San Romani Went From Unknown To Legend

Celebrating A Century of NCAA Track & Field Championships

San Romani Went From Unknown To Legend

Archie San Romani of Emporia State was virtually unknown when he won the mile at the 1935 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Berkeley, California.

After his NCAA victory in 1936, he was part of a golden age of American miling.

The 1935 win was by inches in the modest time of 4:19.1 as he was fastest in a mad-dash finish.

Even as defending champion, San Romani didn’t warrant a favorite’s role at the 1936 NCAA meet, the last time it was held at its birthplace, Chicago’s Amos Alonzo Stagg Field.

Most figured that Don Lash of Indiana would win, just as he had at the Big Ten meet in 4:10.8 to become the third-fastest collegiate miler in history in edging Wisconsin’s Chuck Fenske (at 4:10.9 the fourth-fastest). A week before the NCAA meet Lash set a world record in the 2-mile.

With 1936 being an Olympic year, the NCAA meet held metric distances in the Olympic events, so the 1500 meters was held instead of the mile. San Romani turned the race into a romp, clocking 3:53.0 as Fenske (3:56.7) and Lash (3:57.8) finished well behind. San Romani’s time was the fastest ever recorded by a collegian, breaking the 3:53.1 run by Glenn Cunningham in 1932.

Three weeks later, San Romani dueled Cunningham (then the mile world record holder) in the U.S. Final Olympic Trials as both ran 3:49.9, Cunningham winning as both finished ahead of fourth-place Bill Bonthron (the 1500 world record holder). At the Berlin Olympics, San Romani was fourth while Cunningham earned the silver medal.

The name of Archie San Romani came to prominence again some 30 years later, as son Archie Jr. set a high school national record in the mile (also a school record at East High School in Wichita, Kansas, that would later be broken by Jim Ryun).

Archie Jr. went on to be coached by Bill Bowerman at Oregon and nearly matched dad’s NCAA title, finishing second in the 1964 NCAA 1500 behind Morgan Groth of Oregon State. The combination of 1st and 2nd by the two Archies is still the best by a father and son in the NCAA 1500/mile.

posted: April 13, 2021
1921-2021
The NCAA's First Championships

The NCAA and collegiate track & field will mark a momentous milestone in the spring of 2021 -- the 100th anniversary of the NCAA Championships and with that, the NCAA Track & Field Championships. In June 1921, the University of Chicago hosted the first track & field championships in NCAA history.

This point can’t be emphasized enough: Not only was the event the first for NCAA track & field, but the first championships for any sport under the sponsorship of the NCAA.

To celebrate, over each of the next 365 days, the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) will celebrate moments, student-athletes, and coaches that have made a century’s worth of championships special. From humble beginnings to important historical milestones to the modern-day, collegiate track & field has evolved with the American society.

The 2021 edition of the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships begin with preliminary round action on May 27-29 in Jacksonville, Fla., and College Station, Texas. The championships final site and culmination of the celebration is slated for June 9-12, 2021 at the newly rebuilt Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.

Memorable Moments
Reese Left Her Mark On NCAA LJ
June 12, 2008

Brittney Reese won the long jump at the 2008 NCAA DI Outdoor T&F Championships with a mark of 6.93m (22-9). Reese missed the meet record by just 1cm (½ inch).

Tupuritis Shocked The Field In 1996
May 31, 1996

Einars Tupuritis won the 800 at the 1996 NCAA DI Outdoor T&F Championships by 0.14 seconds! Turpiritis crossed the finish line in 1:45.08.

Ellis Sent USC To A Thrilling Victory
June 9, 2018

Kendall Ellis had a remarkable come-from-behind victory in the 4×400 relay at the 2018 NCAA DI Outdoor T&F Championships that sent Southern California to the meet title.