For thirty-five years as Fresno State track and field coach, John Flint Hanner produced five NCAA champions and seven world record holders. His crowning achievement was helping to found the West Coast Relays and installing the lightning-fast clay track in Ratcliffe Stadium. Hanner directed the WCR which earned the title "Where World Records Are Broken" until his retirement in 1960 when he turned the meet over to his successor and most famous student Cornelius "Dutch" Warmerdam. Hanner eventually formed a large committee of loyal helpers, but it was a standing joke that the only vote that counted on any WCR-discussed issue was his and he always said it was unanimous. Even with the Coliseum Relays in Los Angeles, the Compton Relays, San Diego Relays, and Modesto Relays, the Fresno West Coast Relays event was internationally acclaimed. The best relay teams in the country converged in Fresno along with entire teams from USC, UCLA, Cal, and Occidental, providing exciting competition, especially in the sprint relays. Fresno's meet was also the breeding ground for many Olympic and world champions.
Hanner was born May 21, 1898 in Greensboro, North Carolina, but after high school graduation, he found his way west to enroll at Stanford University. His specialty was the javelin throw and he won the event in the first NCAA Championships in 1921. Hanner graduated from Stanford in 1922 and became a coach at Fresno State in 1925. Bob Van Galder, a Bulldog football quarterback who eventually became assistant athletic director, recalls his first close contact with Hanner. "Here I was a twenty-five year old rookie who had just been hired as a coach at Fresno State and they put me in the same office with Hanner, van Galder said. "It was an experience. He was a real character." In the meetings of the West Coast Relays committee, Hanner would make a motion on the way to handle any number of items. There might or might not be any discussion, even some who disagreed, but he would always say the motion is approved as presented. Hanner was a good recruiter and the school was quick to hire Warmerdam, who was an elementary teacher at the time, as an assistant. Because of the presence and expertise of Warmerdam, the school always had good pole vaulters. Hanner tapped the junior colleges for middle and long distance runners and the local high schools for sprinters, hurdlers, jumpers, and throwers.