These days, the fact that girls’ high school track programs exist is taken for granted. Forty years ago that wasn’t the case.
Girls’ track programs didn’t really start gaining traction nationally until the late 1970s to early 1980s. Jacob Brown was one of the first effective advocates of girls’ high school track. He started the Ridgewood High School (Ridgewood, New Jersey) girls’ program in 1972, at the front edge of the curve, well before the sport was fully recognized on the national level. His teams have become legendary – the Maroons’ many achievements include national records in the 4x880 in 1975 and in the 4xmile in 1983, an amazing 152 straight cross country wins over 23 years, and two New Jersey state cross country championships.
Jacob was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and grew up on a small farm in western Pennsylvania. He competed for Penn State, making the team as a “walk-on,” and receiving his masters degree in exercise physiology there in 1971. Soon thereafter, he began his vocation as a health education teacher at Ridgewood High, a position he still holds, 39 years later.
Besides being a coach and a teacher, Jacob also is the Director of the Abbington Track Club which promotes youth running. He is the current Meet Director of the Eastern States Indoor Championships and has served as meet director for numerous other meets in New Jersey. Along the way, he also has garnered the Bergen County YMCA Service to Youth Award, was named the New Jersey Coach of the Year in Cross Country in 1998, and was Honorary Referee of the Penn Relays in 2005.
We are indebted to Jacob for his important service to the sport over the last 40 years, and we are honored to name him this year’s Mike Byrnes Coach of the Year.