Santa Barbara Athetic Association History & SBAA Board
Contrary to rumor, the Association was not founded by the Chumash, nor even by the original Spanish and Mexican settlers. After all, why run, if horses can do the work? There was a Santa Barbara Athletic Club established in this community, dating back to the 1890’s, an era when similar organizations, such as the New York Athletic Club, Los Angeles Athletic Club, and San Francisco Olympic Club and such were formed, an era before big-time collegiate sports and, of course, professional teams, although to be sure professional runners were among the earliest of long-distance athletes (Pheidippides was one, and professional runners abounded in 18th and 19th century England, competing for prizes, and with legalized betting as well. That still goes on in Australia and South Africa, by the way, but I digress…). Anyway, the Santa Barbara Athletic Club in its original incarnation had a clubhouse on Chapala Street, a boathouse on East Beach, and supported rowing, rugby, baseball and polo competition, although there is no record of running or track. The rugby teams in particular were noted for their genial brutality and cavalier disregard for the rules, and posted victories in the 20’s over leading collegiate and club teams. So far as the records reflect, this Santa Barbara Athletic Club (version 1) dissolved sometime in the early 30’s, probably a victim of the Depression. So much for that organization.
In approximately 1948 Marshall Booher reformed the Santa Barbara Athletic Club to provide summer competition and activity for the youth of the community, and over the course of time put on track meets, mostly during the summer, some in conjunction with the Santa Barbara City Parks & Recreation Departments. The Club, under Marshall’s genial sponsorship, also supported college athletes out-of-season, paying travel expenses to national and regional meets. Some of its athletes seem to have competed in road races in the Southern California/Los Angeles area in the early 60’s, and the Club (yes, still Club) had a major lucky find in 1962, when John Brennand arrived in town. A runner already, he was steered to the Santa Barbara Athletic Club by an L.A. runner, who was the first to tell John that the Club even existed. Contacting Marshall Booher, John gave up his treasured ‘unattached’ status and began running for the Club. Since his training runs from General Research frequently brought him to UCSB, he became acquainted with runners there, including Mike Maron, Bill Anderson, Mike Kimball, Jose Dones and others (I’m probably leaving some out, and I apologize). This nucleus, together with Jim Van Manen and Larry Pontinen from Ventura, was quite successful in team competition, winning several national team championships and many Southern California AAU team championships, and had some remarkable runners, including Mike Kimball, who made several U.S. national teams and at one time held the national one-hour record. The Club also took over sponsorship of the annual July 4 15K, a race run in conjunction with Semana Nautica, began the original Santa Barbara Marathon and its descendent, the Santa Barbara Half- Marathon, and participated in cross-country and track, never really fielding a full team in track, although it had some notable athletes in non-distance events. We also began the Winter Runs, subsequently the Chardonnay and now the Santa Barbara Winery 10-miler.
In about 1968 the Club became the Association that we know and love today, as a result of a Whoops! – a fictitious business name statement was filed with the County, reserving the club name, by a gentleman who proposed to open a bar under that name here in Santa Barbara, and since the Club had never protected its right to the name, that was lost. The bar never opened, and later on the naming rights were picked up by the present fitness enterprise down on Castillo Street. Pausing only to buy new jerseys, the SBAA soldiered on through the 70’s, as the Running Boom attracted more and more members, and the Association put on, or assisted in, more and more races. For a while, it seemed as though every charitable organization in the tri-counties was trying to raise money for various purposes through running events, and our dance card got very full. John Brennand and various stalwart club members, including Cally Brennand, Ethel Byers, Patsy Dorsey … put in countless hours either putting on these races or helping out. The Association grew also, as running became popular and new members joined the ranks. We had some notable Junior teams in the late 1970’s, including the Aguirre brothers, George and Richard, and fine women runners, including Elaine Campo, Anne Hayden (a California State Junior college champion at two miles), Dianna Hall, Mary Ryzner and Megan Riker (now Rheinschild) (if your name isn’t listed, don’t be hurt; we can’t mention everybody, and you are appreciated).
In addition to the competitive successes, large numbers of recreational and fun-runners joined, presumably drawn by the friendships, group runs & races. Although we have a few members living out of town, and even out of state, our primary interest is in the local running community, encouraging local races and activities, Tuesday track workouts, Saturday long runs and the Grand Prix series of races throughout the year.
This is, we hope, a never-ending Story, to be continued into the future. We have lots of members, lots of races, and have hopefully created an organization which, in a mostly invertebrate and undemanding way, seems to meet the needs of the local running community, and has outlasted and outlived many other running clubs without going bankrupt, becoming superannuated, or simply disbanding through lack of interest. Much of this history has been the work of John Brennand, of course, and this history is intended, in some small way, to acknowledge his great career as a runner, organizer, and go-to guy.
2014 Board Members: