer track, I went to Coach Earl.”

Dennis informed his trusted coach of his aspirations and that he wanted to knock his 400-meter hurdle time down from 56 seconds to 52 seconds. This four-second shift was an extremely lofty goal.


“He just asked me if I was ready to work,” Dennis said. “That response alone shaped my entire career moving forward. Your perspective is the difference between whether or not you are going to accomplish something. That work ethic is the difference between being great or just being in the mix with everybody else.”

The work paid off. Dennis shaved off his desired time during the finals race that summer, earning him second place at nationals and instilling confidence entering his senior year. He would once again win district and regionals in the 300-meter hurdle event, qualifying for the state competition for the second straight year.

Despite a photo finish, he stayed true to his word and accomplished his goal in Austin.

“This time, thanks to my training, my understanding and perspective was completely different. This time, I was ready,” he said. “It came down to the wire, but I ended up crossing that line first by about a thousandth of a second.”

The 300-meter hurdle state event was so close that it took event personnel nearly a whole minute before they posted the official score on the stadium’s board. Sure enough, however, Dennis saw his name next to the number one.

“You can put in the work on certain things and dedicate yourself, but that doesn’t always mean you’ll come out on top,” he said. “So that is still my proudest career win. Some wins mean more than others, and that shaped everything.”

The state champion sprinter then had to decide where he would continue his educational and athletic journey. Along with his geographical connection to SHSU, his relationship with his cousin, Courtney Boston, played a part in deciding to become a Bearkat (Boston was ultimately inducted into SHSU’s Hall of Honor for both football and track in 2019). 

“I ended up choosing Sam Houston because of the culture,” Dennis said. “It was right down the road, and I believed in what they were selling. I knew I could immediately make an impact on the program and begin to make a name for myself.”

To say he made a name for himself is a fact that will stand throughout the history of SHSU athletics via his immortalization in the Bearkat Hall of Honor.

“[Coach David Self], my teammates and the older athletes who were already there had an attitude of winning,” he said. “Coming in, my class wanted to build on that environment and get better.”


As a freshman, Dennis helped the Bearkats win the Southland Conference (SLC) Outdoor Track and Field Championship in 2005 by placing third in the 400-meter hurdles and was a member of the gold-medal winning 4x400-meter relay team.  

He would go on to win the 400-meter hurdles at the SLC championships three straight seasons from 2007-09 as well as the 4x400 relay championship in 2008. He was also a member of the winning 4x400 relay team at the SLC Indoor championships in 2005 and 2007. He finished second at the NCAA Regional Finals in the 400-meter hurdles in 2009, and placed 14th and 13th, respectively, in the event at the NCAA Championships in 2008 and 2009.  

“I went into each and every season with an attitude to be better than I was the year before,” Dennis said. “That definitely elevated me and continued to pay off; it allowed me to have immediate success coming in as well as success going out.”

Earlier this year, Dennis was dropping off a patient at Methodist Charlton Medical Center in Dallas when he received a call from Coach Self informing him of his induction into the SHSU Hall of Honor.

“It definitely caught me off guard,” he said. “It was a surreal feeling because I didn’t know it was something I was worthy of.”

In the fall, Dennis and his six fellow inductees were honored on campus during a Bearkat football game and again with a ceremony on campus in the presence of family and friends.

During his time at SHSU, he earned a degree in health and kinesiology. On top of his service as a fireman, Dennis and his wife, Monica Dennis, own a small cattle operation in Dawson, Texas, about 20 miles outside of Corsicana. Next month, he is starting a master’s program in public administration at the University of Texas at Arlington and ultimately plans to pursue his doctorate.

- END -

This page maintained by SHSU's Communications Office:

Director of Content Communications: Emily Binetti

Communications Manager: Mikah Boyd
Telephone: 936.294.1837

Communications Specialist: Campbell Atkins
Telephone: 936.294.2638

Please send comments, corrections, news tips to