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El Paso, TX — The man credited with turning the UTEP track & field program into a national power, Wayne Vandeburg served as the head coach of the men's track & field team from 1967-72. He also directed the cross country team from 1968-71, guiding it to the NCAA title in 1969. Vandeburg was back in town this past weekend, hosting the Vandeburg World Team Reunion... A group of 97 of his players from his days at UTEP, all back to celebrate each other and celebrate being Miners.
One of them, Bob Beamon, might be the most recognizable... Beamon won the 1968 Olympic Gold Medal in the Long Jump, best the mark by two feet! Beamon said he hasn't seen most of these guys in nearly 50 years.
"I think it has created a nice moment and happy occasion for all of us," said Beamon. 1971 NCAA Champion in the 100-meter, Harrington J.J. Jackson, added, "The reunion is like putting our legacy back together for the future as well as for now."
Vandeburg led UTEP to seven top-10 finishes at the NCAA Track & Field Championships (four outdoor and three indoor),with second place at 1971 indoors and third place at 1972 outdoors highlighting the showings.
UTEP won the Western Athletic Conference track & field crown four times, and never finished lower than second at the meet. He mentored eight NCAA champions and 45 WAC individual champions.
"The most enjoyable part is to be able to break bread after 40 plus years, some close to 50 years, it's an exciting event, and I think the university should be very proud they can put something together as great as this," added Beamon.
"It's a wonderful experience, the fact that we are able to be together, some of us not for 48 years, ...and haven't seen them from then...and to be able to pick up a conversation as though it was yesterday, and it was that way this entire weekend. I arrived here when I was 24 years old, as the head track coach, and I left when i was 30. I had athletes that were very close to my age, guys in service or whatever, and maybe I was only 5-6 years their senior, and we grew together. It wasn't about me, it wasn't about them, it was about us. We had a common vision to be the best we could possibly be, to represent the university in the best manor, and be national champions," said Vandeburg.
Beamon will travel this summer with the IOC and Adidas, and hopes to put together the 'Bob Beamon track and field invitational' soon.
Beamon added, "What we really enjoy is to remember all the hard work that we did, I would best describe us as pioneers, of track and field here at UTEP."
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