Track and field events are among one of the earliest forms of organized athletics in the United States, so it is no surprise that Ohio Northern University has been involved in the sport for many years. These events are likely the earliest form of highly organized athletics at the school. Athletic events were always organized for commencement day which led to the first official university field day in 1892.
Many early classes at Ohio Northern consisted of rural students from the surrounding area, but this changed with the founding of professional schools in areas such as law, engineering, and pharmacy. These programs brought many urban students to the small rural school, and many of these urban students had grown accustomed to organized athletic programs at their previous institutions. This demand spurred further organization of Track and field here in Ada.
The first organized intercollegiate track team was founded by Dr. Smull in 1907. He also stood in as the first coach of the team. Track and field events were held at nearby colleges as well as cross country programs. Ohio Northern maintained a track and field team for several years despite having neither a track nor a gymnasium. However, news rached Ada from Columbus in 1913 that the school would not be allowed to compete in any competitions since only Conference teams were being admitted to high-level competitions. This caused interest to decline and led to the track and field team being disbanded until 1924. After this rebirth of the intercollegiate track and field team, it was added as an intramural sport in 1925.
Facilities improved as the track and field team was reinstated. 1923 saw the installation of a running track and these were enlarged in 1926. The Brown Gymnasium had grown too small for the increase in athletics of the 1920s which prompted the construction of Taft as a gymnasium. This project was completed in 1928. This new gymnasium had a dedicated running track as well as offices for coaching and physical education staff.
Track and field reached a new height of popularity in the 1930s when interest exploded on campus. This was also met with heightened interest in cross country. However, the sport saw a sharp decline in popularity following the second world war. Despite this, the sport continued for many years and the team stayed involved. The team continued to use the gymnasium track, outdoor fields, and began utilizing King Horn when it was constructed in the 1970s and the field house when it was added in 1991.
The Ohio Northern Track and Field team continues to see success to this day. Their more recent records show that they consistently place in the top three of their conference. These student-athletes may not realize it, but with every mile run and competition won, they carry on a tradition almost as old as the university itself.