JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Bob Hayes Invitational track and field meet is here.
The 55th installment of the event is Saturday beginning at 8 a.m. at Raines High School. Admission is $9.
The Bob Hayes meet began small, with just five schools participating in the first event in 1964. It grew into one of the largest one-day events in the nation.
“It’s special for me because it’s track and field, that’s my sport, I’ve lived it,” said longtime meet director James Day, who’s known simply by Coach throughout the community. “Track and field has touched more people than any other sport. Any other sport.”
Day said that more than 170 schools are expected at the Bob Hayes Invitational on Saturday. He mentioned Miami Norland sprinter Tyrese Cooper as one athlete to watch in the event. Cooper is currently the state leader in the 100, 200 and 400, has signed with Oregon.
Four alums of the event, Brian Dawkins, Harvey Glance, Larry Little and Larry Shipp were inducted into the track meet’s hall of fame. Dawkins and Little, both NFL hall of famers, brandished their yellow NFL induction jackets.
The event bears the name of Hayes, arguably the most prominent athlete to emerge from the First Coast. Hayes won gold in the 1964 Olympics in the 100 and also ran the anchor leg in the men’s 4x100 relay.
His hand time of 8.5 on that leg remains the fastest split ever by a runner with a running start. Faster than Carl Lewis. Faster than Usain Bolt. Hayes went on to play in the NFL, with his best times coming with the Dallas Cowboys. He helped the Cowboys win the 1972 Super Bowl. Hayes died in 2002 at 59.
He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2009.
The Bob Hayes meet is heavy on contributions from certified officials, which Day said were roughly 45, as well as volunteers. He estimated the number this year at 150.
“We couldn’t do this without them,” he said. “These [meet days] are the easy ones for me. Getting to this [start of the meet] is the hard part. The officials and the volunteers, they are so important to this."
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