Yellow Jackets Track and Field 1985-1988

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Track and Field

The late 1980’s were great years for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets [1] Track and Field teams. The women's team qualified for an ACC tournament for the first time in school history. The men's team qualified for all but one of the ACC tournaments and finished third in both the 1986 outdoor and the 1987 indoor tournaments. The Yellow Jackets Track and Field teams qualified over one dozen of its athletes to the NCAA Track tournaments. The most remarkable of these were: James Purvis, Alan Drosky, Bridget Koster, and Pam Thomas who each attained national rankings and helped lead their teams to victory in several regular season meets, in Atlantic Coast Conference [2] (ACC) championships, and in National Collegiate Athletic Association,[3] (NCAA) championships. It was reported in a February release of the Georgia Tech Sports Information (newspaper) by the paper's director, Mark Finn, "Georgia Tech has qualified at least one athlete for the NCAA indoor championships of seven straight years and 10 of the last 11 seasons." The teams' coaches: Dee Todd, Steve Kieth, and Buddy Fowlkes, were marked as some of the best Track and Field coaches in Yellow Jacket history. The Yellow Jackets men’s and women’s track teams traditionally compete in both the indoor season and the outdoor season. The indoor season, which typically begins in the fall and ends in the early winter, consists of the same events as the outdoor season, which begins in the late winter and ends in the early summer. The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets men’s track and field team has been competing since the early 1907. Whereas, the women’s team, often called the Lady Jackets (a name used during the early establishment of women’s sport teams at the Georgia Institute of Technology) did not make its first appearance at the ACC tournament until the spring of 1986.[4]


Track and Field

Track and Field functions as a team composed of individual competitions. The track and field team, unlike most intercollegiate teams, is made up of players who compete on an individual level. Athletes will compete against each other in individual events. Since there are about 23 events, it is common for a team to have players that compete in more than one event. The victor of a meet, a tournament comprised of multiple teams from different schools, is determined by how well a team competes at the given meet. Each team member scores points for their team by placing well in their events. Thus, the team with the highest point total is awarded first place and the team with the next highest point total is awarded second place, and so-on. However, an individual also scores points for himself/herself by placing well in multiple meets throughout the season. For instance, even if a team is not invited to the NCAA Track and Field Championships held each year, an individual player can be invited to compete at the tournament on a personal level rather than a team level.


Some of Georgia Tech’s best events, those that the school tends to thrive the most in, are the hurdles, relays, and high jump. In the intercollegiate system, the group of universities that compete against each other in sports, academics, etc., there are close to 23 events that a team can submit players to compete in. If a player is not submitted to compete in a certain event, then the team does not receive points for that event. In general, there are three types of events: running-based, jumping-based, and throwing-based. The running events are categorized as sprints, middle and long-distance events, relays, and hurdling. Regular jumping events include long jump, triple jump, high jump and pole vault, while the most common throwing events are shot put, javelin, discus and hammer. There are also "combined events," such as heptathlon and decathlon, in which athletes compete in a number of the above events. [5]

The Yellow Jacket Team

Georgia Tech logo

Every year, the men's and women's track teams compete in the indoor season that lasts until the conclusion of the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship in which Tech will send its qualifying athletes to. Before this tournament there is the regular indoor season and then the Atlantic Coast Conference Indoor Track and Field tournament. Following the indoor season is the outdoor season that lasts until the conclusion of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field tournament. It was not really until the 1985 outdoor season that the Yellow Jacket Track and Field team gained much attention, as previous years appeared to be scarcely documented. That fact is why it is wisest to begin research with this season.

1985 Outdoor Season

The 1985 fall season was not a strong one for the Yellow Jackets track and field teams. Neither the men’s team nor the women’s team finished well enough to be invited to compete in the ACC outdoor tournament or the NCAA tournament. The season came down to an all or nothing meet at the Florida Invitational. Tech had a trailing season that separated the team from an ACC invitation by one first-place victory. Thanks to a crushing loss against NC State in the previous meet, the Yellow Jackets morale was low. Competing against 22 other teams, the Yellow Jackets men’s track team had to finish in first and beat its rival, Clemson, in order to advance. After a full day of competing, Tech showed dominance over the small tournament. Unfortunately, the season came to an end at the Florida Invitational meet when the men’s team finished with a second-placed seat as the runner-up.[6] This meet was regarded as the final tune-up before the ACC championships. Alan Drosky from Riverdale, GA had the best finish of any returning Yellow Jacket to the tournament with a seventh-place showing.

1986 Indoor & Outdoor Seasons

1986 Indoor
An example of an indoor track and field

It was by this year that Tech began to show its improvement from previous years. Late in the indoor season, two athletes on the men’s team began to show new potential for the team. The first was James Purvis from Brentwood, New York. Purvis broke two school record times at the George C. Griffin Invitational (the only track tournament that Georgia Tech hosted during that time) in Intermediate hurdles (50.59 s) and high hurdles (13.86 s). The other athlete, Alan Drosky took part in breaking 10 school records both as an individual and as part of the relay team. He was awarded the name as an All-America during the indoor season. He first sought for an NCAA invitation at the George C. Griffin Invitational, but his best time fell short of the NCAA qualifying record in the 1500 meter run.[7] Fortunately, he earned his qualifying time at later meet, earning him the right to participate in the NCAA tournament.

1986 Outdoor

Fortunately, the following outdoor season, both the Georgia Tech’s men’s and women’s track teams ran in the ACC track and field championships for the first time together. It was held in Chapel Hill, N.C., on April 17-19, 1986.[8] The men’s team was led by a sophomore hurdler named James Purvis. He was named the men’s Most Outstanding Performer at the ACC meet. He won first place in both the 110-meter high hurdles and the 400-meter intermediate hurdles, giving his team a boost in it's standings and pushing the Yellow Jackets to a third-place victory in the tournament.[9] He set an ACC record in the high hurdles at 13.75, breaking the former Tech hurdler Raymond Stiles of 13.82 established in 1982.

The Lady Jacket head coach, Dee Todd, believed, "athlete Kathy Harrison from Atlanta, GA, single handedly led the Lady Jackets track team to a sixth place finish in the ACC. She scored all 28 of Tech’s points." [10] This was the first time the Lady Jacket track and field team had made it to the ACC outdoor championships and they proved their worth.

1987 Indoor & Outdoor Seasons

1987 Indoor
The pole vault: a favorite event for spectators. It exists in both the indoor and outdoor seasons

The 1987 indoor season was notably different from previous seasons. That year, the ACC indoor championship was revived from a six-year period of rest. The tournament was held February 20-21, at the “neutral” site of East Tennessee State in Johnson City, TN. Both the Yellow Jackets men’s and women’s track and field teams qualified for the tournament. That was the first time that the Lady Jackets had participated in the ACC Indoor meet.[11] That year, Georgia Tech’s biggest opponent was Maryland’s men’s team, who won the ACC indoor title 26 out of the 27 times that it existed, including the previous league championship held in 1980.[12] But the men’s team was ready for the competition. The Yellow Jackets had all seven of its all-ACC performers returning from the previous year’s outdoor championships where the Ramblin' Wreck [13] placed third. Tech already established seven new indoor school records that year and finished third at the Florida/Gainesville Sun Invitational. Credit for the third-place victory goes to the pair of returning All-Americas: mile-runner Alan Drosky and hurdler James Purvis.

Five of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets track and field athletes went on to perform at the NCAA Indoor competition that year. These were Kathy Harrison, Alan Drosky, James Purvis, Dirk Morris, and Mark Pickens.[14]

1987 Outdoor

After hosting the second annual Georgia C. Griffin Invitational at the Griffin Track, Tech showed how competitive it's track team had become. The 1987 outdoor season saw six track athletes qualify for the NCAA tournament. This was an impressive feat, since it marked the largest group of athletes to have qualified for the tournament in Georgia Tech track team history.[15] The group included the five from the previous season’s team along with a sophomore runner named Danny Collins from Conyers, GA. Although, not one of the six athletes became an NCAA champion that year in their events, Georgia Tech still showed great ambition in its goal to develop skilled athletes.


  1. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. (18 September 2010) In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved October 3, 2010 from
  2. Atlantic Coast Conference. (3 October 2010) In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved October 3, 2010 from
  3. National Collegiate Athletic Assocition. (29 September 2010) In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved October 3, 2010 from
  4. Georgia Tech Sports Information (April 21, 1986)
  5. events. (27 September 2010) In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved October 3, 2010 from
  6. Georgia Tech Sports Information(Febraury 10, 1985)
  7. Georgia Tech Sports Information (March 2, 1986)
  8. Georgia Tech Sports Information (April 21, 1986)
  9. Georgia Tech Sports Information (May 19,1986)
  10. Georgia Tech Sports Information (April 28, 1986)
  11. Georgia Tech Sports Information (February 23, 1987)
  12. Georgia Tech Sports Information; Track Teams Compete in ACC Indoor Championshops(February 16, 1987)
  13. Ramblin' Wreck. (6 October 2010) In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved October 22, 2010 from'_Wreck
  14. Georgia Tech Sports Information; Tech Sends Five Tracksters to NCAA Championships. Most notably of these five was Harrison, who by qualifying for the NCAA tournament, became the first female in Georgia Tech history to qualify for the NCAA championships in any sport. (March, 9 1987)
  15. Georgia Tech Sports Information; Tech Sends Five Tracksters to NCAA Championships (March, 9 1987
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