Oxy’s Gutowski Vaults To Record Heights

Celebrating A Century of NCAA Track & Field Championships

Oxy’s Gutowski Vaults To Record Heights

June 15, 1957

His nickname was Guts and he broke a legend’s world record.

Bob Gutowski of Occidental entered the 1957 NCAA Championships as defending co-champion in the pole vault as well as the Olympic silver medalist from the previous fall in Melbourne. But he was more famous for earlier in the season having broken the world record set by Dutch Warmerdam 15 years earlier – the only older record at the time was Jesse Owens’ long jump.

The new world record – 15-8¼ (4.78m) – was in jeopardy after Gutowski cleared meet records of 15-1¾ (4.62m) and 15-5 (4.70m), the latter deposing 1955 NCAA champ Don Bragg of Villanova, who would eventually win gold at the 1960 Olympics.

As Bert Nelson wrote in Track & Field News – which he co-founded with this brother Cordner: “Chances for a new record looked excellent. And the quietly eager fans didn’t have long to wait.” Nelson had covered Gutowski’s earlier record, along with Warmerdam’s previous one among the nearly 300 he would eventually witness.

But there was a short delay for Gutowski and the fans in attendance at Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas, as the bar was raised to 15-10¼ (4.83m): Gutowski made his way to the podium to receive his medal for placing fifth in the long jump earlier in the day, which was the last time an NCAA pole vault champion scored in another event in the same meet.

When Gutowski returned to the runway, it didn’t take long for him to lock in.

His first attempt was good, detailed as “a beautifully clean clearance, with some two inches to spare.” A re-measurement – required for records in those days – put it at 15-9¾ (4.82m). The effort never was ratified as a world record, though, because of a technicality no longer in effect – his pole had crossed the plane.

“I was a little surprised that I did as well as I did, because I thought I was going downhill,” Gutowski told reporters after the meet. “But Coach Chuck Coker told me to punch my knees up and drive up. I was able to do it.”

Gutowski’s life ended tragically. Less than a month after not making the 1960 Olympic team, he was killed in a two-vehicle automobile accident while serving in the Marine Corps Reserves.

posted: June 27, 2020
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
A Crowning Moment For Rogers In 2017
June 10, 2017

Back in 2017, Raevyn Rogers of Oregon dazzled at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships with a victory in the 800 and a sizzling anchor on the winning 4×400 relay.

Oxy’s Gutowski Vaults To Record Heights
June 15, 1957

Bob Gutowski of Occidental won the pole vault at the 1957 NCAA Outdoor Championships with a clearance of 4.82m (15-9¾), a mark that surpassed the world record but was never ratified.

Guthrie-Gresham Generates Greatness
June 2, 1995

Diane Guthrie-Gresham of George Mason broke the collegiate record in the heptathlon with 6527 points at the 1995 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

Conway Raises The Bar In 1989
June 3, 1989

Hollis Conway of Southwestern Louisiana set the American record and collegiate record in the high jump at the 1989 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships!

Conley Soars; Razorbacks Complete Triple Crown
June 1, 1985

Mike Conley scored 28¾ points to lead Arkansas to its first outdoor team title, which completed the vaunted “Triple Crown,” as the program also captured the cross country and indoor titles already in the academic year.