1974: Girls Get Their Turn at the State Meet

First in a series

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This article was updated 6/9 to correct the scoring format used at the 1974 State Meet, adjust how Washington accumulated its points, and to add the full team scoring list.

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To surprisingly little fanfare beyond a preview headline in the local paper, the CIF-State Track and Field Championships of 1974 is more historic than the 56 that came before it and the 45 that have come since. 

It was the first time girls were allowed to compete for a California State title, just as the boys had been doing for five-plus decades before.

But 1974 was nothing like we see in the 21st century where girls and boys are celebrated on a equal level. In 1974, only qualifiers from nine statewide sections were allowed at the State Meet. The San Francisco Section was not represented.

Girls only competed in Saturday finals. The boys had Friday prelims in 1974. The girls did not. Girls only competed in nine individual events and two relays. Not all qualified girls competed in the final.

And post-meet reporting we uncovered in researching this series primarily focused on the boys, one particular performance of note, and the girls were a bottom-of-the-article afterthought, the historic nature of the event clearly not warranting the headlines it might today. 

Hal Harkness was a State Meet athlete in the 1950s who has been a longtime coach and track administrator who currently holds the title of State CIF Rules Interpreter for track and cross country. He is as close to the embodiment on history of track in California as exists. 

"Bill Russell was State CIF Commissioner until 1980," Harkness wrote in an email exchange with MileSplit correspondent Albert Caruana, "and during the late 60's, early 70's, there was increasing pressure from girl's and women's organizations to add female events to both the NCAA and CIF.

"In that first year of 1974, many, many high schools were not ready to field girls teams in track and field thus the small number of participants."

Yes, the Golden State was a bit late the party. Title IX --  the historic legislation allowing equality to women -- was signed into law in late June of 1972. But even before that, nearly half of the states already had girls participating in state championships.

When California caught up on the track in response to Title IX, it did so in grand fashion. At least in results that quickly established the Golden State as a national leader for girls track. 

The lineup in 1974 was thin compared to the 16 standard CIF events we have today.

Events contested for girls in 1974 were the 100-yard dash, 220-yard dash, 440-yard dash, 880-yard dash, mile run, 80-yard low hurdles, 440-yard relay, 800-yard medley relay (110-110-220-440), high jump, long jump and shot put.

Not on the schedule for girls in 1974:
  • Discus throw (added in 1976)
  • 2-mile (1977)
  • 300 hurdles (1981)
  • triple jump (1982)
  • pole vault (1995)

No matter. What was contested was historic.