In these days of $70-100 million college athletics budgets, it is difficult to imagine that a great college track team couldn’t afford to take all its members to the national championships, but it happened every year back in the 1950s. This is a story about one of those teams, its dedicated coaches and its determined athletes.

Wilbur-Ross

Wilbur Ross became a specialist in the hurdles. He would go on to coach such athletes as NCAA champion Larry Shipp, world record holder Renaldo Nehmiah, three-time world champion Greg Foster and Olympic medalist Tony Dees. He also published a book, The Hurdler’s Bible, which influenced many other great hurdlers. Wilbur Ross died on August 10, 2007

Wilbur Ross, of Newark, NJ, graduated from Baldwin-Wallace College. He won the US pentathlon championship in 1942 and 1943. In 1954, he became the track coach at Winston-Salem Teachers College and began building a national power. His Rams won the North Carolina AAU championship in 1957 and 1958, in an era when the AAU meets were far more important than any NCAA events, and in 1958, despite not having the money to take his whole team to California, came in second in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) championships.

1959Team

1959 Winston-Salem Teachers College track team…only three, Gilbert, Moore and Russell, got to go to Sioux Falls…click the pic for full size…

The following year, he and WSTC athletics director Bighouse Gaines raised enough money to take three of their athletes back to the NAIA meet. There, Elias Gilbert, holder of the world record in the low hurdles, won all three hurdle events, the 120 high hurdles, the 220 low hurdles and the 440 low hurdles, the first and last time that ever happened. His teammate Godfrey Moore won the hop, step and jump (now the triple jump) with a record leap of 48 feet, 2 1/2 inches and finished second in the broad jump (now long jump), to contribute 18 points. And Russell Rogers finished second to Gilbert in the 120 high hurdles for eight more points, and Winston-Salem Teachers won the national championship by a single point over East Texas State.

1959NAIAChamps

This was the only Journal article about the 1959 championship

Hurdlers

1960Pre

In 1960, the WSTC speed demons got an advance story…Bob Cole used the word “dissatisfaction”, which would be a mild version of what I’d bet Bighouse was really feeling…

The win got Ross a better job, so Bighouse Gaines took over as track coach for the 1960 season. By playing up the previous season’s success, he was able to raise enough money to take six of his fifteen team members to the NAIA meet. Gilbert had graduated and begun a long teaching career. Bighouse’s best athlete, Fran Washington, had broken his big toe before the season began and had only been able to compete in the last three meets. Despite the fact that his toe was still bothering him, he won the 200 meter low hurdles, finished second in the 400 meter hurdles and third in the 110 meter high hurdles, for 24 points. Godfrey Moore set a new record in winning the triple jump and finished fourth in the long jump to provide 14 points. Joe Middleton finished second in the triple jump, fifth in the long jump and sixth in the high hurdles for 11 points. Carl Brown finished second in the 110 hurdles for 8 points and Charles Lewis was sixth in the 440 dash for one point. The Rams won again, this time by 13 points.

FranWashington

Fran Washington

BigHeadline

Bighouse1948

Bighouse Gaines (3rd from left) won his first championship and first coach of the year award in 1948 when his WSTC football team went 8-1 and won the CIAA title.

WSTCFootbal1948

1948 WSTC conference football champions

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