Lancers Look Back: Skip Robinson Enjoys Reunion With Top PCC Track and Field Stars

From left to right: Rufus Jackson, Elvester Strong, Derrick Dancer, coach Skip Robinson, Kenny Hays, Michael Pullins, and Sydney Mitchell.
From left to right: Rufus Jackson, Elvester Strong, Derrick Dancer, coach Skip Robinson, Kenny Hays, Michael Pullins, and Sydney Mitchell.

Lancers Look Back is a series of features we are launching on our great sports alumni over the years. 

During the late 1970s and 1980s, the Pasadena City College men's track and field program was right up there as a state power. Under then head coach Skip Robinson, the Lancers set school, state and national community college records and won state team championships in 1978 and 1984. The bond between a coach and student-athletes can remain for a lifetime. 

Earlier this month, Robinson, a member of the PCC Sports Hall of Fame and a former athletic director here, had lunch with a group of Lancers alumni from those great teams. 

"These guys all remember what an honor it was to represent PCC track," Robinson said of the alumni who attended their lunch. "They were the foundation of PCC track and the success the followed. Seeing them just brings back the memories of so many wonderful years of titles and records."

The mini alumni gathering was a venerable who's who of Lancers athletic standouts led by PCC Hall of Famer Kenny Hays. In 1978, Hays soared a still-standing PCC record of 26-feet, 2-3/4 inches in the long jump. It broke a 40-year record held by none other than Pasadena legend Jackie Robinson and Hays jump was the longest standing California state meet record at 24 years before it was broken in 2002 by Mt. San Antonio's Tony Almond. Hays won the long jump and triple jump titles in helping the Lancers win the '78 state championship.

"At the lunch, Kenny said that he thinks the 1977 team when he was a freshman was more talented than the '78 state champs," Robinson said. "We were favored to win it in '77 (won by Palomar). Sydney Mitchell placed second to Hays in '78 and recalled what a thrill it was to break Robinson's record (Mitchell leaped 25-9-1/2) as well at the same state meet."

Another star at the reunion was sprinter Rufus Jackson (1981-82), who had the distinction of racing on national record-setting relays in 1980 for Centennial High (mile relay), '81 for PCC (4x100 meters relay, state record 39.56 seconds), and '82 as a Lancer (4x400 relay, 3:06.16). Jackson took home to PCC his state title medals for his 81-82 relay wins.

Also attending was Elvester Strong, a 1977 state champion in the 400 intermediate hurdles (51.8 seconds). 

"We won that event in three consecutive years at the state meet, starting with PCC Hall of Famer Grant Niederhaus setting a national record at 50.5 seconds in 1975, then John Rudd breaking that school/national record at 50.2 seconds in 1976. It's remarkable that 44 years later, Rudd's mark is still a PCC school record."

Others attending included Michael Pullins, school record holder in the triple jump (51-7-3/4) and member of the '84 state champion team, and Derrick Dancer, a 4x400 relay member (second place at state meet) of the '78 state champs. 

"Pullins went on to compete and later coach at USC. He said in looking back at the 1984 PCC team based on our marks, we could have placed in the top five for NCAA Division II. We were that good and we also broke Long Beach City College's 5-year streak winning state team titles that year."

Of the 19 events held traditionally in track and field, 18 of PCC's school records were achieved between during the Lancers' dominant years of 1976 to 1984. The only record that has since been broken was by PCC Hall of Famer Edino Steele, who snapped the 200-meter dash record in 2007 at 20.37 seconds. Adrian Jones had set the original record in 1980 of 20.59 in winning the state gold place medal that year. Ironically, Robinson was in his final year as athletic director here when Steele broke that mark. 

In PCC's track and field history going back to 1953, 24 of the Lancers' 44 state individual titles were achieved under Coach Robinson's guidance. In 1982, Lancers Hall of Famer Michael Turner was a triple state champion, winning the 200, the 400 and anchoring the 4x400 relay

Robinson said: "Back in the 1970s, there were so many great athletes competing at the community college level including Santa Monica College's Houston McTear, deemed the world's fastest man in the late 70s. We beat one of the all-time great track and field programs directed by Ron Allice at Long Beach in 1984. There's a reason why a lot of PCC's school records have stood the test of time because I really believe those glory years we attracted so many talented athletes. Those were amazing years to coach the sport. It was a lot of fun to reminisce our state titles with my former athletes."

The 1978 Lancers state title team was a first as Robinson became the first African-American to direct a community college state champion. Robinson also served as the PCC Athletics Division first black athletic director from 1995-2007. 

Photo below is Kenny Hayes in a 1978 action shot