The Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays: More than just a track meet
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Clyde Rabb Littlefield remembers well the work of the man for whom this event was named -- his father, Clyde Littlefield.
“Oh, it was his passion,” said the son, who recalled the time and effort his dad put in to make the Texas Relays a success.
“Dad was the director,” Clyde R. continued. “But he really was so much more. Before there were countless numbers of volunteers around to help, there was Dad doing it all, from maintaining the cinder track, which was a task, to deciding whether or not to dig holes or use starting blocks.”
The 79th version of the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays runs April 5-8 in the Mike A. Myers Stadium, which is bordered, appropriately enough, by Clyde Littlefield Drive.
Dedication to success was what Clyde Littlefield was all about.
A freshman at The University of Texas in 1912, Littlefield was a standout in basketball, football and track.
“He was a pretty good baseball player, too,” Clyde R. reported. “But, he gave that up for track.”
Even then, track was Clyde Littlefield’s passion.
So, baseball’s loss was track’s gain.
A sprinter and hurdler -- high and low -- Littlefield lost only one hurdle race in four years.
After a brief stint as a high school football coach, as well as time as a soldier in World War I, Littlefield returned to his alma mater in 1920 as freshman football and basketball coach.
He also was head track coach. He would remain that until 1961 -- 131 titles (in six different decades) later.
Clyde Littlefield died in 1981. He was 88.
Bubba Thornton, who is in his 11th year as one of Littlefield’s successors in running the men’s track program at Texas, considers this the most wonderful time of the year -- because of the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays.
“I think the Relays is one of the most important events at The University of Texas,” Thornton began. “I think it is one of the most important events in the city of Austin. I believe it is the fourth-largest event that takes place in Austin.
“It is a most diverse event. The French International Team is coming to the Relays this year.”
Thornton, who said he attended his first Texas Relays in 1957 and has been coming annually since 1966, admits when he talks about diversity at the Relays that he also has one other element in mind -- the weather.
“I have been at Texas Relays where the sun was beating down on you,” he said, beginning to laugh. “And I have been at ones where it was so cold, you’d have sworn it was going to snow.”
To Thornton, the common element of all 79 is that they are special.
“I can’t pick out just one memorable event for me,” he said. “To me, what is always memorable is that you have high schools, big and small. There are major universities and jucos. There is the French International Team.
Beverly Kearney, who is in her 14th season guiding the Texas women’s track program, also talks about the uniqueness of the event because of the large cross-section of competitors who are involved.
“I remember in 1998,” Kearney begins, “telling Mike Myers (for whom the track stadium is named) that we would go out in his new facility and set some records.
“Then I thought to myself, what in the world was I thinking saying that?”
She just was predicting the future.
“We set at least three or four track meet records,” she reported. “And we set the college record in the mile. That was a memorable time.”
Although Kearney admits that her most memorable Texas Relays was one she did not attend.
When she was coaching at the University of Florida, she was unable to make the trip and the reports she received from Austin on her team were not good.
“I had someone call me and say, ‘Bev, your girls can’t even get their sweats on,’” she said, laughing now.
Of the Texas Relays, which his father founded in 1925, Clyde R. said, “I observed the pressure he felt, but I know how much it meant to him.”