1974: Janice Wiser, CIF's First Double-Event Girls Champion

Janice Wiser, a senior at La Jolla HS, was the only girl to win two individual events in the 1974 CIF-State Track and Field Championships, the first that included girls. (Courtesy photos)

When Janice Wiser competed in her league championships for La Jolla High in 1974, other coaches tried to get her disqualified because she was a club athlete.

"We didn't really have a girls' track team in 1974," recalled then-coach Chuck Boyer. "Janice worked in the principal's office and wanted to run to pay back the school. She hadn't run in any dual meets."

Wiser, who lives with her husband of 44 years in Spring Valley, a suburb east of San Diego, recalls it a little differently. But the animosity was the same.

"My club coach, Tracy Sundlun, made sure I got the qualifying time by setting up a few meets," she said. "I worked the switchboard in the principal's office and between club track and school, I didn't have time for extracurricular school activities. I wanted to represent La Jolla High in some way.

"Yes, some of the other teams thought it was unfair and tried to get me DQ'd. Coach Boyer and others stood up for me though."

Among them was Sundlun, who unlike some other club coaches who feared the high schools would take away their best athletes, saw it as a golden opportunity.

"It was a big deal then, just like it's a big deal now," he said. "I told her, 'Go!' "

Good thing.

Not only did Wiser sweep the league titles in the 100- and 220-yard dashes, she also won the San Diego Section championships, which qualified her in both sprint events for the first CIF-State Meet that included girls, an event where only each section's champion got to participate.

In that 1974 State Meet held in Bakersfield, Wiser won the 100-yard dash in 10.8 seconds, beating Los Angeles Jordan's Valeria Reed by three-tenths of a second. Wiser came back for an even more impressive win in the 220 in 24.2 seconds -- almost a full second ahead of Berkeley's Marie Nickson.

"I was excited about her winning; she didn't seem that excited, but she definitely was happy," said Boyer, now 77.

"I took it seriously and I was always nervous before a race," said Wiser. "I hoped to win, and I gave it my all. I asked God to help me. I was aware it was the first time girls were in the State Meet and it was a big-time meet -- we had a victory stand ceremony and everything.

"But I didn't think, 'now, we're just like the guys.' I really didn't embrace that attitude, to me it was another big competition."


Boyer recalled something else.

"She didn't just win, she won by a lot. Winning the 220 was no surprise but I think I was most impressed with her winning the 100 because that wasn't really her event."


Wiser was a quarter-miler and proved it when she clocked a time of 53.53 seconds for 400 meters later that summer. The winning time for the 440 at State in 1974 was 56.4 by Terra Linda's Veronica Venezia.

"I wish now I'd also run the 440," said Wiser, "because then La Jolla could have won the state team title."

As it was, the Vikings one-person track team finished second to Berkeley, 13-10, under the 5-3-1 scoring system.

To this day, Janice Wiser is the only San Diego girl to sweep the sprints at the State Championships.

Wiser had another notable quarter-mile victory that spring when she competed in the La Jolla Track Club Kiwanis Track and Field Meet at Balboa Stadium. She won the 440 in 53.7. The runner-up in that race was Orange High's Mary Decker, stepping down from the 880 to clock a 54.4. Pretty decent company.

Although this was the first-ever State Meet with girls, Wiser said it seemed to her the girls got just as much attention as the boys with the crowd estimated at 11,000 at Bakersfield College braving sizzling heat.

Boyer, too, didn't notice much difference, especially since there were just 11 girls events -- including the 80-yard hurdles and 880 medley relay -- but no 2-mile, 300 hurdles, triple jump, discus or pole vault. The girls didn't need prelims, so every event was a final.

As for Wiser, she quickly returned to her club team, Wilt's Wonder Women -- named for their sponsor, All-Time basketball great Wilt Chamberlain, who ran track at Overbrook High in Philadelphia and was a huge fan -- before heading off to Arizona State, which won the recruiting war over Tennessee State and San Diego State.

One week into the school year, she and the ASU coach had a disagreement and Wiser returned to San Diego, running four years for the Aztecs.

Wiser competed in the 1972 Olympic Trials but was unable to make the team in 1976. By then she was happily married to her husband, Robert Pope.

"He came to all of our meets and practices," said Wiser, who now goes by Janice Pope. "He really loved track and, of course, he was my biggest fan."

Wiser has two children, a daughter Amber who is a physician, and a son, Thomas, who is an attorney.

"I was happy to wear the La Jolla singlet," she said. "I wasn't braggadocious or anything, but I was really happy for my high school coach (Boyer). It couldn't have happened without him."


This is the second installment in a series of articles focusing on the first year girls were able to compete at the CIF-State Track and Field Championships. If you have further information on this event and/or its participants, please email Jeffrey.Parenti@flosports.tv.