Hall of Famer Monte Upshaw Passes Away
"My thoughts and prayers go out to the Upshaw family on the passing of a Monte Upshaw," Cal director of track & field Tony Sandoval said. "A lifelong Golden Bear and a supporter of Cal track & field, his legacy continues in many ways, including through his daughter and granddaughters, who were also members of the Cal track & field team. The University and the sport will miss Monte's influence."
As a senior in 1958, Upshaw, along with teammates Jack Yerman, Willie White and Don Bowden, set a world record in the sprint medley relay when they finished in 3:18.8. He also established a national collegiate freshman record in the sprint relay (3:20.9) in 1955 with Leamon King, John Merchant and Bowden.
Competing under legendary head coach Brutus Hamilton, Upshaw set the Cal freshman long jump record with a mark of 24-6 and the freshman 220-yard hurdles mark with a time of 23.8. As a sophomore, he injured a knee while winning the long jump competition vs. San Jose State and was unable to participate in the event again. Still, he continued to compete in the hurdles, sprints and relays as a junior and senior.
Upshaw attended Piedmont High School and as a senior, he broke Jesse Owens' national high school record with a leap of 25-4.25 in 1954. He served as student body president, was a two-time Northern California Prep Athlete of the Year, and was inducted into the Piedmont Hall of Fame in 2004.
"We were all so fortunate to have a great Brutus Bear as our teammate and friend on and off the track," Bowden said. "His presence uplifted all of us. To use Brutus' expression, Monte will always have a special place in our tower of memories. Although his athletic accomplishments were numerous and world class, Monte will also be remembered as a great human being, a teammate that was always there for you, and a friend for life."
Upshaw, who was enshrined in the Cal Hall of Fame in 2007, remained close to the Cal track program following the completion of his career, and the Upshaw Family Long Jump at the annual Brutus Hamilton Invitational at Edwards Stadium is named in his family's honor. Daughter Joy served as an assistant track coach for the Bears, while daughter Grace lettered in track at Cal from 1995-97 and was a three-time U.S. champion and two-time Olympian in the long jump. She was induced into the Cal Hall of Fame in 2014. Joy's daughter, Sunny, is a former Cal long jumper and daughter, Windy, is an incoming Cal freshman.
Upshaw was founder and chair of the Friends of Cal Track & Field organization, and he served a term as president of the Big C Society.
Upshaw is survived by his wife, Joan, his previous wife, Carol, and their four children, as well as two sisters, a brother and 13 grandchildren.
A celebration of life will be held Sunday, Sept. 10 at 3 p.m. at the Claremont Country Club. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his name to the Oakland Boys and Girls Club, the Cal Big C Society or the charity of your choice.