Rice Cooked On The Course & Track

Celebrating A Century of NCAA Track & Field Championships

Rice Cooked On The Course & Track

The longest track race available to Greg Rice of Notre Dame was the 2-mile, and he showed that wasn’t nearly long enough.

It’s not that Rice wasn’t successful at the distance. To the contrary, actually, as his last race for the Irish in 1939 made him the first in the event with two meet records in the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships at 9:02.6 (Rice had also set a meet record in 1937 with a 9:14.2). 

In fact, no one else ever set two MRs at the 2-mile distance. 

However, Rice’s senior year saw the dawn of a new national championship on this date in 1938 – cross-country, and the NCAA’s first title race. The distance was 4 miles and held in East Lansing, the first of 25-straight times on the Michigan State campus. It wouldn’t be until 1959 that the NCAA Championships regularly included the 3-mile (now 5000 meters) as part of the outdoor track & field championships. 

Rice proved himself supreme at the 4-mile distance, winning the individual title in 20:12.9 by some 3 seconds – more than either of the 1-second victories he showed in NCAA two-mile races. His Irish teammates combined with Rice to finish second behind Indiana in the team standings.

While a great new event – the NCAA Cross Country Championships – had been created, it only began to cement Rice as one of the best track runners ever. 

Rice followed his final NCAA two-mile title in 1939 with the second of five-straight AAU 5000-meter championships. From 1940-43 Rice compiled a 65-race winning streak indoors and outdoors that included multiple 2-mile and 3-mile indoor world bests. 

One of Rice’s first indoor records came in 1940 at Madison Square Garden in New York with a notable witness, Finnish great Paavo Nurmi, who said of the winner, “That Rice is the greatest distance runner the world has even seen,” according to Pat Robinson of International News Service.

posted: November 21, 2020
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
Whiting Dominated SP, Nearly Set Outdoor CR
June 12, 2010

Ryan Whiting won back-to-back shot put titles at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in 2009 and 2010, narrowly missing the collegiate record in the last year.

Gerber Graduated To Elite Company
June 1, 1984

Farley Gerber of Weber State turned the steeplechase at the 1984 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships into an ultimate game of “Catch Me If You Can.” 

Rice Cooked On The Course & Track

Greg Rice, winner of the first NCAA cross country title OTD in 1938, also won two career crowns at the outdoor championships, both in the 2 mile.

Prandini Dazzled At NCAAs In 2015

2015 The Bowerman winner Jenna Prandini scored 26 points at the NCAA Division I Outdoor T&F Championships that year, winning the 100 and finishing runner-up in the 200 and long jump.

Devers Reached Legendary Status In 1988

Gail Devers scored 28½ points at the 1988 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships: 100 (1st, 10.86w), 4×400 (1st, 51.4 split), LJ (2nd, 6.55m | 21-6), 4×100 (2nd), 100H (3rd, 12.90).

Hall Equaled 120H World Record In 1969
June 19, 1969

Erv Hall won the NCAA title in the 120 Yard Hurdles at the 1969 NCAA Outdoor T&F Championships, one day after setting the world record of 13.2 in the prelims.

Seagren Vaulted Into The Record Book

Bob Seagren won two career pole vault titles at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. He set meet records with victories in 1967 (5.28m/17-4) and 1969 (5.35m/17-7).