PENN RELAYS: The Black College Track Breakthrough

Franklin Field – one of track and field most iconic settings is noted for being the springboard for a lot of individual careers. It was the first venue that included college, high school and foreign competitors. In five days, the world got to witness some outstanding record breaking performers and teams. Black colleges have produced two teams numerous stars that captured the hearts of track fans everywhere. 
NCAA Division II North Carolina Central, led by Dr. Leroy T. Walker dominated the field in the 1960’s. Florida A&M’s 4×100 men’s team set a meet record in 1960’s that stood for decades.
There’s more…

Lee Calhoun, NCCU

Lee Calhoun, North Carolina College ’57; Unattached ’60
1956-57    A two-time winner in the 120y Hurdles, Calhoun set a meet record of 13.7 as a senior in 1957 which was not broken until the first year of the synthetic track in 1967.  Calhoun also ran on the North Carolina College relays of the 1950s.
(Head coach: Dr. Leroy T. Walker) (Inducted into Penn Relays Wall of Fame: 1994)

Josh Culbreath, Morgan State

Josh Culbreath, Norristown (Pa.) High School ’51; Morgan State ’55; Quantico Marines ’57; Philadelphia Pioneers ‘60
1953-55  A three-time winner in the 400m Hurdles, Culbreath was an important cog in the Morgan State relay teams which came to prominence in the 1950s.
(Head coach:  ) (Inducted into Penn Relays Wall of Fame: 1994)

Russ Rogers, Maryland State

Russ Rogers, Winston-Salem ’59, Maryland State ’62, Grand Street Boys ‘67
1961-62      The Outstanding Collegiate performer of 1961, Rogers won the first of two hurdle doubles that year.  The next year, he equaled the meet record of 51.5 in the 400m hurdles, again taking the double.  In 1959, he ran on the Winston-Salem shuttle hurdle team which set the Carnival Record.
(Head coach:  )(Inducted into Penn Relays Wall of Fame: 2003)

Norm Tate, NCCU

Norm Tate, North Carolina College ’65; New Jersey Astros ’68; New York Pioneers ’72
1964      Over nearly 30 years of competition of the Relays, Tate was undefeated.  In college he won three triple jump titles, a pair of long jumps, and ran legs on four winning relays teams.  He won four watches in 1964.
(Head coach: Dr. Leroy T. Walker) (Inducted into Penn Relays Wall of Fame: 1994)

NCCU-Johnson, Amos, Roberts, Tate-1965

North Carolina College 
1965      The 1965 North Carolina College 880-yard relay team of Robert Johnson, Terrell Amos, Edwin Roberts and Norm Tate set a Relays record of 1:24.4.  This was the last Relays record set at this distance on the cinder track, and it remained on the books until 1970.  Considering the difference between cinders and the synthetic surface introduced in 1967, the surpassing of this record didn’t really come until 1972.
(Head coach: Dr. Leroy T. Walker) (Inducted into Penn Relays Wall of Fame: 2015)

Edwin Roberts, NCCU

Edwin Roberts, North Carolina College ’65, Baltimore Olympic Club ’68, Philadelphia Pioneers ‘73
1963-64    A sprinter of amazing durability, Roberts first made his mark at the Relays with North Carolina College in the mid-1960’s, twice winning the 100y dash and as a vital cog on three championship relays.  Nine years after his college days he was still running on winning Olympic Development teams before moving on to success in Masters races.
(Head coach: Dr. Leroy T. Walker) (Inducted into Penn Relays Wall of Fame: 2003)

Bob Beamon, NC A&T

Bob Beamon, Jamaica HS (Queens, NY) 1965, North Carolina A&T 1966
1965      The Boys’ Athlete of the Meet in 1965, Beamon jumped more than a foot farther than the winner of the college championship, reaching 49-5 and setting the National Federation High School record.  Beamon’s record would last for 12 years until broken in 1978 for Wall of Famer Sanya Owolabi.  All this was mere prelude to his remarkable 29-2 ½ world record and the 1968 Olympic gold medal.
(Head coach: Larry Ellis) (Inducted into Penn Relays Wall of Fame: 2019)

FAMU-James, Hazelton, Milton, Ashcroft-1966

Florida A&M University (1966, ’67, ’68)
1968      The 1968 Florida A&M 440-yard relay set a Carnival record in 1968.  The team of Nat James, Major Hazleton, Gene Milton and Jim Ashcroft ran 40.4, bettering the meet record of 40.6 set the year before by the same foursome.  The Rattlers remains the only group in Relays history at any level to win three straight years in the same event with the same lineup. After winning in 1966, they broke Abilene Christian’s 1959 record of 40.9 with a time of 40.6 in 1967, then broke that mark in 1968 with a 40.4.
(This record was broken in 1970 by UTEP). Florida A&M was the second Historically Black College or University and only the third team overall to win three straight 440-yard relays.
(Head coach: Pete Griffin) (Inducted into Penn Relays Wall of Fame: 2018)

NCCU- Bassett, Uoko, Sang, Black-1972

North Carolina Central University
The 1972 North Carolina Central Mile Relay team smashed the Penn Relays record by three seconds. The team of Melvin Bassett, Robert Ouko, Julius Sang and Larry Black ran a nation collegiate record of 3:03.1, a time not better as either a Carnival or collegiate record until 1977.  The record was highlighted by Black’s record-setting anchor of 43.8 for his quarter-mile leg.
(Head coach: Dr. Leroy T. Walker) (Inducted into Penn Relays Wall of Fame: 2017)

Larry Black, NCCU

Larry Black, North Carolina Central ‘74
1972      The Outstanding College Athlete of the 1972 Relays, Black anchored the North Carolina Central 880-yard and mile relays and ran second leg on the sprint medley in 1972. All three teams set Carnival records, and his 43.8 leg on the mile relay was the fastest in Carnival history.
(Head coach: Dr. Leroy T. Walker) (Inducted into Penn Relays Wall of Fame: 2002)

Charles Foster, North Carolina Central ‘ 75, Philadelphia Pioneers ‘84
1973-74    A three-time champion on the 120-yard hurdles, Foster tied the Carnival record of 13.4 in 1973.  In 1974, his winning time of 13.3 was run with an over-the-allowable wind, but was the best ever run at the Relays regardless of conditions.  The same year, he anchored the North Carolina Central shuttle hurdles team with an amazing 13.0 leg, the foursome’s time of 57.2 missing the meet record by just three-tenths
of a second.
(Head coach: Dr. Leroy T. Walker) (Inducted into Penn Relays Wall of Fame: 2016)

CHandra Cheeseborough, Tennessee State

Chandra Cheeseborough, Tennessee State ’81
1981    One of the first women to dominate at the Relays, Cheeseborough won the 100 and anchored winning 4x100m and 4x400m relays in 1981 after anchoring the winning 4x100m the year before.  In the process, she set four Carnival Records.
(Head coach: Ed Temple) (Inducted into Penn Relays Wall of Fame: 1994)

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