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CELEBRATING A TRAILBLAZER: Pioneering Women's Athletics, Breaking Barriers at NJ Universities

New Jersey

By: Richard L. Smith 

As we continue RLS Media's 8th day of Black History Month commemorations, we spotlight a figure whose contributions have not only shaped athletics in New Jersey but also paved the way for generations of women in sports.AdMs. Sandra "Sandee" Petway, a pioneering spirit in the world of collegiate athletics, embarked on a journey that would leave an indelible mark on Rutgers University–New Brunswick and beyond.

In 1974, a year after stepping onto the Rutgers campus as a physical education instructor, Petway founded the women's track and field program, breaking new ground as the first Black head coach in the university's history.


Her leadership and vision steered the track team to numerous successes until 1980, earning her a well-deserved induction into the Rutgers Athletics Hall of Fame in 2022.

Petway's story began in Plainfield, NJ, in 1950, and her formative years in Vineland, South Jersey, laid the foundation for a lifetime of leadership and excellence.

Her journey through Trenton State College (now The College of New Jersey) saw her creating a women's varsity track team as an undergraduate, demonstrating early on her knack for pioneering change and fostering inclusivity in sports.

Reflecting on her tenure at Rutgers in the 1970s, Petway reminisces about the seismic shifts brought about by Title IX, legislation that transformed the landscape of college athletics by ensuring equal opportunities for women.

Her narrative is not just about sports; it's a testament to the power of perseverance, resilience, and the pursuit of equality.AdBeyond the track, Petway's legacy is intertwined with the rich tapestry of her family's history.

Her mother, Pauline Petway, a revered teacher and principal, left a lasting impact on the Vineland community, illustrating the profound influence of strong, dedicated women in shaping their communities and inspiring the next generation.

In July 2021, Sandra Petway, the former Rutgers Women's Track Coach, was involved in a tragic head-on automobile accident in Florida.

She sustained a C5/6 fracture and spinal cord injury as a result of the collision. Initially, she was admitted to Sarasota Memorial Hospital for urgent care.

Following her initial treatment, she has been transferred to Neuro Restorative in Sarasota, FL, for specialized rehabilitation and recovery.

Sandra Petway's journey from the fields of Vineland to the halls of Rutgers and into the annals of New Jersey's black history is a beacon of inspiration.

It underscores the importance of breaking barriers, championing diversity, and creating spaces where everyone has the opportunity to excel.

As we celebrate Black History Month, let us remember and honor trailblazers like Sandee Petway, whose contributions continue to illuminate the path forward for so many.

SPONSORS: Nino's Ristorante & Pizzeria, Bergen Street Harrison, NJ, Jorelle Green S. Green (Keller Willams Realtor), Champions Action Martial Arts (Union, NJ)