History of Women in




Track and Field

Before 1800

776 B.C.- At the first Olympics, and possibly for the first thirteen Olympics, there was only one event, a race the length of the stadium, which was approximately 600 feet. A cook named Koroibos won the first race.

600’s B.C.- At the Olympics, events included three foot races and a pentathlon consisting of discus, javelin, wrestling, foot race and long jump.


1873- The Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America held America's first collegiate races.

1888- The Amateur Athletics Union held it’s first championships.

1895- “Field Day” occurred at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY where “nimble, supple and vivacious girls” engaged in running and jumping events.


1917- Separate rules for women’s collegiate field hockey, swimming, track and field and soccer were drafted by the American Physical Education Association.

1921- The first of three Juex Olympiques Feminine du Monde were staged as a version of international games for women by a group of French women. Five countries were represented by three hundred women participating in track and field, as well as baseball.

1922- Track and field events were opened to women by the Amateur Athletic Union.

1928- Gymnastics and track and field were opened to women at the Summer Olympic Games, with stipulations that women’s shorts are no more that four inches above their knees. In the 100 meter race, American Betty Robinson was the first woman to win a gold medal in track and field.

1929- The Tuskgee Institute in Alabama formed one of the first women’s college track teams and even offered scholarships to promising female athletes.

1930- Stella Walsh, a seventeen year old from Ohio set her second world record in one week by running the 220 yard dash in 26.8 seconds.

1932- Babe Didrikson was named Associate Press Woman Athlete of the Year for track and field after she scored enough points at the AAU national meet to win the team championship by herself. She scored thirty points as a result of winning six gold medals and breaking four world records which totaled thirty points, eight points more than the whole second place team earned.

1939- Alice Coachman won the first of ten national high jump championships.

1946- The first African American to become a member of the United States All American Track and Field Team was Alice Coachman.

1948- Nine of twelve of the members of the women’s United States All American Track and Field team were African American.

1949- Canadian Woman Athlete of the Half Century was Bobbie Rosenfeld after excelling in many sports including ice hockey and softball and winning an Olympic gold in track and field.

1956- The first American female to medal in long jump at the Olympics occurred at the Melbourne Games when Willye White won a silver medal in the long jump at the age of sixteen.

1960- Wilma Rudolph was the first American woman to win three track and field gold medals at the Olympic Games in Rome. She then won Associate Press Female Athlete of the Year in both 1960 and 1961.

1960- Mamie Rollins ran the seventy yard hurdles in 8.7 seconds which set a new record.

1964- Willye White became the only American woman to compete on five Olympic track and field teams.

1971- Canadian Debbie Brill became the first woman to high jump six feet.

1980- The first woman to run a mile under four and a half minutes was Mary Decker.

1984- When Nawal El Moutawakel captured the gold in the 400 meter hurdles at the Los Angeles Olympic Games, she was the first Moroccan to win gold and the first woman from an Islamic nation to win an Olympic medal.

1992- Evelyn Ashford was the oldest American woman to win a medal when she won a gold medal at the age of thirty five in the 4 x 100 meter relay at the Barcelona Games.

1995- Florence Griffith Joyner was inducted in the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame.

1996- Russian, Svetlana Masterkova set a world record for the women’s mile at 4:12.56.

1998- For the first time, women were allowed compete in the same number of field events as men, as a result of the IAAF announcing that women’s pole vault and the hammer throw would be added to the 1999 World Championships and 2000 Olympics.

1999- Marion Jones was the world’s fastest woman, as she ran the 100 meters in 10.7 seconds.


2000- Dawn Ellerbe won the world’s 20-pound weight throw and created a new world record of 77-5.25 at the USA Track and Field Championships.

2003- Regina Jacobs was the first woman to break the four-minute mile with a time of 3:59.98 at the Boston Indoor Games.

2005- Stacy Dragila won her ninth U.S. outdoor championship in pole vault. Among her other accomplishments, Stacy was a 2000 Olympic gold medalist, a two time World Champion, a 1997 World Indoor Champion and a eight time U.S. Indoor Champion.

2005- Yelena Isinbayeva, from Russia, set a new women’s pole vault record at 4.93 meters. This was her fourteenth time breaking the record.


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