Class of 1976
In the 43 years since Sheila Ingram ran a girls national high school and American women’s record 50.90 seconds in 1976 Olympic 400m semifinal, as a 19-year-old just out of Coolidge HS in Washington, DC, just three high schoolers have run faster. Denean Howard edged Ingram’s standard in 1982 (50.87), but then it took 18 years before it was beaten again by Monique Henderson (50.74) in 2000. Then the great Sanya Richards clocked 50.69 in 2002 – and that’s where we stand today.
So it was pretty amazing what Ingram did back in America’s bi-centennial year of 1976 with her long-time coach, Adrian Dixon. The Olympic experience in Montreal was the culmination of years of training with the coach and the Pioneer Athletic Club in Washington. The club was providing opportunities in the sport before the days of Title IX and Ingram soon became one of the most outstanding talents. As an 8th-grader in 1972, she was already running 10.8 for 100 yards, 24.8 for 220y and 54.5 for the 440.
By Ingram’s sophomore year of 1974, she was down to 53.01 in the quarter, the fastest time by a prep that year and clearly marking her best distance. The real breakthroughs came two years later, though, as the senior gained more speed with a 100y best of 10.6w and really hit her stride in her specialty. She was 2nd in the AAU Senior 400 at 52.52 then, remarkably, won the Olympic Trials with a 52.69.
Then it was off to Montreal, where Ingram ran a dream series of races in qualifying, the quarterfinals, the semis and the Olympic Final: Four personal bests and new HS records of 51.83, 51.31, 50.90 and another 50.90 for 6th in the Final. The 51.31 and first 50.90 were American women’s records, as she and teammates Debra Sapenter and Rosalyn Bryant traded ARs back and forth during the rounds. Bryant’s 50.62 in the 2nd semi, after Ingram’s 50.90, was ultimately the final record. Those three and Pamela Jiles then won silver in the Olympic 4×400 relay.
Did You Know?
After several years off from running, Sheila Ingram in 1982 went to St. Augustine College in Raleigh, N.C. and competed for a time in college.