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Track and Field

1937 Track TeamTrack and field was the second integrated varsity sport at the University of Wisconsin. Olympian and Big Ten champion George Poage ran track for the Badgers from 1901-1904, setting three school records during his career. Poage was the first in a long line of successful black trackmen for Wisconsin. Bill Exum won three letters and Lloyd Cooke won two letters during the 1930s.

Photo of Charlie ThomasIn 1940, hurdler Ed Smith was the second African-American Badger to win a Big Ten track championship. The previous year, Smith had been at the heart of a racial controversy when the University of Missouri tried to bar him from a track meet to be held at Mizzou. The faculty and students in Madison strongly supported Smith's equal opportunity, and the Badgers withdrew from the track meet rather than accede to Missouri's exclusionary policy.

Lloyd LaBeach won Big Ten titles in the long jump (indoor) and 100-yard dash (outdoor), helping Wisconsin to a third and fifth-place finish. LaBeach would also earn three All-America honors at the 1946 NCAA outdoor championships, turning in runner-up finishes in both the 100 and 200-yard dashes. The Badgers placed fifth at the outdoor national championships, the team's best national finish since 1939.

LeBeach transferred to UCLA after his freshman year. He then won two bronze medals at the 1948 Olympics, while representing Panama - the country's first two medals. LaBeach was also the first black Badger to capture Olympic medals since George Poage had also won two bronze medals at the 1904 games.

African-Americans became an increasingly common sight on UW track teams after World War Two. In 1956, Charlie Thomas, who specialized in the shot-put, was the first black track and field athlete at UW to compete in the weight events.

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