By Darlene Donloe
Allyson Felix, the most decorated track and field athlete in the history of the Olympics was honored by her alma mater, the University of Southern California April 10, when the school officially dedicated and renamed its track and field facility after her.
The newly named Allyson Felix Field was unveiled on a warm and sunny day during a naming celebration that left the 11-time Olympic medalist “humbled.”
“It’s such a full-circle moment,” said Felix, accompanied by her husband, Kenneth Ferguson, daughter Camryn, her parents, brother and other family members. “I hope that students, athletes come to this field and they come at the beginning of their journey and they experience something like I did — getting a foundation, being prepared to face the world.”
Felix, a Los Angeles native, competed in the 100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter races in five Olympics between 2004 and 2021, winning seven gold medals, three silvers, and a bronze while winning at least one medal in each of the five Olympiads.
She retired at the 2022 World Championships in Eugene, Oregon. Her last race was the mixed 4-by-400-meter relay, in which she won a bronze medal.
Her 11th and final Olympic medal, in the 4-by-400, broke her tie with Carl Lewis and made her the most decorated American track and field athlete.
USC President Carol L. Folt praised Felix for her achievements on and off the field.
“We are here to celebrate an incredible Trojan,” Folt said. “We’re here to mark a new day for this incredible field and for the legendary USC track and field teams and the student-athletes and coaches who use this field each day.”
Folt, who boasted that the track and field team is USC’s leading sports team, with a combined 31 national titles, said the dedication was happening during Black Maternal Health Week and talked about the obstacles Felix faced in endorsement renegotiations when she was having difficulty with her pregnancy. She pointed out Felix’s advocacy for equitable conditions for female athletes.
In May 2019, Felix spoke before the House Ways and Means Committee at a hearing focused on racial disparities in maternal health after suffering from preeclampsia during her pregnancy.
“Her speed and her power are legendary, but her integrity and her kindness may be even more so,” Folt said.
“When you broke down why the university wanted to rename this field in my honor, it just meant so much to me because it really showed me that the university values character and integrity, and that’s just rare and very special,” said Felix replying to Folt.
Although Felix, the co-founder, and president of Saysh, a shoe and apparel line for women, never competed for USC, Mike Bohn, USC’s athletic director applauded her for inspiring Trojans to be “champions on and off the field.”
“Allyson serves as an extraordinary example of what we aim to be through her humility, competitive grit, sports, and business acumen, but also her kindness, compassion, and heart,” said Bohn, who last year was named Athletic Director of the Year by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and the Black Student-Athlete Summit. “The naming of this field isn’t just to honor Allyson, but to inspire Trojans to achieve beyond the ordinary.”
Bohn said the renaming of the field was a “celebration of excellence, the humility of what it really represents to be a Trojan, champion, leader, innovator, mom and most decorated track athlete in U.S. history.”
“It’s a culmination of all those pieces that represent a distinction we’re proud to recognize,” he said.
Felix’s husband of five years, Kenneth Ferguson, said he’s been “beaming with pride” ever since they found out she was being honored.
“I’m just speechless,” said Ferguson, a sprinter and hurdler. “To see all of this come to fruition, it’s insane. While we were driving here, we were just thinking about all the memories from 20 years ago. You have a whole track and field named after you, and you’re Black and you’re alive. Black Girls Rock! I think about what she’s done in her career, and for women. I can’t say enough. It would take me some time to get my thoughts together.”
Quincy Watts, director of USC track and field and cross-country and a fellow Olympic gold medalist reminisced about when the two track stars ran at Los Angeles high schools.
“It’s very important that we’re honoring someone who has always been behind the scenes and blazing the trail, willing to step up to do whatever she could to make this program a better space for these young men and women so they can have an opportunity to a premier degree, a degree of value,” Watts said.
Others in attendance at the ceremony included several of Felix’s former teammates, current USC track athletes, former USC President Wanda M. Austin, and Los Angeles City Councilwoman Heather Hutt.
Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at email@example.com.