FAYETTEVILLE – For the 1976-77 season, the University of Arkansas added to its growing legacy in collegiate athletics when it fielded its first women’s track and field team. Included in that group of pioneers were Rochelle Armstrong and Linda Bedford, the first two African-American female student-athletes for the newly founded Arkansas women’s track and field team.
That season, Arkansas competed primarily against regional foes in meets held in the Natural State, Missouri, Kansas and Texas. Nationally, the women’s track and field team was part of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women.
Bedford, originally a walk-on for head coach Betty Armstrong and the track and field team, was one of the first three female track and field scholarship recipients for Arkansas during the 1977 season. Armstrong later joined the team when Ed Renfrow was named the women’s head coach.
She added to her resume of accomplishments away from the competition stage. During her senior season, she became the first female sports editor for The Traveler, the University of Arkansas’ student-run newspaper. She assumed the position with the stance of increasing the coverage and visibility of women’s athletics, in turn giving herself, Armstrong and all other female student-athletes on campus their due.
There was plenty to make note of as Bedford took hold of Arkansas’ sprints. At one time, she was the school’s record holder in the 60 meters, 100 meters, 200 meters and both relays. The 4×400-meter relay record stood for more than 15 years.
In addition to their distinction in Arkansas athletics’ history, Armstrong and Bedford were part of the foundation that led to another first in program history. Two seasons after the inaugural track and field team went into competition, Arkansas had its first national champion when Dianne Ousley captured the 600-meter crown at the national indoor championships.
Having been part of a budding tradition, Armstrong and Bedford left the University of Arkansas having helped establish the University of Arkansas’ women’s track and field team which, to date, has collected 248 All-America honors. Fast forward to 2009 and that level of achievement continued when Bedford, now Linda Y. Bedford Jackson, was named president of the University of Arkansas Black Alumni Society.