Eddie Hart's Story
I was born in Martinez, California. It’s a little town about thirty miles east of San Francisco known primarily for its oil refineries. When my father was discharged from the Navy, he went to work for Shell Oil Refinery in Martinez. I was very young when our family moved away; this was before I started kindergarten. We moved to Port Chicago, about eight miles east of Martinez.
A few years earlier, during
World War II my father was stationed at the Port Chicago Naval
Weapons Station. He, along with many other enlisted Navy men
was responsible for loading ships with the ammunition used
in the Pacific. On July 17, 1944, two bombs exploded and literally
destroyed one ship and seriously damaged a second. My father
said, “It was the most horrible night of my life.”
He thought the world was coming to an end. One of my father’s
fellow service buddies was in the bunk next to him praying
harder than he had ever heard a man pray. My father said that
was strange to him, because the guy had made fun of him for
praying just a few nights prior to the incident. Several barracks were flattened,
a bus was knocked off the road a mile away, and people living
in San Francisco, some forty miles away felt the blast.
The following morning my father was on detail picking up body
parts that were scattered all over the ground. Three hundred
and twenty men perished in the explosion. Whenever I think
of that incident, I realize I came very close to not being
When I was eight years old, we moved to Pittsburg, California, just a few miles east of Port Chicago. Even before we moved to Pittsburg, I discovered that I could run fast. As early as when I was five years old, I could beat all the kids my age in a race and even some kids older than me. One year during my fathers company picnic, they changed the time of the races they had for the kids that attended. By the time we arrived the races were over. My dad’s co-workers all knew I was fast so they had a special race just for me. I won and was awarded a first place ribbon. Even then, I realized that I had been given a gift, “I could run fast.”
While growing up in Pittsburg I attended elementary, junior high, and graduated from Pittsburg High School. At the end of each elementary school year the school had competitions, which included races. That really proved to be a challenge for me. I would get so excited and nervous, that kids would beat me that I had beaten all year long.
Junior high school was a real turning point for me. The school had a track team that competed against three other schools, and at the end of the season, they had a Jr high school championship. I was just 13 years old Coach Bert Bannano, my first real track coach, was hired just prior to my eighth-grade year. That was the year, I decided I wanted to compete in the 100 meters at the Olympics.
I virtually won every race I ran that year. At the championships I won the 75 yd dash, 150 yd dash, the long jump, and I anchored the winning 440 yd relay. I was so proud that the next day I showed my four first place ribbons to the pastor of my church and to all the members of the congregation.
Although I went on to duplicate that feat as a junior in high school winning the 100 yd, 200 yd, long jump, and again anchoring the winning 440 yd relay, at the Conference Championships, I developed a bit slower than a few other speedsters around the state.
As a senior I made it to the State Meet but I did not fair very well. I would enjoy the type of success that I did earlier until my second year in Jr College. Following high school I decided to attend Contra Costa Junior College in Richmond, California. As a freshman, I had some success, but nothing like I had hoped. That year I finished fifth in the 100 yd dash at the State Meet. After the race, with tears in my eyes, I vowed that I would win the race the following year.
My sophomore year at Contra Costa was one off the bright spots in my athletic career. I lost the first 100 I ran that year. It was the only time I lost the 100. My second race of the year in the 100 was just a tenth of a second off the Jr National College Record (9.3). I won conference, Northern California Championships, and at the State meet I equaled the National Jr Record in the 100yd dash (9.2).
Unfortunately, the race was wind aided, so I could not stake my claim as one of the record holders. I won the 220 yd dash, we were fourth in the 440 yd relay, our team placed third, and I was awarded the Most Outstanding Athlete of the meet. That summer while competing in the Pacific AAU Meet, I broke the National Jr College Record, by a tenth of a second; however, the officials said that because it was not in a Jr College competition, the record could not stand.
Because I was the #1 ranked sprinter in the country coming out of junior college, I was offered full athletic scholarships by colleges all over the country. Many of the schools that recruited me had excellent track programs. However, because of the University of California, Berkeley’s academic history and distance from home, I decided to accept the scholarship from Cal.
It would prove to be one of the best decisions of my life. Dave Maggard the head track coach recruited me. I felt if I went to Cal that he would take care of me. We developed a great relationship, one that I still enjoy today. I was moving up into a tougher arena. Some of my stiffest competition would come from members of my own team; Dave Masters had gotten second place in the 100 and 200 our senior year at the California High School State Meet, and Isaac Curtis,who went on to become the great wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Click Here to see Eddie in Cal's All-Time Top 10
That year I won the 100 in the Pacific Eight Conference. Issac and I made history when we finished first and second in the 100 at NCAA Championships. We also won the 440 relay. I had reached another milestone in my life. I was now a two time NCAA All American, and we were crowned the NCAA Champions. Later that year I made the US National Team, competing in France, Russia and Germany. I ran on the relay in those meets. My senior year at Cal was more difficult. We were stripped of our National team title, because one member of the team had not properly taken the SAT test.
In the middle of the season while coming out of the blocks, I pulled a muscle. I was out of competition for six weeks, missing the conference meet. I placed second in the 100 at the NCAA meet but I made a critical mistake. I decided to change my block setting for the final race. It was a costly mistake and one that I would never make again.
Following my senior year 1972, I was hired by Dave Maggard, as a graduate assistant track coach at Cal, he was promoted to Athletic Director. My training for the Olympics went well. At the West Coast Relays I missed the100m World Record by only a tenth of a second (10.0), I won the 200 at the California Relays, and I won the 100 and 200 at the Kennedy Games, one the major meets in the country. A couple weeks after the Kennedy Games while competing in the US Championships, I pulled a muscle again. It was just three weeks prior to the Olympic Trials. It was not as bad as the pull the year before. The question was would I have enough time to recover for the Trials?
When I arrived at the Olympic Trials, I did not know what to expect. I was unable to do block starts for three weeks. The one thing that I could hold onto was, I wanted it more than anything. Just ten years after I deciding, when I was in junior high school, that I wanted to go to the Olympics, I found myself standing behind my blocks in the finals of the 100 at the Olympic Trials. It was the greatest race of my life. I was now an Olympic Trail Champion, World Record Holder, and most of all, I was now an Olympian. I was realizing my dream.
Because of a scheduling mix-up, I was not able to accomplish my goal at the Olympics in the 100, however, I anchored the winning 400 Relay team to a world record. I was now a two-time World Record Holder, Olympic Record Holder, and Olympic Goal Medalist.
After the Olympics I returned to Cal, and was hired as one of the assistant track coaches. At that time, Erv Hunt had been named as the head coach.
After the track season in 1973, I married my high school sweetheart, Gwen Carter. Gwen and I had been dating for several years; we have now been married for thirty-three years. Our daughter Paris lives with us and my son Ed who is also a Cal graduate has been married for five years. He and his wife Reina, also both Cal grads had their first child, Eddie Hart III, which makes me a grandfather. After five years as the assistant coach at Cal, I was offered and took the head coaching and Physical Education Instructor position at the College of Alameda. I have worked in the Jr college system for more than twenty years; I retired some time ago but have continued to work as assistant to Nate Slaughter, the coach of the track club I competed on following my college experience. * I stayed in good shape long after the Olympics. One day while Gwen was visiting me at the school she noticed a flyer on the bulletin board, announcing a track meet for coaches at a college not far from were I lived. She said,” You should run in the meet.” I decided to go for it. I won the 100 and the 200. That really didn’t surprise me, I was running against guys that had not run track in their younger days. However, what did surprise me were my times. They were not much different than the times I was running during the Olympic year. Nate Slaughter, my old track club coach, heard about me running in the meet, and gave me a call. He said, “You are still fast enough to run on our relay team.” It was in the middle of the track season, and just a couple of weeks before the West Coast Relays. I agreed to run on the relay team in the meet.
I was still coaching Alameda and would be at the meet anyway. After giving it some additional thought I ask Nate to enter me in the 100. We ran the 800 relay, and I won the 100, but I was so exhausted after the 800 relay, I could not run the 400 relay. Later that year the US had its first Sports Festival, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The competition consisted of dividing the country into four regions. I was asked to compete in the 100 and the 400 relay for the Western Region. I accepted the invitation. We were second in the 400 relay, and I won the 100, equaling the world’s best time that year. After only running a few races during the second half of the track season, I was ranked as one of the top ten sprinters in the world for that year. I ran a few more races the following couple of years, and decided to call it quits.
I continued to stay in good shape. During this time I met Mark Grubi, he was involved with Master’s Track. As I started approach the age to compete as a master, he encouraged me to train for competition. The same year I turned Master’s age (40), the World Masters Championships were being held in Eugene Oregon. I loved that track. It was where I had equaled the world’s record, and became an Olympian. It would be worth it, just to make the trip.
At that time, my son Ed was about eleven years old. We had a 22 foot motor home. I decided that he and I would drive up to the meet. It was a well organized and very exciting meet. There were over five thousand master athletes there to compete. I ran into a few guys from the old track days. While we were there one evening watching TV they did a special on the meet. There were posters in the stores and around town. I won the 100 and 200. Some of the athletes wanted me to run a relay with them but I declined Ed and I was ready to get back home to see Gwen and Paris. Running the relay would mean staying a couple more days. Later that year at a Masters meet at Cal, broke the world record in the 100 (10.87?). I had never competed indoors as a master; I thought it might be fun to give it a try.
The following winter I ran the 60 meters at the US Masters Indoor Championships, in Madison Wisconsin. I got a terrible start coming from behind to win; I also broke the master world record. After that I ran few more years, but it has been some time now since I have competed. The only exception; I ran the 100 at the Modesto Relays. I broke the world record for my age group, but once again the race was wind-aided, so it was not allowed.
I have been living with my family in Pittsburg for the past 12 years. Now that I have reached my goals and dreams, I believe it is time for me to help the youth in the surrounding community to develop and attain their goals and dreams. That’s why I felt compelled to start the Eddie Hart All In One Foundation so I could use my name, influence, relationships and resources to make a positive difference in the lives of youngter.
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