“Amazing Linda does it again!” That was a headline in a 1977 Bakersfield Californian article after Linda Goen captured the National AAU Women’s Junior 800 meter title in a meet record of 2:05.43. Just 15 years old at the time, she beat the old meet record set by Olympian Jan Merrill and earned a spot on the USA team that was to face the Russians later that summer in Richmond, Virginia. Standing 5’2” and 87 pounds, Linda was able to “zip right through an opening” after being boxed inside a four-woman pack going into the last lap. As her cross country coach, Stan Ingram said at the time, “If she had been bigger, I don’t think the opening would have been big enough. She didn’t even touch the other girl as she went by. I think she still could have won by going outside. She had a lot of strength left.”
“What makes Linda run?” was another headline in the Californian when Linda was a senior at North. Then Sports Editor, Larry Press called Linda the most prominent and talented high school athlete in town, and, who might also be the toughest competitively. The fact is that, Linda is still considered the finest women’s distance runner to ever come out of Kern County. But, running wasn’t her first choice of sports. Originally a gymnast, Linda turned to running after a swimming pool mishap hurt her back so much that she couldn’t arch it anymore. Two months after back surgery, she was running, and, running so much that she rarely took any time off from workouts. “I have to put a damper on her as far as training is concerned,” Ingram has said. “I don’t have any quite as dedicated as she is.”
Linda’s dedication to her sport paid off in school records in the 880, the mile, the two mile, the mile and two mile relay, along with the 880 medley relay and the distance medley relay. She is a 15 time SYL champion , a 14 time Area champion , and, a 12 time Central Section champion in cross country and track . She also captured four individual Kern County cross country Invitational Championships and is a four time champion at the Arcadia Invitational in the 880 and mile putting her in the Arcadia Invitational Hall of Fame. Her 1977 time in the 880 of 2:10.4 was a national record. But her ultimate track accomplishment in high school came her sophomore year when she won the California State Track Meet in the mile setting a meet record in 4:47.8. She became a state champion again as a senior when the state meet was held at UCLA , the same arena where she won as a sophomore, and, where she would later run as a collegiate athlete.
While at UCLA, Linda’s accomplishments in track and cross country were just as impressive as her high school career. She was voted Outstanding UCLA Track and Field and Cross Country Athlete in 1979 and 1980, was a member of the 2-time NCAA Division 1 Outdoor Track and Field National Championship Team in 1982 and 1983, 5th place NCAA Division 1 Nationals in the 1500, All American in Track and Cross Country, 2nd place TAC/AAU Nationals in the 1500 in 1980 and 4th place AIAW in the 1500 in 1981. Linda went to the Olympic Trials in 1980 and 1984 placing 4th in 1980 in the 1500 in a time of 4:11 to become an alternate member of the US Olympic Team. In 1981, while on the USA Track Team, she placed fourth in a dual meet against the Russians.
Gary Kuster, Linda’s track coach while at North High, remembers her as being a fun loving teenager, a dedicated, goal oriented athlete, and extremely serious when it came to her training and competing. He said recently, “I would have to smile every time I saw her in an attempt to get her to do the same.” Kuster went on to say that he feels the high point of her high school career was during her sophomore year when she fan faster than the existing national records in the 880, the mile and the two mile. That was also the year that his North High track team missed winning the state title by one point!!
Both Gary Kuster and Stan Ingram remember the “friendly, courteous and delightful athlete, a coach’s dream”. But they also remember “little Linda as being a hard-nosed battler of the old school who competes as long as she can stagger out onto the track”. A question that had been asked of the family so often is “what makes Linda such a powerful running machine?” The answer: “She has her dad’s circulatory system and her great-grandfather’s heart”. It definitely takes both to have accomplished what she did while a STAR at North High.