As an undergraduate student-athlete at Newark State College, J. Ruth "Woody" DeForrest-Colley competed in basketball and bowling and was a member of the rifle club.
Her claim to fame, however, was on the water as a canoeist. With no facilities at the College with which to develop this unusual talent, DeForrest-Colley trained for the Olympic kayak races at the American Canoe Association Camp.
A pioneer in women's athletics, DeForrest-Colley entered the National Canoe Races, held on Boston's Charles River, in the summer of 1951. The only woman among the 75 canoeists, she and her team placed second in the four-boat race.
Due to lack of financing, DeForrest-Colley never realized her dream of competing in the Olympics, but she was able to claim first prize in a national competition at the Ladies Kayak Race in Washington, D.C., in 1951.
DeForrest-Colley earned a Bachelor of Science degree in early childhood education in 1954.