Track and field athletics

Track and field athletics had their beginning at Princeton in an intramural meet on June 21, 1873 -- the first collegiate track contest held in the United States. The meet was organized by George Goldie, Scottish-born director of the gymnasium from 1869 to 1911, and called the Caledonian Games because of his success as an all-round champion in games staged by American and Canadian Caledonian Clubs. The names of some of the events reflected their Caledonian origin -- standing long jump, running high leap, hitch and kick, vaulting with the pole. The Caledonian Games survived until 1947; thereafter they gave way to the fuller intercollegiate schedule of modern times.

In the first Caledonian Games Allan Marquand 1874, later the founder of the college's art department~, won three first places and one second. In the fourth Caledonian Games Andrew J. McCosh 1877 won four first places, one second. Introducing him to a friend about this time, President McCosh remarked, ``This is my son, Andrew, whose brains are in his heels.'' This was fatherly hyperbole: Andrew graduated with honors and became an eminent surgeon.

In 1876, at the first meet held by the newly formed Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America (the IC4A), Princeton won the team championship with four first places and four seconds.

Francis Larkin, Jr. 1879 won intercollegiate championships in the shotput, hammer throw, standing high junp, and standing broad jump in both 1878 and 1879. He was the first four-event winner in the country and the only one in Princeton history.

Walter C. Dohm 1890, double winner in 1890 of the half-mile and the broad jump, was the first intercollegiate champion to do the half-mile under 2 minutes. A double winner in 1891, Luther H. Cary 1893 was the first American sprinter to use the crouching start, and the first intercollegiate champion to do the 100 in 10 seconds flat and the 220 under 22 seconds.

Robert Garrett 1897, twice team captain, earned an unequalled place of honor on the roll of Princeton Olympians as the winner of two first places, a second, and a third at the first of the modern Olympic games in 1896.

Princeton's outstanding track athlete of the nineteenth century was John F. Cregan 1899. Twice team captain and three times intercollegiate champion in the mile, he won both the half-mile and the mile in the 1898 intercollegiates, the first runner in the country to accomplish this feat. A year later, he won the first intercollegiate cross-country championship, and at the 1900 Penn Relays, he was anchor man on the Princeton team which won the two-mile relay championship and set a new intercollegiate record (8:05). In a meet with California, he won the quarter-mile as well as the mile; and against Cornell he took first place in the half-mile, the mile, and the two-mile runs. (In later life a metallurgist, he lived to be eighty-eight.)

John R. DeWitt '04 was intercollegiate hammer-throw champion four straight years from 1901 through 1904 -- Princeton's only four-time winner in the Intercollegiates. In the words of a Harvard contemporary, he was ``a giant in strength and a master of the art of the double turn.''

Princeton's first dual meet was with Columbia in 1877, but regular annual meets did not begin until the 1890s, first with Columbia, later with Cornell, Yale, and Harvard.

Following Goldie, other trainers who worked with the varsity track squad were James Robinson, Jack McMasters, Walter Christie, Alfred F. Copland, and Charles H. Wilson.


Keene Fitzpatrick, the leading track coach in the country, was called to Princeton from the University of Michigan in 1910. His 1911 team was the first Princeton team to beat Yale in a dual meet. The victory was not assured until the last event, the high jump, in which a sophomore, John F. Simmons '13, later chief of protocol of the State Department, ``rose to the occasion,'' as the Alumni Weekly put it, and tied for first place, giving Princeton a 60-56 edge over Yale. In 1915, a Princeton team won the two-mile relay championship at the Penn Relays, setting a new intercollegiate record (7:55.4), and the anchor man, Captain Ian Douglas Mackenzie '15, set a new Princeton record for the mile (4:20) in the Yale-Princeton meet that year.

Fitzpatrick's most brilliant years were those after World War I when five teams beat both Yale and Harvard in 1918, 1920, 1922, 1925, and 1932, and four placed second in the intercollegiates in 1920, 1922, 1923, and 1925. In 1932, his last team, captained by Howard P. Dawson '32, won its three dual meets with Cornell, Harvard, and Yale, and was, he said, the best-balanced team he had ever coached.

Fifteen Princetonians trained by Keene Fitzpatrick won individual intercollegiate championships. Two of them were double winners: Charles R. Erdman '19 in the 120-yard high hurdles and 220-yard low hurdles in 1918; Randolph E. Brown '20 in the 100- and 220-yard dashes in 1920. Two were two-time winners, J. Coard Taylor '23 in the 220-yard low hurdles in 1922 and 1923; Ralph G. Hills '25 in the shot-put in 1923 and 1925. Each also won a national championship, Taylor in 1922, Hills in 1925.

The most versatile trackman of this era was S. Harrison Thomson '23, national all-round champion in 1919 and 1921, national decathlon champion in 1922. In the Harvard meet in 1922 he took first place in the 120-yard high hurdles, shot-put, and discus throw; second in the high jump and broad jump. Theodore W. Drews '25 was national pentathlon champion in 1926. Another versatile performer was Benjamin van D. Hedges '30. In the Cornell meet in 1929 he took first place in the 120-yard high hurdles and broad j~~ump and tied for first in the high jump and pole vault. Hedges was amphibious; 1929 intercollegiate champion in the high jump, that same year he was adjudged the second best diver in the swimming intercollegiates.

On Fitzpatrick's retirement in 1932, Princeton's appreciation of the contribution he had made was summed up by Dean Gauss in these words: ``Born one of Nature's gentlemen, in his disappointments as in his triumphs he was and remains for all of us the perfect sportsman.''


In 1920 a friendship struck up at the Penn Relays between Charles R. Erdman '19, Princeton track captain, and Bevil Rudd, Oxford track captain, led to an Oxford-Princeton meet in 1920 which in turn led to a series of ten meets between Oxford-Cambridge teams and Princeton-Cornell teams held between 1921 and 1949. Princeton won from Oxford in 1920. Of the other ten meets, the first, in 1921, resulted in a tie, Oxford-Cambridge won four (1925, 1926, 1934, 1937), and Princeton-Cornell won five (1929, 1930, 1933, 1938, 1949). These meets were held alternately in England and the United States. Athletes from both teams lived and trained together, and at one post-meet dinner, a speaker from the British Embassy said he couldn't tell them apart until on that warm July evening, all present took off their coats. Then, he said, he recognized the Oxford and Cambridge men by their ``braces.'' Champion quarter-miler William E. Stevenson '22 was the most equitable contributor to international amity. After losing to England's Olympic champion Bevil Rudd, in 1920, he beat him in 1921; and then in 1925, as a Rhodes Scholar, won the event for Oxford-Cambridge against both Princeton-Cornell and Harvard-Yale.


Keene Fitzpatrick was succeeded in 1932 by Matthew T. Geis, an energetic, warm-hearted coach who had made a distinguished record at the Lawrenceville School. An old middle-distance runner himself, Geis had among his earliest proteges another middle-distance runner, William R. Bonthron '34, who attained preeminence among Princeton track athletes similar to that of Johnny Cregan in the late nineties. Indeed their careers followed parallel courses. Bonthron's double victory in the 800 and 1500 meters in the 1933 and 1934 intercollegiates duplicated Cregan's in the 1898 intercollegiates, and his triple victory in the 800, 1500, and 3000 meter runs in the 1933 and 1934 Yale meets matched Cregan's feat against Cornell in 1900. His 4:08.7 mile in 1933 set a Princeton record, which survived until 1968. In 1934 the Amateur Athletic Union's James E. Sullivan medal was awarded to Bonthron as the outstanding amateur athlete of the year and a track trophy was established in his honor at Princeton.

In Bonthron's senior year Asa S. Bushnell '21, then graduate manager of athletics, organized, with Matty Geis, an invitation track meet at reunion time which was continued as an annual event through 1940. These meets brought into competition some of the outstanding track athletes of the day, and produced a number of new world's records.

Two other prot‚g‚s of Geis were double winners in the intercollegiates: Harvey M. Kelsey Jr. '45 and Paul F. Cowie '46, champions in the 100- and 220-yard dashes in 1943 and 1948 respectively. Three others were two-time intercollegiate winners: Standish F. Medina '37 in the pole vault in 1936 and 1937, Anson Perina '40 in the broad jump in 1938 and 1939, and F. Morgan Taylor, Jr. '53 in the broad jump in 1952 and 1953.

The greatest team of the Geis era was Captain Peter B. Bradley's in 1938. It beat all six opponents in dual meets and placed first in the Heptagonal Games (established in 1935 by Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, and Yale).

When Geis retired in 1956, only one past Princeton record remained intact: Ben Hedges' 6'4«" high jump of 1929.


Under Peter J. Morgan, Jr., successor to Geis, Princeton track athletes continued the inexorable process of running faster, leaping higher or longer, or throwing farther than their predecessors. Hedges' 32-year-old high-jump record was finally broken by a freshman, John Hartnett '64, who cleared the cross-bar at 6'6 in 1961; he later did 6'9«". That same year, Charles Mitchell '63, a poetry-writing sophomore, bettered Stan Medina's twenty-four-year-old pole-vault record with a leap of 14 feet; a year later he made it 15 feet. Mitchell found pole-vaulting not unlike poetry (``You can put emotion and feeling into it; there's real beauty and timing in pole-vaulting. When I'm vaulting I feel alone, apart from everyone. That's how it is with my poetry.'')

In 1968, the two-mile relay team set a new Princeton record for that event (7:25). In the same year, one of its members, Alan J. Andreini '68, shaved seven-tenths of a second off Bonthron's thirty-five-year-old record for the mile, and another member, Werner E. Endrikat '68, set a new Princeton record in the half-mile (1:48) and became Princeton's only three-time winner in the Heptagonals.

Lawrence Ellis succeeded Morgan as track and cross-country coach in 1970. A graduate of New York University, where he was a top-flight middle-distance runner and an intercollegiate champion in cross-country, Ellis was the first black to be appointed a head coach in the Ivy League.

Under Ellis, Princeton's participation in indoor track has expanded, helped by the new facilities made available with the completion of the Jadwin Gymnasium in 1969. Princeton teams have become noted for their success in dual meet competition, indoors as well as outdoors.

True to the tradition begun in Johnny Cregan's day, and carried on in Ian Mackenzie's, Bill Bonthron's, and Alan Andreini's, Ellis's two-mile relay teams captured both the IC4A and NCAA championships in 1975, and the Heptagonal championship in 1976 and again in 1977. The relay's anchor man, Craig Masback '77, added further luster to the Cregan-Mackenzie-Bonthron-Andreini tradition in the mile run by winning that event in the 1977 indoor IC4A championships with the best time ever recorded by a Princeton miler -- 4:01.8.

From Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion, copyright Princeton University Press (1978).

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