Margaret Johnson Bailes Track
Margaret Johnson Bailes was born in the Bronx, NY, in 1951 and moved with her family to Eugene when she was five. Her Eugene roots run deep! She ran her first track race in street shoes and a dress as a fourth grader at Lincoln Elementary School in Eugene’s Westside Jefferson neighborhood. Eight years later, she was on the victory stand at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.
The plaque at Margaret Johnson Bailes Track includes this short biography:
During her years in Eugene, Margaret spent some of her time running on a weedy, gravel track behind Jefferson Junior High School—now the Arts & Technology Academy. She worked with coach Wendy Jerome and ran for Churchill High School and the Oregon Track Club. Her state high school records (11.29 for the 100, 22.95 for the 200) still stand.
To date (this plaque was dedicated in 2008), Margaret is the only female track athlete from Oregon to set world records and win an Olympic gold medal.
In the summer of 1968, Margaret twice equaled the world record for the 100 at the national championships. Soon after, at the U.S. Olympic Trials, she won the 200 and was second in the 100. The Churchill senior flew with the American team to Mexico City. Before the final of the 4x100 relay, Margaret was switched from the third leg to the second. Running in an unfamiliar position, the young sprinter froze, recalled lead-off runner Barbara Ferrell-Edmondson: “Once we got her rolling, she was like a locomotive and she more than made up for it.” With Mildrette Netter and Wyomia Tyus running the remaining legs, the Americans set a world record of 42.87 to win the gold.
In an era when women athletes received scant attention, there was little fanfare for Margaret as she headed to the Olympic Games. Upon her return, however, “it seemed like the whole town was at the airport to greet me,” she said.
Married at 16, Margaret and her husband left Eugene shortly after the Olympics. She returned in 1981 and enrolled her daughter at Jefferson. Margaret went on to help coach track at Churchill and, in 1991, was the first Black female inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame.
The Margaret Johnson Bailes track facility was built in 2008 with Eugene School District 4J funds and a grant from NIKE for the track surface - a product of Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program that eliminates waste by disassembling used sports shoes and using the pulverized material to manufacture new surfaces for sport and play.
EXERCISE OPTION: Run or walk a mile on the Margaret Johnson Bailes track
- Sprint the straightaways and jog the curves
- Jog the straightaways and walk the curves
- Walk a mile