Dr. John Telford

Former old Miller High and U-M star Aaron Gordon and I founded the Detroit Track & Field Old-Timers, Inc. in 1991.  Since then, the group has honored many old-time area track & field athletes at its annual dinners and donated thousands of dollars to interscholastic and age-group track programs in DPS and in and around the city. International and All-American speedsters the organization has lauded over the years include Kettering’s Deon Hogan, Pershing’s Darnell Hall, old Eastern’s Lou Scott, Northern’s Marshall Dill, Pershing’s Wendy Truvillion, Pontiac and the Detroit Varsity Club’s Hayes Jones, Downtown Judy Brown, the Detroit Track Club’s Jim Bibbs, Northwestern’s great “Gray Ghost” Henry Carr, Central’s Cliff Hatcher, old Chadsey’s Karen Dennis, and Denby Tars Ronnie Phillips and Yours Truly.  Native Detroiters who did their interscholastic running elsewhere include Chronicle Senior Editor Keith Owens and track historian Keith McClellan.  This year’s dinner will take place on Friday, June 25, at 6:00 p.m.in the Barth Hall of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul at the corner of Woodward and Warren Avenue. The ticket price is $25 ($45 for two), which includes dinner, dessert, and a complementary wine table.  There will be free and ample parking, and tickets will be available at the door.

Honorees this year are Martin Crane, Eliot Tabron, Dennis Holland, Frank McBride, Jill Washburn, Allan Tellis, and Bruce Waha.  In addition, there will be a special tribute to Ella Willis, the first African-American woman to ever win a marathon–a lady who should be in the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.  Local high school stars will also be special guests.
Marty Crane coached 83 All-State athletes at Flint Beecher High School, where his teams won 10 state, 13 conference, and 19 regional titles.  Detroit Murray-Wright alumnus Eliot Tabron was Wayne State’s last track All-American, and he was threatening my quarter-mile mark there when he transferred to MSU and attained world ranking in the 400 meters with an MSU mark of 45 seconds flat.  At the time of his transfer, WSU had de-emphasized its historic and celebrated track program, which the Old-Timers organization has been trying to get restored and get a track fieldhouse built on the campus.  (I’m on that WSU committee with Darnell Hall, WSU athletic director Rob Fournier, Lisa Howze from the Mayor’s office, old Chadsey High trackman Elliott Hall, Coleman Young, and Old-Timers president Randy Williams.)  Dennis Holland was a star quarter-miler and long jumper at Redford High, and his 26’3″ college jump for WMU remains the longest in state history–only five inches short of the immortal Jesse Owens’ world-record leap.  A fond memory I have of Dennis was taking him and another Detroit high school star to a big all-comers meet in Dayton.  I was teaching and coaching at Southeastern High School that year, and I was attempting a brief comeback.  I won the open quarter-mile and then took the two kids and another local runner onto a relay team with me.  Representing the Detroit Track Club, we beat all the college and club teams in the last race of the meet–the mile relay–in a huge upset, and brought home four gold medals.  Frank McBride, who coached me in that brief comeback, succeeded legendary Coach David L. Holmes at WSU in 1958 and did him proud.  An Olympic Trial finalist at 1,500 meters in 1952, McBride–who was a superb motivator–piloted WSU teams to seven conference titles.   Jill Washburn, a state cross-country champion, has held the mile and two-mile marks at Rochester High for thirty years and is in the school’s hall of fame.  She was an All-American at Michigan State.  Northwestern High School alumnus Al Tellis, a past Old-Timers president, ran with me at the Penn Relays for WSU in 1954 and succeeded me coaching champions at Pershing High.  He was also instrumental to bringing girls’ track to DPS.  Old Detroit Cooley High School and WSU shot putter Bruce Waha–in his nineties now–coached Redford High School track and cross-country teams to championships fourteen times.  Then he went to Howell High and his teams there won five more titles.  His 54-year track-coaching record is 404 wins and only 13 losses, and his 22-year cross-country record is 397-17.
Detroit has many old and many up-and-coming new young track & field stars who are yet to be honored by the Detroit Track & Field Old-Timers.  Come to the DT&FOT Dinner on June 23 to support the grand old All-American and Olympic sport of track & field here in our town–and enjoy a very good meal.          .

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