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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Olympians, stories and lessons are remembered during Track and Field 100-year anniversary

(Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

Marquette Track and Field celebrates its 100-year anniversary this season with remembering alumni, accomplishments and stories to be proud of. The team is cementing a century of history in which they can look back on what the program has achieved during that time.

Head coach Bert Rogers said since its inception, the program has produced top-tier athletes just like today, though, it wasn’t always that way.

“The history of the program is really fascinating. There’s a whole lot of world-class athletes that are mixed in and out of there. But, its history is kind of a roller coaster,” Rogers said. “It started as a program that had All-Americans, national champions and was scoring points at the national meet year in and year out.” 

Rogers said there came a drop in performance followed by a historic rebound from former head coach Jim Allen. 

“The university dropped track, but then they brought it back in the sixties as a walk-on program,” Rogers said. “Jim Allen was hired as head coach during the 1979-1980 season and it started building back up over time to get where it is today. It was definitely an interesting stretch of time.”

Senior distance runner, Jadon Conroy said that it shows how strong of a team they have been throughout their history. 

“It just shows that we’ve survived for this long with all the ups and downs in its time,” Conroy said. “It really shines a light on how we’re an extremely storied program with so many points in its timeline to be very proud of. It’s really cool to see.” 

The program has seen six of its athletes go on to compete in the Olympics. These athletes earned a bronze, four silver and one gold medal throughout nine events. Alumni Ken Wiesner and John Bennett both won silver medals in the high jump and long jump, respectively.

When members of the team today, such as senior multi-event athlete, Mila Puseljic, look back on the team’s Olympic history, she said they are inspired by what has come before them. 

“We actually had a really famous alum, Ralph Metcalfe,” Puseljic said. “He won multiple NCAA titles and even medaled in the Olympics many times. Off the track, he was interested in politics and did so many amazing things. That’s one person I think of when I think of Marquette Track and Field. He’s my main inspiration and I’m really proud to be a part of the program that produced such an amazing person.”

Metcalfe was the first person to win the NCAA 200-meter title in three consecutive years. He also went on to compete in two Olympics where he got one bronze, two silver and one gold medal alongside Jesse Owens.

With this kind of legacy, Rogers said the program is hosting a reunion this May to highlight how important and inspiring it is to see former athletes come back to support the program.

“I’m a big history guy, so I really get into it and really enjoy learning some of the new things and meeting some of those older alums,” Rogers said. “We want to try to make the reunion a big deal for these alumni. We’re going to try to have panels of former athletes to emphasize how important we think the history is.” 

Alumni will be coming back for the reunion, but they also keep returning to cheer on current athletes and provide support. 

“I have met a few [alumni] that have stopped by. They definitely are in the community and come out and try to support the team,” Puseljic said. “I think it’s really important. You gain so much experience and understanding of the community when you compete in the sport, then you’re able to come back and provide that community to the current athletes.”

Conroy said that former athletes who return inspire the current athletes to contribute to a better future for the team.

“It gives us even more of a reason to keep competing as hard as we can while pushing ourselves,” Conroy said. “It gives us a hope that we can have something similar in the future and naturally, every athlete competing now wants to be a part of that.” 

While looking back on the team’s history, keeping it alive is important for Rogers. He said whether it’s about historic moments, alumni athletes or how the team has evolved, he wants to keep it rich for the next 100 years and beyond. 

“Oftentimes when we’re recruiting and even practicing in the old gym, I talk about the history of the team,” Rogers said. “We’re still getting BIG EAST champions and all of this stuff out of learning from the history, so there must be something in the building and in the bricks here.”

This story was written by Benjamin Hanson. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @benhansonMU. 

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Benjamin Hanson
Benjamin Hanson, Sports Reporter
Ben Hanson is a sophomore from Minneapolis, Minnesota studying journalism, digital media and advertising. He is a sports reporter and the assistant social media producer for the Marquette Wire for the 2023-2024 school year. When he's not in the newsroom, he likes creative writing, being with friends and going to sporting events. He is excited to be able to spread the word of the Marquette Wire because it has done so much for him while also refining his sports writing.

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