Fifty years ago, the Spartans fielded the first integrated cross country team to win the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I title. The NCAA has posted a web feature paying tribute to the team, including current SJSU Men’s and Women’s Cross Country and Women’s Track Coach Ron Davis. Keep in mind this happened six years before Spartan sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos took a stand at the 1968 Olympics.
“A unique group of young men coached by a motivational mentor captured something they didn’t even realize was special at the time. On Nov. 26, 1962, this collection of speedy Spartans became the first integrated team to win the Division I (then called the University Division) title. As incredible as it was then, the feat may be even more remarkable upon reflection, given the racially charged atmosphere amid a civil rights movement that was dividing the country,” says NCAA writer Gary Brown.
“It was always believed that Blacks couldn’t run anything over 400 meters,” Davis told Brown. “What we did was a major surprise to the country … Looking back, that experience taught us about life, about getting to know people, and about working hard for accomplishments. We were young athletes who struggled in high school to be good enough to receive a scholarship. We were fortunate that all three of us ended up at San Jose State and were recruited not for our color but for our ability.”