Wayne Collett, UCLA track star, passes away

From UCLA:

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.

Share this post:Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on RedditShare on TumblrShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePrint this page
  • ucla800

    Very sad, got to meet Wayne while running at UCLA I was coached by John Smith and he made sure that everyone got a chance to meet Wayne the day he came out on the track. He and John were on the same team and we both ranked near the top of the 400 list for a couple of years. Those are still great times even in today’s standards considering all the improvments in shoes and the track Did not know he ran 48.84 in the hurdles though. What is really amazing is that 48.84 is only the 4th fastest of all time ever at UCLA. That would be a school record at most schools. However was teamates with Kevin Young so I can see how that is possible.

  • Bob

    An all-time Bruin great. RIP Wayne Collett.

  • JeffBruin

    I was a BIG fan of Wayne Collett. I was a high school freshman and we would go to the track meets and help set up hurdles to get in for free. Wayne was always so gracious to us little dudes – once he gave us his time even though he was exhausted after anchoring the mile relay at the end of a meet against USC signing autographs and talking with us – he was very kind and a cool guy too. My regards to his family.

  • Boston Bruin

    Thanks for the info on T&F athletes.

    Many of the readers of the blog have no idea about the prestige of the Track program of UCLA under Jim Bush.

    Wayne was one of many world class athletes from that era.

    It is sad that he had to die soo soon. Condolences to his family.

  • Donna

    Condolences to Wayne’s family. I graduated from high school with him and my husband, who went to a nearby high school, competed with him in track. Always a nice guy. Gone too soon.

  • I should leave a comment. I moved to L.A. in Feb. 1970. On Saturdays I took the bus to UCLA to see the dual meets. They were free. About 100 people or so may have been there. The performances were high level. It was inspirational to see John Smith and Wayne Collett and Willie Deckard from USC and Rick Riley from Washington State in the mile. Also, there was Warren Edmondson, another great 400 meter runner. I eventually met Wayne Collett after he was an Olympic medalist, at the UCLA track. Talked with him for a few minutes. He was a nice person. When you meet a great athlete, it is the right thing to do to pay honor to them when they pass away. It was a real privilege to attend the dual meets at UCLA. The announcer was really professional. The track was one of the first all weather surfaces. A bygone era, but in many ways, things never change. Athletes still run fast, and still give their best.

  • Don B.

    Went to some of the great dual meets at UCLA around ’71 and ’72. Saw Wayne Collet run a 44.6 440 yard dash and come in second to teammate John Smith who ran a 44.5. Both men BROKE THE WORLD RECORD at that time in the same race. Wayne ran a 44.6, broke the world record and finished in second place! He was the first one to congradulate his teammate John Smith. Wayne also would always anchor the 440 relay and the Mile relays. A very gutty strong power sprinter. He was a class act.