The Tie Goes To The Buckeye
Ties – and sometimes breaking them – were common for Dave Albritton of Ohio State.
But there was no breaking any of the ties in Albritton’s three-straight NCAA high jump victories, and his first in 1936 was historic as he and Buckeye teammate Mel Walker became the first Black athletes to win the event.
That duo was part of an amazing Ohio State team in 1936: They contributed two of the record seven NCAA titles the Buckeyes won that year, joined by Jesse Owens with four (100, 200, 220 hurdles and long jump), along with Charlie Beetham in the 800 meters. No program has matched that number of champions in one NCAA meet.
However, the 1936 NCAA Championships was bittersweet for the Buckeyes, whose 73 points made them the highest-scoring runner-up team in meet history (6-place scoring system). The winning squad was powerful Southern California with 103⅓ points. The bittersweet part was that just a week earlier, Ohio State tied the Trojans in a dual meet when only wins counted, 7½-7½ – the fraction coming in the high jump, where Albritton tied USC’s Delos Thurber.
Albritton’s level of tying made a major leap a month later. A week after finishing third at the AAU Championships (on a tiebreaker), Albritton clinched a spot on the Olympic team in a brand-new stadium at Randalls Island, New York, by – you guessed it – tying Cornelius Johnson of Compton Junior College – who had won the AAU meet – as both cleared a world-record 6-9¾ (2.08m). That tie was not broken.
At the Berlin Olympics, Johnson led a 1-2-3 U.S. sweep, with Albritton earning the silver medal over Thurber’s bronze on a jump-off. Johnson and Albritton thus became the first Black athletes to medal in the Olympic high jump.
In the 1937 NCAA Championships, another Buckeye was favored – but this time it was Walker after sweeping the indoor and outdoor Big Ten titles over Albritton (and setting a world indoor best of 6-9¾ as well). Albritton came through, though, tying Colorado’s Gil Cruter for the win – Thurber was third on a tiebreaker as all three cleared 6-6¼ (1.99m). Walker, a senior, finished fourth but later in the summer raised the world record to 6-10¼ (2.09m).
Albritton and Cruter returned in 1938 as the meet record – 6-7¼ (2.01m) from 1926, then the oldest on the books – was battered like never before or since. In all, six men equaled the old standard as two – Albritton and Cruter – broke it with 6-8¾ (2.05m) clearances and tied yet again as neither succeeded at attempts at a possible WR of 6-10⅜ (2.09m).
Post-collegiate success followed for Albritton, as he won five AAU national titles – the last in 1950 at age 37. Ten years after that, Albritton was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives, serving six terms and becoming the first Black person to chair a House committee in 1969.
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.
Levins Kicked Past Competition In 5K/10K
Cam Levins swept the 5K & 10K at the 2012 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships and won The Bowerman that same year.
Russell Dominated The 100H At NCAAs
Gillian Russell won three career 100H titles at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, doing so between 1993 and 1995.
Fosbury Flopped To High Jump Glory
Dick Fosbury, creator of the “Fosbury Flop,” won back-to-back high jump titles at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 1968 and 1969 with meet records in both years.
Fleshman Starred In The 5000 Meters
Lauren Fleshman posted three victories in the 5000 meters at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in her career.
X-Man Reigned At 2006 NCAA Meet
Xavier Carter won four national titles at the 2006 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, completing the only 100-400 sweep and helping the title-winning 4×100 and 4×400 relay teams.
Bakewell’s Winding Road To 800 Meter Glory
Karen Bakewell set a meet record of 2:00.85 in the Women’s 800 Meters at the 1986 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Hurdling History For Forrest “Spec” Towns
Forrest “Spec” Towns won back-to-back hurdling titles at the 1936 and 1937 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships as part of a legendary streak.
What A Finish In The 1500 Meters!
Yared Nuguse of Notre Dame beat Justine Kiprotich of Michigan State by 0.003 seconds for the 1500-meter title at the 2019 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
UCLA’s Griffith Sprinted Into History
Florence Griffith won two career individual titles at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, which included a meet record in the 400 Meters.
Ewell Made Quite The (Penn) State-ment
Barney Ewell of Penn State completed the 100-200 double twice at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 1940 and 1941.