COLUMBUS, Ohio — Mamie Rallins, a two-time Olympian and longtime Ohio State track & field coach, on Saturday was posthumously awarded USATF’s 2017 Robert Giegengack Award. The presentation was made Saturday night at the USATF Jesse Owens Awards Banquet.
Named after the former Yale University coach, the Robert Giegengack Award is awarded by the USATF board of directors to a person who excels in contributing to the excellence and high standards of the sport of track & field. It is USATF's highest accolade for contributions to the sport in any category of volunteer work.
“Mamie Rallins was a pioneer as an athlete and coach,” USATF chairman Steve Miller said. “She was a tremendously respected coach and an important trailblazer for African-American women in our sport. She is extraordinarily deserving of this award.”
Growing up on Chicago’s south side in the 1950s, Rallins began competing in track and field at age 15, earning a scholarship to become a Tigerbelle under coach Ed Temple at Tennessee State University. Making her first Olympic team at what was then a relatively advanced age of 27, Rallins competed in the hurdles at the 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games.
In 1976, she was hired as head women’s track & field coach at The Ohio State University. The first African-American woman to coach at OSU, she led the Buckeyes for 18 years and coached her athletes to 60 Big Ten indoor and outdoor championships and mentored 24 All-American athletes. Among her mentees was hurdler Stephanie Hightower, largely considered the greatest female athlete in Ohio State history and the president of USATF from 2008-1016. Rallins finished her collegiate coaching career at Hampton University and Chicago State.
Rallins was active on the international level as a coach as well. She was an assistant coach for Team USA the 1996 Olympic Games and head manager for the 2000 Olympic Team. She served on Team USA staffs as a coach for the 1979 and 1995 World University Games, the 1981 USA vs. USSR meet and the 1987 Indoor World Championships.
Mamie Rallins died in a car accident in 2016, at age 74.