On a recent visit to Glendale College, John Tansley took a look at the renovated facility now known as Sartoris Field and remarked, only half-kidding, “If the track and field looked this good when I was coaching, I would never have left.’’
Tansley coached cross-country track and field for the Vaqueros from 1968 to 1979 and again in 1980 and 1981. His teams won state championships in that span in both cross-country and track. He also coached several individuals to state championships in track and field. Glendale College became known as “track country” for the level of excellence associated with the program and the high quality meets held at GCC, including all-comers meets and decathlons.
His innovative training techniques and work ethic helped the Vaqueros win over 50 consecutive dual meets from 1975 to 1979, including the 1975 state track and field championship and the 1980 state championship in cross country, the men’s team that is being honored tonight. He also coached at the collegiate level at Cal State Long Beach and Cal State Los Angeles and helped those programs win conference titles in both cross country and track and field. In 1998 he was inducted into the Cal State L.A. Athletic Hall of Fame.
Over the years, Tansley has written extensively on all event areas of track and field. His book, The Flop, is considered the definitive text on the flop style of high jumping. He has been in great demand as a speaker and clinic organizer not only in the Western United States but also internationally in countries such as China, Taiwan, Mexico, England and Japan. At the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta he was elected to the board of directors of the International Track Association and has helped to write several manuals and course outlines for novice level coaches.
His ability to reach the competitors he has trained over the past four decades can be traced back to his own roots as an athlete at Trona High near Lone Pine, where he earned 12 varsity letters in football, basketball, baseball and track. He also competed at Chaffey College in Ontario where he participated in basketball and track. Tansley was the school record holder in the long jump and decathlon at Long Beach State and earned All-American honors in the javelin during his senior year.
A dedicated master athlete to this day in a variety of events, Tansley won the National Decathlon Championship while he was coaching at Glendale College and won the senior games this summer in the javelin, shotput and softball throw. He resides in both Idaho and Arizona during the year and has won several competitions in both states.
He retired from coaching in 1990, but never one to shy away from a challenge, he has been an assistant track coach at Canyon Del Oro High in Tucson, Arizona, for the past eight years. He has helped train many quality athletes, much like he did at Glendale College.