Racing The Boys
Evelyn Ashford was born April 15, 1957, in Shreveport, Louisiana, but grew up in the Sacramento, California, area. One day as she was running during physical education class at Roseville High School, the football coach pulled her aside and asked if she would race his fastest player. "I think you can beat him," the coach said. Evelyn did, and from then on she began to win little prizes and big popularity for running faster than the male athletes. Because girls did not yet have their own track team at Roseville, Evelyn became the only female member of the boys' team in the early 1970s. By her senior year in high school, she had won numerous state and regional track meets, racing against other girls.
During her senior year, Ashford became one of the first women to be offered a full athletic scholarship to the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). She accepted the scholarship and began training for the 1976 Olympics during her freshman year. She qualified for the 100-meter sprint but came in fifth place at her first Olympic Games, in Montreal, Canada, at age nineteen. A taste of the Olympics and a drive to win a gold medal, inspired by the great African-American woman athlete Wilma Rudolph, gave Ashford the impetus she needed to train hard for the 1980 Olympics. She left UCLA in 1978 to focus on her training full time.