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The Bob Hayes Invitational Track and Field Meet was organized in the spring of 1964 with Douglas Anderson High School in the Southside serving as the host and Northwestern High School in the Northside area serving as the running site, marking 2024 as the 60th year of the organization.

At that time, originator Nathaniel S. Washington, Sr. was Athletic Director, Head Coach and Track Coordinator for the five black high schools in the county, namely: New Stanton, Matthew W. Gilbert, Douglas Anderson, Northwestern, and Stanton Vocational High School.

Nat Washington was a close friend of Bob Hayes’ father and knew Bob as a student at Matthew W. Gilbert School where Washington was coaching before transferring to Douglas Anderson High School.

In the 1964 Olympics, Bob ran in the slowest lane, tied the world record of 10.0 in the 100-meter race, and won two gold medals. Bob Hayes was once regarded as the "World's Fastest Human" and in the 1963 AAU meet in St. Louis, set a world record of 9.1 seconds in the 100-yard dash. He won the 100-meter dash in Tokyo, Japan with a time of 10 seconds flat, trying the world and Olympic records. In addition to the 100-yard dash record, Hayes held world marks in the 60- and 70-yard dashes.

When Hayes returned to the States on his way home to Jacksonville, Nat Washington phoned Bob and extended the congratulations of the City of Jacksonville, all the Jacksonville Coaches and friends of Bob. He then asked Bob for his permission to sponsor and name a track meet in his honor for his world accomplishment in track. That permission was granted.

The sponsoring school, Douglas Anderson High School, under the direction of Nat Washington, along with the principal, Chester R. Cowart, put together the first Bob Hayes Meet. Royal Crown Bottling Company served as co-sponsor, purchasing the awards for the presentation to all winners.

A committee was formed to assist with operating and conducting the track meet. Serving on the original committee were Earl S. Kitching (then Head coach of Matthew W. Gilbert), Jimmie Johnson (then Coach at Northwestern High School), Willie Richardson (then Athletic Director of Northwestern High School), Edwin Lawson (then Athletic Director of James Weldon Johnson High School), Bobby Grover, and Oliver Walker. Assistance was also provided by the City of Jacksonville Recreation Department.

The first annual Bob Hayes Meet began very small with only the five black local high schools participating; Matthew W. Gilbert, Douglas Anderson, New Stanton, Northwestern, and Stanton Vocational High School. The winner of the first Bob Hayes Meet in 1964 was Northwestern coached by Julie Walden.

The meet grew the second year to include teams participating from three colleges, Edward Waters, South Carolina State, and Savannah State College of Georgia. High Schools attending the second meet were Raines, Matthew Gilbert, Stanton Vocational and Douglas Anderson of Jacksonville; Deaf and Blind School of St. Augustine; Fessenden of Ocala; Center High School of Waycross, Georgia; and Howard High of Ocala. The winner of the second Bob Hayes Meet in 1965 was Raines High School of Jacksonville.

Track and Field took on a new meaning in Jacksonville during the third year of the Bob Hayes Invitational Meet. Teams participating were Stanton Vocational, Douglas Anderson, New Stanton, Matthew Gilbert, and Raines (all from Jacksonville), and Carver of Delray, Central of Palatka, Northwestern of Miami, Howard and Fessenden of Ocala, Lincoln High of Gainesville, Monroe of Cocoa Beach, Carver Height of Leesburg and Center of Waycross.

Northwestern of Miami dominated the field activities and won the Third Annual Bob Hayes Invitational Meet. The Miami team racked up a total of 101½ points in the twelve (12) school meet. William M. Raines, the defending champion, was a distant second with 69 points. Following were Stanton Vocational with 40 points, Carver of Delray-37½ points, Central
of Palatka-29 points, Fessenden of Ocala-6 points, Douglas Anderson-4 points, and Monroe of Cocoa-4 points. Earning 2 points each were Center of Waycross, Carver Height of Leesburg, Lincoln of Gainesville and the Deaf and Blind of St. August.

Coach Louie Bing of Northwestern of Miami assisted by James Walker were commended and will long be remembered as the coaches who gave Track and Field a new beginning in Jacksonville and in the State of Florida. Northwestern of Miami was the fourth-year winner.

In 1968, Douglas Anderson High School was phased out in the school desegregation plan, leaving the host school without a home base to continue the meet. Nat Washington, originator of the meet, asked Principal Dr. Andrew A. Robinson and Track Coach James Day to continue the meet. They agreed to do so, and the running site was moved from Northwestern to Raines High under new meet director, James Day and was hosted by Raines through 2021.

During the 1978-1979 school year, the name of the meet was changed to Raines High Invitational because of the charges filed against Bob Hayes and his serving 10 months in the Texas investigation over a narcotic case. Losing the name only one year, it resumed in 1980 as the Bob Hayes Invitational and has continued.

From 1985 through 1995, Pepsi Cola and Publix Food sponsored the meet along with providing scholarships for minority students. In 1996 a graduate of Raines High, Lewis Siplin, owner of Siplin Enterprises, and operator of Church's Chicken became a sponsor of the meet along with Coca Cola sponsoring and implementing a Bob Hayes Middle School Invitational on the Friday before the high school meet.


Over the next five years (1996-2001), Siplin Enterprises would continue to sponsor the high school meet, along with the assistance of the City of Jacksonville in 2000. We gladly welcomed Pepsi Bottling Company back on board in 2001 as a co-sponsor and sponsor of the Middle School meet.

Marking the 1996 World Olympics held in Atlanta, GA and in conjunction with the State of Florida, an award-winning ceremony was held the Friday night before the Middle School Invitational with the Jacksonville Track Club carrying the Torch that Bob Hayes used to open the 1964 Olympic games in Tokyo, Japan, from the birthplace of Bob Hayes (Eastside) to Raines Stadium. Bob Hayes received the torch from the President of the Jacksonville Track Club, John Tenbroeck. Carrying the torch in his left hand and a bouquet of roses in his right hand, he circled the entire track once and proceeded down the middle of the oval reaching the 16' glass torch, assisted by the 1996 sponsor, Lewis Siplin, and a top official from the State Department.  Once lit, the torch burned throughout the night. 

A ceremony was held during the track meet intermission on Saturday with the re-lighting of the glass torch by Bob Hayes which honored all invited Olympians, coaches, elected school board, City, County, and State officials along with Bob Hayes Meet Officials.

Recognizing the Olympic years from 1996 and every Olympic year thereafter, the Bob Hayes Invitational engages in a ceremony during intermission acknowledging local and state officials as well as visiting Olympians.


For the first time in the history of the Bob Hayes Invitational Track and Field Meet, the 1997 boys’ division was won by an out-of-state school, B.E. Mays High of Atlanta, Georgia coached by Terry Davis.

At the end of the 1997 school year, James “Coach” Day retired as track coach and Athletic Director of Raines High School of the Duval County School System after 39 years of dedicated service but remained as Meet Director for the Bob Hayes.

Coach Day's involvement in the Florida Athletic Coaches Association proved to the State Coaches' Association that Track and Field was worthy of the support they had given through their participation in the Bob Hayes Meet. The meet had grown to draw over 200 teams throughout the United States, Canada, and the Virgin Islands with well over 3000 Athletes participating yearly. Known as the largest one-day High School Track and Field Event in the United States, these events began to receive international news coverage.

Bob Hayes passed away on September 18, 2002, and is quoted as saying he wanted to be remembered as “The Greatest Athlete that ever left Jacksonville.” Executive Meet Director, James “Coach” Day as he was fondly known, passed away on February 26, 2022, leaving behind a life filled with numerous accolades and impacting students he encountered and athletes in every professional sport.

After the unexpected passing of “Coach” Day, the Board of the Bob Hayes Invitational Track and Field Meet, Inc voted to name Greg Coleman as Executive Director who was personally chosen by Coach Day to build on the legacy of the organization. Greg was Coach Day’s protégé and his high school coach and was there when Greg signed with Florida A &M University (Coach Day’s Alma Mater) where he went on to set records in track and field as well as football. His proficiency in kicking and punting led Greg to a twelve-year career in the NFL, mostly with the Minnesota Vikings where he also served with the Vikings Radio Network as an announcer after his tenure as a player until he retired in 2022 and he and his wife, Eleanor, relocated to Jacksonville, much to the delight of Coach Day. Over the years they maintained a surrogate father-son relationship.  Greg is known as “the voice of the Bob Hayes Invitational Track Meet” as he would return to Jacksonville for 40 years to serve faithfully as the Meet announcer at Coach Day’s request. 

Prior to his passing, being a man of vision and preparation, Coach Day began conversation with Ervin Lewis, Associate Director of Athletics at the University of North Floreda about a potential move to their world-class stadium due to pending closure and re-modeling of Raines High School where the Meet had been held for most of its existence. After assessing the condition of the Raines Track and declining participation of schools and attendance met with Coach Lewis and the tough decision was made to move the 2023 Meet to Hodges Stadium, much to the delight of student athletes and coaches, but consternation to some in the community. Greg states that the driving force for him to move forward were the two voices in his head of Bob Hayes and Coach Day who always said to him, “keep it about the kids.”

Along with the move, came several enhancements to the Meet. An Olympic Experience for the middle school participants was added prior to their clinic so that these students got to hear motivational messages from former Olympians and sports figures. A “High School Huddle with the Legends” was held in partnership with Raines High School to afford these students a similar opportunity to engage with these legends.

The move to Hodges generated a significant increase in school participation with an historic increase in middle schools from somewhere in the 20’s to 52 and the high schools increasing to pre-covid numbers of 110 schools participating.

Another landmark moment for the Bob Hayes Invitational in 2024 will be the new collaborative partnership with Running For The Culture, Inc. This is its inaugural year with the intention of being an elite collegiate track and field experience for both student-athletes and coaches.  Anticipated participation at this year’s event is at least 25 colleges and universities from the invitations that have been extended across the entire Southeastern United States. The public will have access to a full two days of track and field, which begins on Friday, March 15th with Running For The Culture and will lead into the James (Coash) Day Memorial Middle School Meet in the afternoon. On Saturday, some of the finals of the marquee running events that Bob Hayes ran will be integrated into the afternoon schedule of the Bob Hayes events. This will give high school students the opportunity to experience what it takes to compete at the collegiate level as they are making their decisions about what could be next for them as they become collegiates. 

In 2023 a new Board of Directors was voted in to carry on events under the organizations’ umbrella such as the James “Coach” Day Memorial Scholarship Golf Tournament and the Hall of Fame Gala. Sandy Simpson-Smith serves as the President.


Our support from the City of Jacksonville has increased significantly and our corporate partnerships continue to grow. None of this would be possible without the many volunteer hours put in by a committed Board of Directors, family members, former colleagues of “Coach Day”, coaches, officials, Raines High School administration, and supporters of the Meet over the past 60 years. 

  • The Bob Hayes Invitational Track Meet was not held in 2021 due to Covid-19 restrictions, but the organization still had a virtual Hall of Fame event and the James “Coach” Day Golf Tournament to support the Scholarship Fund.



Left to Right: Charles "Bobby" Grover, Jimmy Johnson, Willie Richardson (Deceased),
James Day, Meet Director/Developer, Robert "Bob" Hayes, (Deceased), Edwin Lawson,
Nathaniel Washington, Originator, and Earl Kitchings (Not Shown) Oliver Walker.

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