Feb. 12, 2005
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Frank Shorter, one of the greatest names in American track & field history, ran a lap by himself holding his gold medal from the 1972 Olympics and was joined the second time around by every member of the current Yale men's and women's track & field teams. This took place this afternoon at Coxe Memorial Cage in the William Clay Ford '48 Track & Field Center during the dedication of the Frank Shorter Track.
Yale's new banked track was officially christened by the most famous of running Bulldogs with the current ones right on his heels. The current Bulldogs were in the middle of competition with Harvard and Princeton.
The Frank Shorter '69 Track, built through the generosity of Donald M. Roberts '57, honors the former Yale cross country captain, NCAA champion, and two-time Olympic medalist. At the 1972 Munich Games, Shorter became the first American to win the marathon in 64 years and later received the Sullivan Award as the nation's top amateur athlete. He also won silver in the marathon at the 1976 Montreal Games.
"We are grateful for the generosity of Don Roberts, who has enabled us to have a state-of-the-art facility that will enhance the experience for our student-athletes as well as all the other athletes who compete at the facility," said Tom Beckett, Yale's Director of Athletics. "This is a tremendous addition to Yale's impressive list of athletic venues."
Roberts, a New York native who has completed 29 Boston Marathons and five New York Marathons, is former vice chairman of the United States Trust Company of New York and ex-chair of the New York Roadrunners Club. He ran his first marathon in 1973, motivated by Shorter's performance at Munich the year before.
"Yale does a great deal of community outreach with the Cage, and I hope this will enhance the effort," said Roberts, whose son, John A. Roberts, was a varsity runner at Harvard and graduated in 2002. "Frank Shorter is one of Yale's great athletic heroes and this is a great way to honor him."
Roberts read a letter from his friend, Sir Roger Bannister, who congratulated the school and the donor and mentioned his links to Yale over the last 57 years.
Shorter, who thanked Roberts, was introduced by his teammate, current Yale head coach Mark Young, and the Shorter was quick to mention his former head coach at Yale, Bob Giegengack.
"His spirit is one that pervades this facility," Shorter said of Giegengack. "He would teach you how to coach yourself and that's what I did. It never dawned on me that I would be coming back to Yale under these circumstances.
"They are going to pump so many people through this facility," Shorter said referring to Yale's outreach in the community and the interest in the facility as a site for collegiate events. "Don't worry, it won't wear out that fast."
Beckett picked up on that theme right away and pointed toward Reginald Mayo, the superintendent of the New Haven Public School System.
"You are officially invited to bring your kids into this facility, thanks to Don Roberts and Frank Shorter," Beckett said to Mayo from the podium.
"It is a privilege and honor to participate in the dedication of this facility," said Young. "Thirty-six years ago in this building, Frank Shorter won the mile in the H-Y-P meet with a 4:06.8. Later that year he won at the NCAAs and three years later the gold medal. His path began here and it's only fitting that this be named in his honor."
Yale is only the second Ivy League school to install a permanent banked track. The 200-meter Mondo oval and infield includes eight lanes for both sprints and hurdles, increasing the facility's ability to host championship events.
This will be the second naming of an athletics facility in the Roberts family. Don's father-in-law is the namesake for Harvard's Albert H. Gordon Indoor Track and Tennis Center. The 103-year-old Gordon, who plans to attend the Feb. 12 event, will host the annual Al Gordon 15K race in Central Park the next day. He may even serve as the starter for a race that could include his daughter, Mary Roberts, Shorter and both Don and John Roberts.