Ryan Tolbert

Year Honored:
Vanderbilt University


Simply put, Ryan Tolbert is considered the greatest athlete in the history of Vanderbilt University’s track and field program. She is a five-time All-American who holds nine Vanderbilt outdoor records, including 100-meters, 200-meters, 400-meters, 100-meter hurdles, 400-meter hurdles, 4 x 100-meter relays, 4 x 400-meter relays, long jump, and heptathlon. Tolbert became the first Commodore athlete to win an NCAA title in any sport when she captured the 400-meter hurdles at the 1997 National Collegiate Athletics Association Championships. Her time of 54.54 in the 400-meter hurdles was not only a Vanderbilt record, but also collegiate, track, and NCAA Outdoor Championship records. At the 1997 USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, Tolbert finished in third place with an even better time of 54.21, establishing a personal and Vanderbilt record. The third place finish, which was behind the top two 400-meter hurdlers in history, was good enough to earn her a spot on the U.S. team at the World Championships and the World University Games, making her the first Vanderbilt runner ever to compete at either event. Tolbert was selected as the SEC Female Track and Field Athlete of the Year and voted Vanderbilt’s Female Athlete of the Year. Beyond being a great athlete, Tolbert’s humility makes her a great person, as well. “My wish,” Tolbert wrote, “is that my life is worth remembering for its capacity to encourage and motivate others.” Unquestionably, that is one wish which has already come true.

Credit 1:
Vanderbilt University Athletic Media Relations

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