The Elizabethtown College athletic program through the years: the 1950s

Megan Piercy October 28, 2017 0

Elizabethtown College’s athletic program expanded throughout the 1950s, adding three new sports teams including field hockey, wrestling and cross country. The College also joined the NCAA in 1954 while remaining a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

Field hockey was added to Etown’s athletic program in 1952 and was led by Coach Evelyn Heath. Heath was shortly replaced by Coach Julia Risser, who led the team to their first winning season in 1955, then to another nine winning seasons in a row.

Wrestling was added in 1954, first under the direction of Coach Robert Byerly, and then Coach Richard Hershey three years later.

Cross country was the third sport added to Etown’s athletic program in the 1950s. Coach Ira R. Herr started the program in 1956 and found immediate success with his runners. Within two years, the team boasted a winning record, going 6-2 in 1958.

The College’s soccer, baseball, tennis and men’s and women’s basketball teams were well established by the 1950s. They successfully bounced back from the drop in enrollment during the war and consistently earned winning records throughout the decade.

The mid-1950s was the first time the men’s soccer team played at night under the lights. While a common Saturday night occurrence on Etown’s campus now, nighttime games were not popular during the 1950s for a few reasons.

First, the team had to purchase new soccer balls to play under the lights, which was not cheap. The brown soccer balls typically used during this time were difficult to see at night, so white balls needed to be purchased. Also, after losing their first game under the lights to Wilkes University, the men lost their first two home night games, leading some to believe playing under the lights was unlucky for the Blue Jays.

Following a successful decade for Etown athletics, the program experienced even more exciting changes and accomplishments during the 1960s, starting with a national championship, the recognition of Etown athletes as All-Americans and more new teams.


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