In honor of Black History Month, the Razorback Athletic department will release “Trailblazer” stories throughout February celebrating the success and accomplishments of some of the first African-American student-athletes in University of Arkansas history.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — 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 head coach Betty Armstrong and 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, one of the first three female track and field scholarship recipients for Arkansas, 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’s 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.
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’s women’s track and field team which, to date, has collected 347 All-America honors.
Fast forward to 2009, and that level of achievement continues when Bedford, now Linda Y. Bedford Jackson, was named President of the University of Arkansas Black Alumni Society.