Track and Field
Women were active in track and field early at Western. In 1917-18 they were given their own events at the Field Day Convocation Week. They had a relay and a fifty yard dash, as well as a “stunt” event, which was tossing and catching a baseball.
Women first competed at track meets in 1922 in the following sports: baseball throw, three legged race, seventy-five yard sprint, high jump, and relay.
Women's events in the early 1920s were seen as highly competitive, but even though Margaret Turner won the individual championship in 1927 the only team referred to and photographed in the yearbook was the men’s (a tradition that would go on for decades).
At the end of the decade, field events expanded, giving women javelin, triple jump, and tug of war. However, some at Western looked down on women participating in strength events like the javelin, even into the 1950s, and others thought triple jump was too dangerous for women. Elfrida Kukainis Berzins, or “Mrs. B", coached in the 1950s, and track and field continued to be fairly popular with twenty-six women taking part in track in the inter-Western field day in 1951-52.
In the 1960s, track and field was an invitational sport for women. Women were still interested in intramurals too, thirty of them taking part. Western women participated in the Al-Wat-West competition between Alma, Waterloo, and Western until the late 1960s when it ended.
Track and field became an official sport for women in 1971. It had been coached by Mary Lou Dresser and Fran Wigston as well as Bob Vigars who started the actual team in 1971 and made it co-ed, traveling and practicing with the men.
Indoor track and field was added as a B sanction sport in the 1970s as well. The first indoor meet was in 1977 and women won the team title three times in the first four years.
In 1980-81 the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union added an official national competition for track and field and the 1981 Western women’s track team would go on to win it.
The team continued successfully in the 1980s, a decade in which future Olympian May Alizadeh competed at Western, and the 1990s. Training included a week-long Florida camp. They were seen as tough competition, especially in the Don Wright Challenge, the only home meet.
In the 1990s, Alison Armstrong (Doherty), a former high jumper became coach, followed by Vickey Croley in 1993. Croley was one of the first two non-academic coaches, and was able to devote more time to the sport. It showed, and the women placed in the top five nationally six times in nine years.
To read about the history of men's track and field click here.