Illinois’ Kerr Went Back-To-Back At NCAAs

Celebrating A Century of NCAA Track & Field Championships

Illinois’ Kerr Went Back-To-Back At NCAAs

By all accounts, George Kerr was an excellent quarter-miler.

Yet, as a sophomore at Illinois – when he had the fifth-fastest 400/440 time in the world – he chose to run the 880 yards at the 1958 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Berkeley, California.

Kerr didn’t make that final, but by 1959 he showed half-mile talents rarely seen.

At the 1959 NCAA meet in Lincoln, Nebraska, Kerr won the 880 by 1.9 seconds in 1:47.8 with a blistering last half lap. That was equal to the third-fastest yet seen in meet history.

Fans at the Drake Relays knew he could still run faster. They witnessed Kerr split a 1:46.6 for the 880 of a world-best sprint medley when the 880 world record at the time was 1:46.8. He followed that with a 45.7 split in the mile relay less than an hour later – the WR was 45.7 at the time.

Kerr’s final race as a collegian came at the 1960 NCAA Outdoor Championships, back again at Berkeley’s Edwards Stadium. The race – held at the Olympic distance of 800 meters instead of the then-normal 880 yards – was a classic.

The first lap was led by Stanford’s Ernie Cunliffe in 51.7 with Kerr in second until he stormed to the front on the last turn. He held his lead for an amazing time of 1:46.4, a new meet and collegiate record that made him third-fastest in world history.

Behind Kerr, Cal’s Jerry Siebert had come from further back to also pass Cunliffe and finished in at PR 1:46.9, also under the old MR.

While that top-3 all made the Rome Olympics later that summer, only Kerr medaled. He did so with two bronze medals, once in the 800 and then again anchoring his native Jamaica 4×400 team.

posted: April 15, 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
Walton Started It All In The 800

Delisa Walton won the first women’s 800 at the NCAA DI Outdoor T&F Championships in 1982. Walton is the mother of Ebonie Floyd, who finished 2nd in the 2007 100.

Gipson, Ugen Made Long Jump History

Whitney Gipson & Lorraine Ugen were the first teammates to win women’s long jump titles at the NCAA DI Outdoor T&F Championships in consecutive years (Gipson in 2012; Ugen in 2013).

Plab Reached Lofty Heights In NCAA HJ

Darrin Plab won back-to-back HJ titles at the NCAA DI Outdoor T&F Championships in 1991 & 1992. Plab cleared 2.34m (7-8) in 1992 & tied the 2nd best bar in meet history.

Peoples Made History One Lap At A Time

Maurice Peoples won the 440-yard dash in 1973 & then really turned up the heat. Peoples split 43.4 on the Sun Devils’ mile relay team that finished third in the final.

KU’s Lokedi Set 10K MR In 2018

Sharon Lokedi won the 10K at the 2018 NCAA DI Outdoor T&F Championships in a meet-record 32:09.20. Lokedi led five other women under the old final-site best, too.

Can Ereng Kick It? Yes, He Can!

Paul Ereng won back-to-back 800-meter titles at the NCAA DI Outdoor T&F Championships in 1988 & 1989. Ereng is still the current indoor record holder in the event.