The track and field program began at Oregon Agricultural College in 1896 and claimed its first state title in 1903. Starting in 1913, track meets and practices were held at Bell Field which was also home to Beaver football. The field was named in honor of John Richmond Newton Bell, a local Presbyterian minister active in the school’s athletics boosters. Bell Field was demolished in 1973.
In 1921, the OAC track team made its first appearance at the NCAA championship where they placed 20th; the first individual NCAA champion was OSC pole vaulter Lyle Dickey in 1952. The track and field programs experienced a sort of golden age from the mid-1960s to mid-1970s when Bernie Wagner coached the men’s team. During these years Dick Fosbury, inventor of the Fosbury Flop, won gold in the high jump at the 1968 Olympics held in Mexico City. In 1975, women’s track and field became a varsity sport, producing athletes such as Jodie Huntley, a champion high jumper, long jumper, and two-time bronze medalist in the 1984 Olympics.
Coach Wagner departed from OSU in 1975 and then, due at least in part to financial difficulty, all track and field and cross country programs were dropped at the end of the 1987-88 academic year. After an almost twenty-year hiatus, women’s cross country and track distance events started again in 2004. In 2012, the Whyte Track and Field Center was opened with the intent of bringing back the men’s and women’s track and field teams.
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