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Coaching legend, USATF national coach/coordinator Berny Wagner passes away


Berny Wagner, who helped revolutionize the sport of track and field by coaching Dick Fosbury and served as a national coach/coordinator for The Athletics Congress (now USA Track & Field), passed away at his home in Corvallis, Ore., Monday from respiratory failure. He was 88.

Wagner coached at the College of San Mateo from 1963 until 1965 before spending much of his time as head cross country and track and field coach at Oregon State University from 1965 until 1975. During that span in 1972, he was named U.S. Track Coaches Association Coach of the Year. He was also an assistant coach for the 1976 U.S. Olympic team.

During his tenure he coached Fosbury, who revolutionized the high jump by introducing the “Fosbury Flop”, to the 1968 Olympic gold medal. While at Oregon State, he also coached NCAA Division I All Americans that included Jim Barkley, Steve DeAutremont, Willie Turner, Tom Woods, Jim Judd, Hailu Ebba and Ed Lipscomb. In 1969, his Oregon State club finished third at the NCAA Outdoor Championships and coached Fosbury (high jump), Barkley (steeplechase) and DeAutremont (hammer throw) to individual national championships.

Wagner was involved with the coaching and management staff for the Saudi Arabian national team from 1976-78, served as executive director for the Track & Field Association of the USA from 1978-81 and served as national coach/coordinator of The Athletics Congress (USATF) from 1981 until his retirement in 1989.  

Wagner is a member of the Oregon State University Athletic Hall of Fame, a 2002 inductee into the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame and a member of the San Mateo County Sports Hall of Fame and the Lodi Sports Hall of Fame.

He attended Stanford University from 1942-43 and 1946-49, earning a bachelor's degree in 1948 and master's degree in 1949. He later ran as a half-miler for the San Francisco Olympic Club.

A memorial tribute will be held for Wagner on Saturday, June 8, beginning at 6 p.m. in the high jump apron at the Whyte Track & Field Center in Corvallis, Ore.

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