By Daryl Cross
(Here is a wonderful recollection from Darryl Cross, one of the foundation members of the ACT Athletics Association. Darryl was the Publicity Officer (on the Executive) for many years, wrote for the Canberra Times during that time and did regular radio spots - also ABC Radio crosses to Bruce Athletics Track (now Canberra Stadium) and provided regular reports on ABC TV on Saturday evenings. He was also Competition Secretary from the late 1960's through to 1981 when he and his wife Joan, who also played a key role in the development of athletics in Canberra, moved to Brisbane)
Like Col Robbie our memories are pretty hazy now but here goes anyway. What is already on the ACT Athletics History Page is pretty much correct and the Annual Reports from those early days were lodged with the National Library together with a magazine (Canberra Athlete) which I produced for several years. If I remember correctly Brian Lenton also produced a magazine/s based around distance running in the ACT in the 60's/70's.
During the early days of athletics in Canberra clubs included North Canberra, South Canberra, Queanbeyan, RMC, Canberra City Harriers and as I remember Woden Valley joined later, followed by Weston Creek. I also have a vague recollection that Goulbourn also had a club at an early stage.
Early competition in Canberra was held on Manuka Oval before moving to Ainslie Oval where I first competed. If I remember rightly the move to Woden Park came as a result of an approach to the Department of the Interior for a better track/facility prior to the building of Bruce. In fact the National Sub Junior Match was held at Woden Park. Also in 1973 a New Zealand U23 side came to Canberra and competed against an ACT side at Woden. The highlight of that match was the women’s 100m at which the NZ Champion of the time Wendy Brown ran against Raelene Boyle (we invited her to Canberra especially for that race). So you can see that Canberra (the ACT) has a proud record in athletics (for its size and population) and those athletes who are on top of the sport today can thank those who came before them for leading the way.
The ACT also had a very strong distance running base for which Jack Pennington was the main organiser during that time. Some of the athletes in the Middle Distance/Distance area have already been mentioned in other articles on the ACT site but others of note who come to mind during that period are Debbie Bryant who from recollection won the ACT's first National title (Sub Junior 1500m Cross Country in 1972), Isobel Trundle (3rd in that same event)). Michael Thompson was a top young middle distance runner in Australia in the late 1970's having smashed the then National U17 300m record on the track in winning the 1977 All Schools title and coming second in both the 800m and 1500m at the same Champs in Melbourne.
The Cross Country Club was very strong in the 60's/70's, mainly due to the influence of Jack Pennington who organised the weekly competitions at the Corkwood and who encouraged the distance guys to regular social runs on Sundays. One other top distance runner in the early days was Dave McInnes who ran for Queanbeyan and as I recall held the record for running round Lake Burley Griffin.
Also Race Walking was relatively strong with Dr Peter McCulloch, Robin Whyte, Peter Waddell, Jenny Mills and Miriam Harding (McCarthy) all being NSW Reps (Robin Whyte can give you further details). The ACT also had a good crop of throwers with Albert Magassy (Hammer), Yvonne Stockman (Shot), Pat Connell (who I believe passed away recently), Suzi Ghiradello (Javelin) and Warwick Selvey (Discus) (moved from interstate). In sprints I can recall a few; Greg Jaggers, John Broadhead, John Snare (from RMC), Rosemary Mitchell (3rd in the 400m in Adelaide in 1974) and Lindy Snowie. Then there were Hurdlers Joan Cross (Hallaran) Kathy Lee and Janet Smith. Jumpers not to be forgotten were Walter and Paul Ghiradello, Michael Dick who won the National Open title in Perth in 1979 as well as winning silver in the Junior Title the same year, Yvonne Craig who won the Bronze at the Open title in Perth in the early 70's and of course Robyn Sluyters who was the National all Schools Championship in 1981. In Multi Events Terry Beaton RMC (competed at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Auckland NZ), Col Robbie in the early years and Paul Ghiradello later on were two of the best.
On the Association history side the ACT achieved Statehood in 1980 following years of establishing itself worth of independence. Presidents during the 50's, 60's and 70's included Pat Thompson, Bob Jay, Charlie Morris and Denis Wilson. Joan Cross was Secretary for a good part of that time and was a prime mover to have Canberra allocated the Australian Women's Cross Country Championships in 1972. This was the first time a National Championships had been allocated outside a State Capital City and more significantly the site chosen for those championships was where the present Parliament House now stands (Capital Hill). Joan Cross was also one of the prime movers for approval to be sought (and given) for a National Sub Junior (U17) Women’s Match to be held in Canberra in 1972 and at which an ACT Team (minus Debbie Bryant who was chosen for NSW) was allowed to compete against all other States.
As usual athletics competition would be nothing without officials and there was a small group of stalwarts during this period who gave of their time willingly each week. They included Eugene Magassy, Dot Mills, Arch Smith, Beth Smith, Joan Cross, Daryl Cross, John Muir, Ed Snowie, Jack Gallagher and Ewen Drummond. It should be noted that Ewen Drummond designed the first "wind Gauge" to be used in Canberra, a simple device based on mathematical principles and based on a table tennis ball on the end of a wire with a paddle at the other end sitting in a water bath. On the Publicity scene Mike Sheehan was the first to have regular columns in the Canberra Times and have a weekly radio segment on 2CA in the early to mid 60's and he was followed by Daryl Cross who also had a 30 minute segment on the University Radio Station. Daryl also did a regular column in Australian Athlete, a national magazine produced by Mike Agostini in Sydney.
The Australian Track and Field Coaches Association was formed in 1974 and the ACT Branch followed soon after with Daryl Cross as the first President. Notable coaches during the time were Jack Pennington, Daryl Cross, Peter Bowman and Ed Helgeby. It should not be forgotten that in 1972 meetings were held by the Executive, chaired by Charlie Morris with Joan Cross as Secretary, to discuss and submit an application to the then AAA of A for the 1977 Pacific Conference Games to be held in Canberra. It should also never be forgotten that as a result of this application being successful Bruce Stadium was built at a cost of 6 million dollars (don’t know what present costs would be) and because this facility was then available the AIS was established in Canberra in 1980. From recollection there were other events also held in the ACT during this time but as I said at the beginning our memories are fading but anyway hope that helps.