Out of the Starting Block

“I’m sure anyone can say that being a pioneer of something isn’t easy. I feel like I should be humble, too—just as much as they are and were. They were in the Olympics and they stood for other people. I want to follow that lead.”
—Nicole Iloanya, member of SJSU’s first women’s track and field team

“The story of modern track and field cannot be written without the contributions of SJSU athletes and coaches,” said Bob Feuerbach, ’80 Business, 1978 Spartan Track and Field All-American, when he learned of the university’s plans to bring back men’s track and field in 2018. He aptly summarized the legacy of SJSU’s famed “Speed City” era that continues to reach far beyond the sport, providing opportunities and advancing social justice in communities around the world.

Between 1941 and 1970, with the innovative coaching techniques of Lloyd “Bud” Winter, 91 Spartans were ranked in the top 10 worldwide by Track and Field News, 27 were Olympians, and men’s track and field won the NCAA team title in 1969. At the height of the Civil Rights Movement, San Jose State track and field athletes also raised global consciousness of the struggle for racial and social equality through the Olympic Project for Human Rights.

Many of the Speed City team members became human rights advocates, teachers, coaches and mentors, dedicating their lives to sharing what they learned at San Jose State—both locally and internationally.

Jody Ulate

Jody Ulate, '05 MA English, is editor of the Washington Square blog and printed alumni magazine.

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