Fletcher Gilders (1931–1999) was a Detroit native who won fame as a talented multi-sport athlete for the Colts of Northwestern High School and the Buckeyes of Ohio State University. Following a stellar athletic career, Gilders earned distinction as a highly successful collegiate swimming and diving coach.
Detroit and Columbus sports headliner
In 1948, Fletcher Gilders was voted Michigan High School Track and Field Athlete of the Year; later that summer, the versatile Gilders competed as a springboard diver at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Detroit. The following year, Fletcher Gilders highlighted his senior season with a national interscholastic pole vault record of 13' 3"; he was fast becoming one of the top all-around athletes in America.
Upon graduating from Northwestern High, Gilders joined the U.S. military; serving until 1953, Fletcher later enrolled at the Ohio State University. At OSU, Gilders won back-to-back (1954 & 1955) NCAA titles on the one-meter springboard. During each of his three seasons at Ohio State, Gilders led the Buckeyes to Big Ten Conference and NCAA swimming and diving team titles. He set an NCAA Division I record that stood until overturned by Greg Louganis. Fletcher Gilders was also a member of the OSU track & field, gymnastics and soccer teams; winning a total of 10 varsity letters to become the first four-sport letterman in Ohio State's modern history. During the summer of 1956, Gilders joined younger sister (Barbara Sue) at the Melbourne Olympic Games.
Upon retirement from athletics, Fletcher Gilders enjoyed a noteworthy career as a swimming and diving coach at Ohio University and Kenyon College. Coach Gilders guided the OU Bobcats for more than a quarter-century (1959–1984); winning five Mid-American Conference team titles along the way. An annual trophy given to the fastest Men's 800 Free Relay at the Mid-American Conference Championships is named after Fletcher Gilders.
At Kenyon, during the 1980s and 90s, Gilders and his athletes won 14 consecutive North Coast Athletic Conference championships and eight individual NCAA Division III diving titles; Gilders would also earn NCAA-D3 Coach of the Year honors on three occasions.
All in the family
Fletcher Gilders is also the father of Professor Roger Gilders, a notable collegiate track and field athlete during the late 1970s. Roger Gilders still holds the varsity record in the pole vault at his alma mater, Ohio University.
Fletcher's grand daughter (Roger's niece), Calah Young (née Gilders) is the former school record holder in the pole vault at both Ohio University and Louisiana State University.