In sport management students’ Introduction to Sports Management class, they learn foundations of athletics, including history and philosophy. It’s with this in mind that students at William Woods celebrate one alumna and incredible athlete: Helen Stephens, also known as the Fulton Flash.
Stephens’ story is told in the State Historical Society of Missouri web archives of Historic Missourians. It tells of her growing up in Fulton and her coach, Coach Moore, who believed in her and worked with her speed.
Stephens set the Olympic world record for 100-meter event at 11.5 seconds at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Her record stood until 1960. She was also the anchor in the 400-meter relay team that set a world record time of 46.9 seconds, setting her to take home two Olympic golds.
“I won the Olympic crown… Yes, the applause was grand. The thrill of seeing the American flag raised for me and the crowning of the victors was marvelous,” she writes in a diary entry saved on the archive.
According to the Calloway County Library, her track career lasted 30 months, and she competed in more than 100 races — winning every one of them.
When she returned, she enrolled at William Woods University (then William Woods College).
Stephens’ life also included her own work in sports management, when she started “The Helen Stephens Olympic Co-Eds,” becoming the first woman to create, own and manage a semiprofessional basketball team, which remained active until 1952.
William Woods students can see pictures, memories and honor Helen Stephens in the Athletics Hall of Fame, or at the Helen Stephens Sports Complex right on campus.