History of the World Famous Florida Track Club

Florida Track Club greats Jeff Galloway (left) and Jack Bacheler (right) battle it out with the legendary Steve Prefontaine (center)

History and Development

The Florida Track Club (FTC) was conceived and first organized by the University of Florida’s head track coach, Jimmy Carnes, in 1965. The FTC was created for undergraduate transfer track participants as they sat out their year of college ineligibility and it soon became a dynamic resource for olympic class athletes. Word quickly spread that Gainesville was “the” place to train and the club rapidly grew in both quantity and quality.

In 1970 Frank Shorter joined the FTC and that fall the Florida Track Club won its first national championship at the Track and Field Federation meet. In 1971 the FTC captured its first National AAU cross country championship with the talent pool of Frank Shorter, Jack Bacheler, Barry Brown, Ken Misner, and Jeff Galloway. The Club won that prestigious title again in 1972 and 1973.

In the 1972 Olympic Marathon, Frank Shorter brought home the gold and his subsequent 1976 Olympic performance earned him the silver medal. In that same 1972 Olympic Marathon, Shorter’s FTC teammate Jack Bacheler finished an impressive ninth place in his second Olympic games competition. In 1973 the Club expanded its competitive nucleus by drawing other track and field standouts to Florida’s sunny training center in Gainesville. Shot putter Doug Price, pole vaulter Mike Cotten, and middle distance ace Byron Dyce joined the elite group of athletes boasting a national class team. The Florida Track Club with its internationally recognized Florida orange logo continued to build its national class racing team with the talents of Steve Williams, Nancy Shafer and Dave Hill.

The Club, starting with three members in 1965, soon grew to an active membership of over 500 runners.

The Club Now

The Florida Track Club encourages athletic camaraderie and supports coaching for all runners. The FTC acknowledges its duty to serve all runners throughout the broad spectrum of the runner’s skills and is committed to a total community involvement.

FTC activities include programs for joggers, fun runners, roadrunners, marathoners, and tracksters. The Club sponsors races throughout the year that are open to all runners. Although the races are competitive in nature, they are organized to promote a friendly atmosphere, but conform to rigid organizational standards. The Club continues to support outstanding athletes.

Historically, the club through the support of Dr. Robert Cade and other FTC sponsors, operated Gainesville’s Junior Champs Program for grade school runners and collaborated with the University of Florida track program to organize races and at one time supplied officials to many track meets.

The club encourages fellowship among all members of the Gainesville running community through its monthly meetings that feature guest speakers and training demonstrations. Monthly meetings are held in the UF and Shands Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Institute, 3450 Hull Road located just off SW 34th St. (next to the UF Hilton Hotel and Conference Center and across SW 34th Street from the Art Museum). Meetings are conducted in a relaxed social atmosphere. Runners, old and new, mingle to discuss races of importance to the membership and to gain insight into other member’s running philosophies and experiences. Through the efforts of the Florida Track Club, Gainesville has become one of this country’ s most respected training grounds for runners.

Community Activities

As a service oriented organization, the Florida Track Club embraces two primary objectives. First, the FTC strives to promote personal physical fitness through its programs. Second, the Club aims to enhance fellowship among all members of the running community by providing competitive races and informative monthly meetings.

Junior Champs Program is an age appropriate developmental program, introducing boys and girls to many track and field events. Dr. Robert Cade (inventor of Gatorade) was instrumental in the development of the Junior Champs Program and also supported many of the club’s other programs. A highlight of the Junior Champs Program is the weekly summer track meets with awards to all participants.

Monthly Meetings are a forum for up-to-date running discussions led by selected experts in various running related fields. The rostrum of FTC speakers have included Jimmy Carnes, Frank Shorter, Jay Birmingham, Roy Benson, Carol Slowik, Marty Liquori, Craig Virgin, John Parker, Jack Bacheler, John Randolph, Dr. Philip Parr, and Dr. Al Hardman.

The FTC provides support and services throughout the year to races sponsored by other community groups. The races range in distance from 3 miles to a half marathon. All races are open to the public with participation encouraged for men and women, young and old, slow and fast.

The Florida Track Club is a member of the Road Runners Club Of America and the USA Track and Field Florida Association.


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