One of the most noticeable things out by the track stadium is a double line of trees that extends from the end of the stands all the way to Main Street. I started trying to figure out when they were planted but quickly got distracted by something else in the same vicinity.

If you look at photos of track meets from back in the day it looks like the track itself also extended all the way the Main Street. For example, the billboards behind these 1929 hurdlers are on the other side of the street:

Track meet 1929 or 30 hurdlers

It’s even clearer here, where you can see the brick entrance columns at left, which were just off the street:

Track meet 1929 or 30 billboards

So I went and had a peek at the scrapbook of Emmet Brunson, who was a Rice track star in the late ’20s and then served as head track coach for many years. There I found a map of the Rice track and field facilities inside a program for the 1927 Rice Relays: sure enough, they started nearly in the road.

New Rice field from 1927 Rice relays program third annual

Not any more though:

Looking up track from Main street July 2015

So my question is, why not?

Bonus: From my buddy Brandon Martin, Rice’s video guy, a fantastic image. You need to click on it a couple of times to get the full effect. It’s amazing.


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14 Responses to Straightaway

  1. marmer01 says:

    Taken from the top of Zaza/Warwick Towers?

  2. That bonus photo covers the majority of the “known universe” of my youth. Especially since I was born in Herman Hospital, attended Rice and lived near the Astrodome for a few years. It sure has changed sine 1977 though!

  3. barbara smith says:

    bonus photo absolutely stunning!

  4. Awesome panorama, but wow, Houston really is flat.

    Interesting that you can see the big honkin’ radio towers off to the South. Those must be very, very tall.

  5. vkbenson says:

    Because the 220-yard and 110-yard dash under the rules required a straight track – AF and BD on Coach Brunson’s diagram. A 220-yard straight track is not possible without the extension. Note that the 110-yard dash was set to finish near the center of the grandstand when it could just have easily been CF or something close.The 220 has since been replaced by the 200-meter dash, and the 110 first became 100 yards and is now the 100-meter dash. The 200-meter begins on a curve and ends on the home straight, so today it is probably something like GD.

  6. Buddy Chuoke '75 says:

    I’ve looked at those same trees for decades and the remnants of the track that led to Main Street. Never thought I would ever know the true story. Thanks for satisfying your curiosity and mine.

  7. Barney L. McCoy says:

    By the time Brunson competed in the 20s, the 110 yd dash had been shortened to 100 yds. The 100 yd dash, 220yd dash, the 120 yd high hurdles and the 220 yd low hurdles were all run on that long straightway. By the time I got there in 1963, when Brunson was the track & field coach, things had changed significantly. The South stands were gone. The pole vault runway and pit exclusively occupied the south side of the field. The broadjump and highjump were on the north side of the field and shared the same pit. The 220 yd low hurdles had been replaced by the 330 yd low hurdles, which would have started somewhere near G and ended somewhere near D. Shortly thereafter it was increased to 440 yds. The only races run on the straightway were the 100 yd dash and the 120 yd high hurdles, so that straightway had been shortened. One interesting aspect of the diagram is the placement of each runner in the relay races. This was important because the baton exchange has to take place within a specific zone, which has to be marked on the track for each meet. Thanks for unearthing and posting this interesting sketch.
    Barney L. McCoy, Hanszen 67

  8. vkbenson says:

    The now-demolished Ownby Stadium at SMU had a similar footprint. See

  9. Deborah Gronke Bennett BSEE Hanszen 1982 says:

    Why are they tearing down the track stadium?

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