Wayne Collett, one of the greatest athletes in UCLA track & field history, lost a long battle with cancer this morning. He was 60 years old.
Collett was a spectacular quartermiler, but also excelled in the hurdles, sprints and relays. His college coach, Jim Bush, called him “the greatest athlete I ever coached.”
In 1972, he won an Olympic Silver Medal in the 400 meters in Munich, Germany. Earlier that year, he ran the fastest 400 meter time in history at sea level in winning the U.S. Olympic Trials.
During his four-year UCLA career (1968-71), Collett won Pac-8 titles in the 440-yard intermediate hurdles and 440-yard dash. In NCAA competition, he anchored three straight mile relay championship teams. He also placed second in the 440-yard intermediate hurdles in 1970, fourth in the 440-yard dash in 1971 and fourth in the 220-yard dash in 1969. The Bruins won the NCAA team title in 1971.
A member of the UCLA Hall of Fame (1992), he still ranks in UCLA’s all-time Top Ten in the 400 meters (fourth at 44.54, converted from a 440y hand time), 400-meter hurdles (fourth at 48.84, converted from a 440y hand time) and the 200 meters (ninth at 20.44, converted from a 200m hand time).
In Track & Field News’ world rankings, Collett ranked in the top four in the 400 meters four times between 1967 and 1972, including second in both 1971 and 1972. He also ranked No. 3 in the intermediate hurdles in 1970.
Collett was an attorney who was very active in the UCLA community. He is survived by his wife, Emily; his son, Wayne Jr.; his mother, Ruth; and his older brother, Aaron. He passed at St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles.