First Athletics Meet Held 27 November 1961
Peter Anderson with acknowledgement to the late Rudi Hochreiter Sr.
Saturday 27 November 2021 will be the 60th anniversary of the first athletic meet held on an almost completely built Landy Field.
To appreciate the effort, it took to get to that point in time, a brief review of the athletics history in Geelong should be undertaken.
Geelong’s involvement in athletics under the governing State body - the Victorian Amateur Athletic Association (VAAA - now Athletics Victoria), dates back as far as 1892. From the early 20th century, a number of local athletic clubs were formed. Most disbanded or went into recess during World War I. Following the Great War, through the 1920's to the 1940's, two of Geelong’s more powerful clubs: Christ Church Harriers and the Geelong Guild Harriers thrived. With the departure of Christ Church, this left Geelong Guild as the city’s only active athletic club.
Guild competed in the Melbourne metropolitan interclub competitions throughout the 40's and 50's. The original Guild women's club was formed in 1955. The Melbourne Olympic Games were being held at this time 65 years ago (22 Nov - 08 Dec 1956) and during these Games, six athletes representing Australia, were also members of the Geelong Guild club.
Following the Melbourne Olympics, the Geelong City Council held a dinner on 15 January 1957, to honour the six Guild athletes. During that dinner, where most of the neighbouring Cities and Shires were represented, John Landy delivered a speech on behalf of the honoured athletes. Landy outlined the importance of having a running track in Geelong. He compared the overseas facilities available to athletes, to those of Australia and by doing so stressed the necessity of such facilities for Geelong, which at that stage had no athletic field of any kind. Landy's speech left a huge impression and the Council said it would support the building of an athletic facility, provided that the Geelong Guild Athletic Club, undertook that task.
At its February 1957 meeting the Guild adopted the proposal to build an athletic facility and formed a sub-committee to investigate all aspects of building an athletic track. Thus commenced an initial four-year search and build program, which led to the selection of Riverside Reserve, an area of Crown Land along the Barwon Terrace in South Geelong. This parcel of land was finally released by the City Council and in conjunction with the four Geelong Guild Trustees, an agreement was signed by the parties on 6 January, 1961 enabling the construction of Landy Field to commence.
A.D. Hillgrove Pty. Ltd. were hired on 16 May 1961 to excavate the foundation of the 400-metre running track, in addition to the necessary levelling of the remaining area at a cost of 900 pounds. At the same time, a team of 38 Guild members and volunteers spent a total of 1,822.5 hours preparing the field for its final stage. This included the setting of 1,300 feet of boards as inner kerbing to the track; boarding up of all run ups; concreting of all throwing circles; excavating of jumping pits; and the laying of all drainage pipes, including the main pipe leading from Barwon Terrace to the Barwon River.
Finally, the first Club athletic meeting was held on 27 November 1961, on a partly finished track, to the delight of the many club members who had finally found a home at Landy Field.
The first interclub competition on a completed running track between the Geelong Guild, Lara Athletic Club and the Teachers College took place on 9 October 1962.