Bob Hayes Invitational Celebrates 43 Years Of Excellence

By Off The BASN Sports Wire
Updated: March 2, 2007

JACKSONVILLE — Now in its 43rd year, The Bob Hayes Invitational Track and Field Meet (BHITM) activities are set to take place March 11- 17, 2007 in Jacksonville, Florida.

The event continues to attract some of the nation’s top high school track and field athletes many of whom hold state and national titles.

“It has been a privilege to produce an event that celebrates excellence, empowers the community and provides youth the opportunity to compete in a world class environment,” said Coach James Day, BHITM director.

“Last year we had 213 teams confirmed, we expect at least upwards of 220 teams which will equate to roughly 4000 participants,” said Day. Students from Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, the Bahamas and Florida have participated in BHITM.

“More teams form out-of-town have contacted us this year than ever before to participate in this year’s event and we look forward to giving more youth the experience of a lifetime at our beloved track meet,” said Day.

This year marks the return of Church’s Chicken as major sponsor of the event. “As an alumnus of Florida A&M University, I am very familiar with the Bob Hayes legacy of athletic excellence and I am elated to perpetuate his excellence in Jacksonville, where it all began,” said Clinton Barrow, QSR Group, LLC/Church’s Chicken president.

The event was founded in 1964 by coaches: Nathaniel Washington, Earl Kitchings, Willie Richardson, Charles Bobby Grover, Edwin “Butch” Lawson, Jimmy Johnson and Oliver Walker in honor of Jacksonville’s champion, “Bullet” Bob Hayes after his double ‘gold’ victory in the 1964 Olympics.

The first annual Bob Hayes Meet was hosted by Douglas Anderson High School in 1964 and had five black local Jacksonville high schools participating; Matthew W. Gilbert, Douglas Anderson, New Stanton, Northwestern, and Stanton Vocational High School.

The second year included teams participating from three colleges, Edward Waters, South Carolina State, and Savannah State College of Georgia.

Participating high schools were Raines, Matthew Gilbert, Stanton Vocational and Douglas Anderson of Jacksonville; Deaf and Blind School of St. Augustine; Fessenden of Ocala; Center High School of Waycross, Georgia; and Howard High of Ocala.

1968 marked a new phase for BHITM; Douglas Anderson High School was phased out in the Jacksonville school desegregation plan, leaving the event without a home base to continue the meet.

Nat Washington, originator of the meet, asked then Principal, Dr. Andrew A. Robinson of Raines High School and Track Coach James Day to continue the meet.

They agreed to do so and the site moved to Raines High under a new meet director, James Day. Raines has hosted and Day has served as event director for the past 39 years.

“Bullet” Bob Hayes was one of the most accomplished athletes in the world. He competed in the 1964 Olympics on the United States Track Team in Tokyo, Japan, at which he won two gold medals.

First, Hayes tied the world record and won the 100-meter dash. He then established the world record in anchoring the 400-meter relay team.

Hayes was dubbed as the “World’s Fastest Human” and was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the seventh round as wide receiver.

During his illustrious professional football career, Hayes’ speed and agility changed the way defense was played. Thus, the NFL installed “zone defense”, which was created to stop Bob Hayes.

Hayes was the driving force behind the Dallas Cowboys’ appearance in eight post-season games, their first Super Bowl title and two NFC crowns.

Hayes remains the only athlete to have earned both Olympic gold medals and a Super Bowl ring. The life and legacy of Jacksonville’s No. 1 Athlete of the 20th Century will be celebrated during the 43rd Annual Bob Hayes Invitational Track and Field Meet events.

NOTE: For information about participation in the 43rd Annual Bob Hayes Invitational Track and Field Meet, call (904) 359-0550 or (904) 359-0552.