The United States' National Championships In Track & Field Athletics: Introduction


In this book you will find the most complete record extant of the United States' national championships in track & field athletics. When one considers that the United States has always been the preeminent nation in track & field, it can be deduced that these are the records of the most competitive national championships in the world. In addition, though a few people defer to the NCAA meet, this is certainly the most important meet held annually in the United States. Similar books have been done in the past for other major events, though usually events of international scope. However, the British AAA Meet has been similarly documented. In addition, Garry Hill did an excellent compilation of the NCAA meet a few years back.

On a warm summer's afternoon in Burgh Next Aylsham, England, we shared an ale and decided we would attempt to emulate Garry Hill's effort by compiling this book. Since that day three years ago, we have had a lot of help.

Specifically we extend our help to the following people, hoping we have not omitted anyone, and apologizing if we have: Dave Batchelor, Bob Bowman, Frank Candida, Dave Carey, Peter Cava, Pam Cooper, Scott Davis, Elliott Denman, Peter Diamond, Gerard Dumas (CAN/FRA), Bob Gilmore, Roger Gynn (GBR), Steve Hellyer, Richard Hymans (GBR), Dave Johnson, Robert Kitchen, Dave Martin, Lambros Milanos, Jack Moreland, Jack Pfeifer, Don Potts, Roberto Quercetani (ITA), Garner Roberts, Howard Willman, Frank Zarnowski, and many, many sports information directors and alumni records directors around the country.

Though we have spent many hours editing the various sections of the book, we know that in a work containing this much detail, errors have inevitably crept in. We don't know where they are but would appreciate being informed of any error of omission, or commission: You can contact us at:

Federation of American Statisticians of Track (FAST)
International Society of Olympic Historians (ISOH)
Durham, NC 27712 USA
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Hope you like it.

Bill Mallon, Durham, North Carolina
Ian Buchanan, Hong Kong
April 1986
updated August 2002


The following primary sources were used, listed along with the years for which they contained information. In addition, the New York Times article on the national meet was consulted for every year through 1960. Also, the local newspaper article on each meet (when not held in New York) was consulted for every year through 1948.

Amateur Athlete (1920-1940)
AAU Guides (1921-1949)
Athletics Weekly (1946-1947)
The Marathon Footrace (Gynn/Martin) (various years)
The Milers (Nelson/Quercetani) (various years)
The New York Clipper (1876-1900)
The New York Sportsman (1876-1890)
1984 United States Final Olympic Track & Field Trials Media Guide (Davis/Mallon) (many Olympic years)
Spalding's Official Athletic Almanacs (1910-1942)
The Spirit of the Times (1876-1900)
Track (1931-1932)
Track & Field News (1948-1985)

One may note that the years 1900–1920 are not well represented on the above list. In fact these are the years for which our information is the most scanty. Basically we relied on Spalding's Almanacs for these years supplemented by the local newspapers. However, it was rare for results to be given past 3rd-place until 1915, at which time they went to 4 places. From 1915 until 1938 we usually only can provide the top 4 places, with exceptions. Prior to 1900, and since 1938, we usually have the top 6 finishers in every event.

The Name Of The Meet

In 1870 the New York Athletic Club (NYAC) was by far the best known athletic club in the United States. That year they started their series of athletic meets, known as the Spring Games and Fall Games of the NYAC – two per year. Early in 1876, it was decided that a national championship meet was necessary and desirable and the best known meet of the year was chosen to serve that purpose. Thus, in late 1876, the 7th Annual Fall Games of the NYAC became the first national championship meet. The NYAC sponsored the meet for three years.

In 1879, however, a national organization had been formed, composed of many member athletic clubs and known as the National Association of Amateur Athletes of America (NAAAA). They sponsored the 1879 meet and ran the meet through 1887.

In 1888 a rival organization to the NAAAA, the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) came into being, quickly became the more powerful group, and held a national meeting in that year. The NAAAA, however, refused to fold immediately and also conducted a national championship in 1888 – thus there were two that year.

The national championship was held under the aegis of the AAU for almost a century. In 1978 the President's Commission on Amateur Sports was able to pass the Amateur Sports Act that delineated how amateur sports should be governed in this country. The AAU, which controlled the majority of the sports on the Olympic program, would see its powers severely crippled. A new organization, The Athletics Congress (TAC), was chosen to oversee track & field athletics. In 1980 TAC held its first national championship and control of the meet has rested there since.

[Since the original edition of this book (published in 1986), the National Governing Body of track & field athletics in the United States has again undergone a name change. It is now called USA Track & Field (USATF), and we agree with other writers who cannot understand why the acronym was not chosen as USTAF. The meet has been conducted under the aegis of USATF since the 1993 edition.]

The Results Of The Meets

On the following pages are the results of the national championships in track & field athletics. In all cases, we have attempted to give the results 6-deep, although this has not always been possible due to lack of information. Prior to 1900, we have succeeded in most cases, although many times the field did not have 6 competitors. From 1900 to 1913, our results are usually only 3-deep. From 1914 to 1938, the majority of events are covered only 4-deep. From 1939 on we virtually always have the top 6 finishers. In a few cases, we have included extra finishers, where we found them of particular interest. We have also tried to footnote the results extensively to explain any deviations from the norm.

The command line above each list of results contains relevant information about the event. It contains format (yards/meters or other unusual data), date, site (if not at the main event), starters/finishers (in the final only), and wind conditions, where pertinent. Dates given are for the final only, in recent years where the meet has occupied more than one day. Again all information is contingent on its availability.

Prior to 1940, place times were almost never published. A few "estimated" times were sent to us by reliable sources, and we used these, indicating them with an "e." Otherwise, we have tried not to draw conclusions about possible estimated times but instead have given the margins of victory or gaps between places wherever known. These are always based on reports in contemporary papers or magazines. Prior to the days of published wind speeds, we have also indicated newspaper comments about the wind in the appropriate events.

In all events, we have given the best performance at the meet for each year, when known. That is, we list all heat, qualifying and semifinal marks/times that are better than the mark/time posted by the winner in the finals. This should help anyone interested in compiling year lists. We have also tried to note Meet, American, and World Records, whenever they have been set, including heats and qualifying. A progressive list of these can be found in the section on Records.

Which events to include and which to omit was a difficult problem. Our final decision was to include all events held at the main men's outdoor national championship meet, with the exception of relays, the bicycle races of the 19th century, and the few swimming events of the 19th Century. In addition, we included all current events on the Olympic calendar, which added such non-main site events as the marathon, decathlon, 20 and 50K walks, and the steeplechase, in its early years.

The final decision to omit relays was a difficult one, and was based on two factors. First, they are today virtually club events for second-rate clubs, and secondly, it was impossible to find the names of the competitors in over 50% of the teams.

We have used a myriad of abbreviations to document the data and the many permutations of records set. These are listed in the following. In addition, names of countries are abbreviated using the International Olympic Committee system.

a = automatic time
AC = Also competed: (implies exact finish not known)
AR = American record
ARa = American record - automatic time (implies inferior to the record hand-timed.)
ARm = American record - metric distance
ARsm = American record - straightaway - metric distance
ARsy = American record - straightaway - Imperial distance
ARy = American record - Imperial distance
B = date of birth
bh = behind
C = Club
Coll = College
D = Date
DQ = disqualified
DNF = did not finish
DNS = did not start
e = estimated time
F = Format
ft = feet/foot
h = hand time
h = heat mark, or hand-time in a decathlon
jo = jumpoff
MR = meet record
MRa = meet record - automatic time (implies inferior to the record hand-timed)
MRm = meet record - metric distance
MRsm = meet record - straightaway - metric distance
MRsy = meet record - straightaway - Imperial distance
MRy = meet record - Imperial distance
s = semifinal mark
S = Starters
S = Site (where different from the main meet)
S/F = Starters/Finishers (only for running events and for the final)
Temp = Temperature
T = Time
to = throwoff
U = University
w = windy mark
W = Wind
WR = World Record
WRm = World Record - metric distance
WRsm = World Record - straightaway - metric distance
WRsy = World Record - straightaway - Imperial distance
WRy = World Record - Imperial distance
yds = yards

The Results, By Event