Wednesday March 27 thru Saturday March 30
At the "Percy Beard Track and Field Complex"
The History Of
The Florida Relays
The Florida Relays first began over half a century ago in 1939, thanks to the vision and creativeness of the Gators' legendary head track and field coach Percy Beard. Since that first meet 57 years ago, the Coca-Cola Florida Relays have grown in epic proportions from the small regional competitions on April Fool's Day that featured 209 competitors, to one of the nation's premier track and field meets.
Florida, Alabama, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Vanderbilt, the University of Havana and Palm Beach Junior College composed the university division of the inaugural Florida Relays, while Daytona Beach, Lake City, Live Oak, Miami Senior, Ocala, Palm Beach, Riverside Military Acdemy, Jacksonville Lee and St. Petersburg competed in the nine-team high school division.
The Florida Relays were established after the Southern Relays, held at Georgia Tech, were discontinued in the 1930s. Coach Beard was forced to create a new meet or travel hundreds of miles north to Philadelphia for the Penn Relays. Beard's coaching peers throughout the southeast were receptive to the idea and the Florida Relays were born.
Since its inception, the Florida Relays have grown in both stature and size. Often regarded nationally as the first major event of the collegiate outdoor track and field season, the Relays have grown from a one-day inaugural event featuring slightly more than 200 athletes to a four-day extravaganza that attracts over 3,000 athletes from the high school, collegiate and international ranks.
The Relays have been held every year since 1939 except during World War II (1942-46). The first 15 meets were held on the cinder track at Graham Field, south of Florida Field. In 1959, UF's track and field complex was moved to its present location.
The 1959 Florida Relays was a historical meet, as the University of Florida unveiled the first all-weather track surface in the world. The Asphalt grasstex surface was another of Coach Percy Beard's many track innovations. That surface remained in place until a nine-lane Chevron 400 rubberized surface was installed and the current Rekortan surface was put in place during the summer of 1991.