The Eldorado National Forest, in cooperation with El Dorado County and the state of California, will place a California State Historical Marker at the site of the 1968 Olympic training facility at Echo Summit on the Eldorado National Forest, according to a statement from Kristi Schroeder, acting public affairs officer with the National Forest.
On Friday, June 27, 2014, at 10:30 a.m., a public celebration entitled “Return to the Summit” will honor the site where U.S. Olympic Men’s Track and Field athletes broke four world records during the Olympic trials at a tumultuous time in our nation’s history.
“It is important that we acknowledge this significant piece of civil rights history, as well as the records that were set,” said Laurence Crabtree, forest supervisor, “and we want to extend an invitation to the public to attend this unique event.”
Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who finished with gold and bronze respectively in the 200-meter dash in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, are among the athletes scheduled to speak at the ceremony. Smith and Carlos famously bowed their heads and raised black-gloved fists on the victory stand in Mexico City, as a visible statement about the condition of human rights in this country.
The Echo Summit training site was approved for construction by the U.S. Forest Service and was an ideal high-altitude site to help athletes train for the thin air in Mexico City. During the Olympic trials there, Carlos broke the 200-meter sprint record with a time of 19.7. Lee Evans broke the 400-meter sprint record with a 44-second dash, while runner-up Larry James’ clocked a 44.1. Geoff Vanderstock set the 400-meter intermediate hurdles record with a time of 48.8 seconds. Bob Seagren set the pole vault record with a vault of 17 feet, 9 inches. The facilities were disassembled and moved from the Eldorado National Forest to South Lake Tahoe once the athletes left for Mexico City. They remained in use until 1992.
“People were competing to prove a point and they all dug a little deeper,” said hammer thrower Harold Connolly. In 1968, the country was embroiled in the civil rights movement and many American athletes joined together to take up the cause. “Because of the setting and the circumstances, we were never closer than we were at Echo Summit. It was one of the most important track meets in U.S. history. It wasn’t one lonely voice in the wilderness.”
The 1968 U.S. Olympic team won 12 gold medals in Mexico City and featured some of the greatest names in U.S. track history, including discus thrower Al Oerter, long jumper Bob Beamon, high jumper Dick Fosbury, 400-meter sprinter Evans and shot putter Randy Matson.
Other athletes expected to be at the Echo Summit ceremony are long jumpers Ed Caruthers and Reynaldo Brown, hammer thrower Ed Burke, 400-meter hurdler Ron Whitney and race walker Larry Young.
The Echo Summit site is on the south side of U.S. Highway 50, 10 miles west of South Lake Tahoe and 50 miles east of Placerville. The entrance is three miles east of the entrance to Sierra at Tahoe ski area and is marked by a sign for the Adventure Mountain snow play area. The event will begin at 10:30 a.m.
The California State Historical Resources Commission approved Echo Summit’s nomination in August 2013. California Historical landmarks are building, structures, sites or places that have been determined to have statewide historical significance.
For more information, contact Kristi Schroeder at the Eldorado National Forest, by mail at 100 Forni Road, Placerville, 95667; by e-mail [email protected]; or by phone a 530-295-5610.