New track and field facility receives warm welcome from coaches, athletes and alumni

The Colich Track and Field Center is part of a $16 million renovation of USC’s track and field facilites.

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USC track and field alumni, donors and athletes gathered on campus the morning of Sept. 10 to celebrate the dedication of the brand-new Colich Track and Field Center.

The building, located on the southwest corner of the Cromwell Field and Loker Track Stadium, is a major component of a two-year long $16 million renovation of USC’s track and field facilities. The building contains new office spaces, locker rooms, a viewing platform over the track and a Hall of Fame for accolades.

During the Sept. 10 ceremony, University President Carol Folt spoke highly of USC’s track and field program, as well as the building benefactor John Colich and his family’s long history with the team.

“It’s a program with heart,” Folt said. “And that’s what you’re going to see, with a generous family, with equally huge hearts who make it happen.”

Many generations of the Trojan family were involved in the fundraising and planning of the new facility.

Folt explained that Don — Colich’s father — built USC’s original track and field weight room in the basement of the physical education building in 1966. While John Colich and his wife Janine led the charge on fundraising for the new renovations, USC Athletics said approximately 80 percent of the total funds came from former members of the USC Track and Field teams. Even the architect behind the project, Joe Antunovich, is an alumni of the track team.

The ceremony made it clear that the Colich Track and Field Center is a major upgrade from USC’s previous facility, frequently called “The Shed.” The old building was approximately 3000 square feet, whereas the new center is almost double the size at about 7500 square feet, according to Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Quincy Watts.

Antunovich agreed that change was long overdue, and said his former coach Verne Wolfe had such a small office that he would have to re-arrange the room for meetings.

“I remember having to meet with him and move aside Parry O’Brien’s Sullivan Award one day, just in order to be able to move my chair so that we could watch the movies that he had made of us throwing,” Antunovich said.

Antunovich, Colich and their former teammate Parker Kennedy were inspired to create the new center when they noticed the old facility was in disarray during a 2013 track and field banquet.

“We were disgusted to find that the locker rooms were in such bad shape that the athletes weren’t even showering,” Colich said. “All the amazing national championship trophies and other awards piled in boxes because there was no place to display USC’s history.”

Current USC athletes — such as 2020 Olympian Isaiah Jewett — agreed with the needs identified by alumni.

“All the history of ‘SC was in boxes,” Jewett told Annenberg Media. “All these different stories that we hear, that were people like us — like me — they’re all in boxes. And now we get to walk through it every single day and see the stuff that people went through. We get to see the struggle and see the true embodiment of ‘Fight On.’”

Jewett holds the USC track record in the 800m event. He also went viral during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics for demonstrating sportsmanship by helping a fellow athlete who tripped him during his 800m semi-final qualifying race.

Instead of keeping awards in “boxes” like the athletes referenced, the new Colich center will display the track and field team’s accolades from over the years in a Hall of Fame at the entrance of the building.

Tasha Danvers, former USC track and field athlete and two-time Olympian, told Annenberg Media that not only is the facelift important aesthetically, but it can have a positive impact on athletes’ mental and physical performance.

“I’m so happy for the students that are here now because they have everything they need,” Danvers said. “Not just in terms of the [Trojan] family, but also in terms of the facilities and the opportunities, because it does make a difference.”

The upgrade is an investment in the future of the program as well, and Watts said the Hall of Fame is a “wonderful wonderful recruiting tool” that can attract students to be Trojans.

Those close to the program are appreciative of the facility’s upgrade and the people who made it happen.

“In moments like this you feel like people care about you,” said Olympic gold medalist and the team’s assistant coach of sprints and hurdles Joanna Hayes. “People donate their money, their hard earned money, so that we can have this place we can call home.”