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Men's Track

Coe Track Begins with a Bang

To write about the history of track during its first 40 years at Coe is to write a chapter in the biography of George W. Bryant.  As a student, he was participant in the first track meet in 1893 and six years later he hired as director of physical education, which included the responsibility of coaching the track team. Prior to Bryant's retirement as track coach in 1926, his teams won several conference championships and produced several of the finest athletes in the history of the college, including the sprinter Clem Wilson and the hurdler William Lighter.

At the college's first meet, held against Lenox College in the spring of 1893, the six men on the Coe team easily defeated the fourteen men on the Lenox team.  Although severely ill the day of the meet, Bryant won the high jump, the pole vault, the 440-year dash, and the mile run.  Bryant and his team mate W. N. Moffett outscored the entire Lenox team.  At a second meet in June, Bryant won seven events and Moffett won five.  The following year at a second meet with Lenox, again won by the Crimson and Gold, the most exciting event with the two-mile bicycle race, won by the Coe team, but Bryant was again the star performer, setting school records in the 880-yard dash (1:56) and the mile run (4:26.4, an Iowa collegiate record) that survived for over 40 years.

After Bryant's graduation in '94, no organized track competitions appear to have been held until the year that Bryant returned to Coe.  Led by the efforts of Carl Miner, a Coe student who graduated in 1903, Coe in March of 1900 invited Upper Iowa University, Lenox College, Des Moines College, and Western College to form the Intercollegiate Track Union.  Two months later the first intercollegiate track and field meet was held at Coe--and which Coe won by a 1/2 point margin of victory over Upper Iowa.  The victory was cause for a vigorous celebration, as described in the Cosmos:

The victors of the day were carried about on the shoulders of their fellows, speeches were made, college songs were sung as they had never been sung before, college yells were given with a new spirit.

 The Bryant era had arrived.

The two stars of those first Bryant track teams were H. C. Groman and J. T. Oxley.  Groman was a sprinter, setting new school records in the 50-yard dash (5.2 seconds), the 100-yard dash (10.2 seconds), and the 220-yard dash (22 seconds). All of Oxley's events involved some form of jumping: pole vault (10 feet), broad jump (20 feet, 9 inches), the 120-yard hurdles (17.4 seconds), and the hop,step and jump (42 feet, 10 inches).  Many events in the meets of that era are still used a century later (high jump, discuss and shot put, sprint relay), but others were not retained after those first meets:  base ball throw, mile walk, and the 2-mile and 1/2-mile bicycle races).



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