Chapter V: Track


Track as an organized sport made its first appearance on the St. John’s campus in 1903. Fr. Alexius Hoffmann, O.S.B., in his chronicle History of St. John’s University for this year gives an interesting account of the occasion. “It was a great year for athletics,” he wrote.”The pages of the Record fairly bristle with glowing reports along every line of effort. One event was well calculated to stir up a more general interest in physical development, a feature in education that is too generally disregarded. It was the Field Day held May 27, the first event of its kind in our history. On the program were a 50-yard dash, 100-yard dash, running broad jump, shot put, discus throwing, half mile relay race, not to forget the sack race” (page 130). For the next twenty years and more the track and field meet, held annually on Memorial Day, became one of the most highly featured and entertaining events on the St. John’s campus.

The Memorial Track and Field Day was a truly colorful event. Faculty, students, parents and other relatives, visitors from the surrounding area, mixed together in lively camaraderie to cheer on their favorites. On some occasions even the college band paraded and led off contests with a lively marching tune. There was plenty of shouting and cheering as the spectators lined up alongside the track, urging on their favorites to muster up all the speed and power they possessed. Contestants were divided into classifications that varied according to the size and age of the individuals-from the minims of the eighth grade to the varsity athletes. Among the top groupings that offered the most interesting opposition were the Liberal Arts, known as the Seniors, and their natural enemies, the Commercials.

While no world records were broken, there were some splendid natural athletes who in a later era and with good training and coaching would match the achievements of a more favored time. One especially talented runner and all-around athlete, Robert Hackner, ’14, was the St. John’s record holder in the 100-yard dash at 9.8 seconds until 1967 when his record was broken by David Lamm, ’68, by a new 9.5 dash. Among the strongest contestants was Edward Callanan, ’08 (father of Ed Callanan, ’39, the first football “All-American” in St. John’s history) .

The first awards presented to winners in the various events were ribbons, probably because they lacked the funds for more expensive testimonials. Later, however, a loving cup was given to the highest individual winner at the meet. Lower awards were ,gold, silver and bronze medals. One year a gold watch was awarded the highest winner of the day.

Track remained strictly an intramural or inter-hall sport for the next seventeen years, although back in 1908 plans had been made to engage in intercollegiate competition with other colleges in the state. In the 1908 “Annual of the St. John’s Athletic Association” (pp. 37-38) we read that a varsity track team was organized: “Immediately after the Christmas holidays a track team was organized. As this was the first attempt of the Athletic Association to foster this important branch of athletics, nothing remarkable was accomplished, although the past few months have demonstrated beyond all doubt that within a few years’ time track and field athletics will be one of the leading features at St. John’s. . . . At present, arrangements are underway to promote dual meets with the best schools in the state, and, if plans materialize, the coming year will be a strenuous one for the track team” (ibid., pp. 37-38), All the A.A. succeeded in doing was to arrange an indoor track meet with the St. Paul Y.M.C.A. in the St. Paul Auditorium. The St. John’s trackmen did not fare well in the meet and hence the promoters could have been discouraged from going further with their plans for fostering track relations with other schools.

Another reason, and possibly the true one for not proceeding with track, was that the plans referred to above to construct an entirely new playing field for all sports where now is the football field, had been abandoned by the St. John’s administration. The field was to have been 650 x 240 feet with a track around the football field. It was to have a 220-yard straightaway, with banked corners around the ends of the field. For some reason only the football field was built, doubtless to the intense disappointment of the students’ Athletic Association.

The end result was that the Memorial Field Day Celebration was the only official track event of the entire year.

A new spirit swept over the campus when in 1920 St. John’s entered the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. An indication that track was to become an intercollegiate sport was the decision of the administration to extend the football field to about the same dimensions as had been planned in 1908. The work was completed in the summer of 1921 by Bro. Thomas’ crew of workmen, and St. John’s began looking forward to a new era of intercollegiate football and track, to supplement the intercollegiate program in basketball and baseball initiated in 1914.

St. John’s did not enter a track meet immediately in 1921. Fr. Albert Heuring, O.S.B., the athletic director at the time, ventured to select four men whom he would send to the 1921 track meet at Northfield to compete in the annual MIAC track meet held every spring on one of the member college campuses. The men selected were John McNally, a freshman (the future “Johnny Blood” of pro-football fame and member of the Professional Football Hall of Fame), Douglas Ormond, Marcel Haines and Bernard Decker. Coach was Robert “Bob” Hartigan, a transfer student from the College of St. Thomas who had an exceptionally fine record as a dash man and hurdler in high school circles. Though he was no older than the students under him, he did a good job in organizing a short training program in preparation for the MIAC meet.

In the MIAC state meet held at St. Olaf, John McNally took first place in the high jump at 5 feet, 6;4 inches. Douglas Ormond placed third in the 100-yard dash-St. John’s modest introduction to MIAC track competition. McNally and Ormond were awarded monogram letters in recognition of their placing in MIAC competition. At the conclusion of the Memorial Day intramural tournament held at St. John’s the silver loving cup was awarded to John McNally for the highest number of individual points. Marcel Haines won the silver medal; Douglas Ormond, Bernard Decker and Curtis Houck received bronze medals.

– 1922 –

The year 1922 found St. John’s again sending a small contingent of four men to the state meet at Hamline: Captain Marcel Haines, John McNally, Douglas Ormond and Bernard Decker. Preparations for the meet differed from those of 1921 in that the athletes were entirely self-coached. In fact, the lack of systematic training showed up in the meager 6;4 points they garnered. They placed as follows:

Ormond: 3rd in the 100 yard dash, 5th in the 220

McNally: 3rd in both the high jump and the broad jump

Decker: 4th in the javelin throw

The four men were disappointed, as was natural, though the pain was mitigated by the realization that they could have done better had their training been thorough. McNally missed first place in the broad jump by overstepping the take-off board by one inch. Decker could have placed higher had he too not overstepped the throwing line. Marcel Haines, though as fast as any other runner at the meet, was handicapped by slow reactions to the starting gun, as was shown later when the fault was corrected. In the Memorial Field Day Celebration he was top man with 31 points, ahead of McNally with his 27 points, Conrad Diekmann (later Fr. Conrad, O.S.B.) 20, Ormond 17, Decker 17, Hugh Connor 17, Albert Schneider 11 and Peter Juba 3.

Awards for the Memorial Day meet were the following: Haines, for first place, the loving cup; McNally, the silver medal; Conrad Diekmann, the bronze medal. Five local records were broken at this meet: Haines lowered the times of the 440 and 220 hurdles, McNally the 220 dash, and Decker bettered the old marks for the pole vault and the discus throw.

The entertaining feature of the meet was John McNally’s first mile race. It was no surprise to anyone who knew him when he suddenly announced his intention to run the mile race. One of the upper division trackmen, like the man with the towel in a boxer’s corner, advised him how to run it: “Follow close behind Brown (the favorite for winning the event) until in the last lap he begins his ‘kick’ -then give it all you’ve got.” McNally followed orders to the letter through all the three quarters of the race until, around midway in the fourth quarter, he became curious to know when Brown would start his “kick.” Finally, when passing Brown at the final 220 yards before the finish line he called out: “Brown, when are you going to begin your kick?” But there was no reply from Brown, who throughout the Tace had been keeping ahead of McNally and had no kick left. McNally then took off, shot ahead of Brown, and with a magnificent burst of speed, sprinted the last hundred yards and finished in a blaze of glory. It was quite a show! Mac always had by a gift of nature a vivid sense of the dramatic!

– 1923 –

St. John’s did not take part in the MIAC track meet in 1923, probably because of the lack of a track coach and the mediocre showings in the 1921-22 seasons. Although the track doings in 1923 had no direct bearing on intercollegiate track, the year deserves special attention because of John McNally, one of the greatest trackmen in St. John’s history. It was in this year he demonstrated his native genius and the physical gifts that eventually led to his enshrinement in the Professional Football Hall of Fame at Canton, Ohio, in 1963.

John McNally was an unusual person both physically and intellectually. He was very precocious in his early years and graduated from high school at the age of fourteen. But he was small, and his parents, who thought him too young to mingle in college groupings, kept him out of college for three years, during which time he read voraciously and learned something about business practices and how to type. He himself said that when he started to grow he shot up fast.

When McNally enrolled at St. John’s in 1920 he was tall and compactly built but slender. He quickly manifested his fine intellectual interests and his surprising athletic ability. Although he had never played on athletic teams in high school, he made the college basketball and football teams as a freshman. At the same time he was selected by the editor of the college magazine as one of the staff writers of the Record. He was also a member of the yearbook staff and was simultaneously elected to the captaincy of the newly organized track team. In his three years at St. John’s he won three letters each in football and basketball, two in track and two in baseball. He was St. John’s first four-letterman, participating in four different sports and starring in each.

John McNally had a free, blithe spirit that never allowed a difficulty to quench his thirst for adventure. When 1923 rolled around he was twenty years of age, mentally and physically mature and ready to undertake any feat ever accomplished by mankind, from the philosophy of Plato (who was a wrestler) to winning the decathlon of the Olympic games. The latter offered him a challenge that called for action. However he got the idea of making the Memorial Day track and field events as a sort of decathlon opportunity only John himself knows. At any rate, he left the baseball diamond for the day and eyed the Memorial Day activities as a marvelous opportunity to test his skills, his speed, strength and endurance.

There was a total of thirteen events in the Memorial Day meet, twelve of which McNally entered. The only event in which he did not compete was the shot put, possibly because it conflicted with one of the other events that he preferred. Of the twelve events he competed in, he won first place in nine and second places in three, as follows:

First place: 120 high hurdles, 220 low hurdles, high jump, broad jump, mile run, half-mile run, 440 dash, pole vault, discus throw

Second place: 100 yard dash, 220 yard dash, javelin throw

At the conclusion of the meet, Fr. Virgil Michel, O.S.B., professor of philosophy, presented McNally with the silver loving cup as winner of the highest number of points. Since this was John’s last year at St. John’s, Fr. Virgil concluded with a special encomium in his honor as a scholar and athlete, the first athlete in St. John’s history to have received letters in four different sports-football, basketball, baseball and track.

Among the many stories, both true and untrue, that hovered over the memory of John McNally was the statement that the unpredictable John, on this occasion, offered a toast to his most admired professor with his loving cup filled with the choicest of choice Minnesota 13 corn, a powerful beverage that made Holdingford famous during Prohibition days. Fr. Virgil graciously declined.

– 1924-26 –

In 1924 a new intramural system was inaugurated at St. John’s which exerted considerable influence on track for several years. Mr. Edward Flynn, who resigned in 1920, returned in 1924 as athletic director, gymnastics coach, and director of the intramural system. He had had previous experience with the old traditional league system and was acquainted with its good qualities as well as its defects. The new system he now instituted was called the “Spike and Cleat Fraternity of St. John’s.” It operated in the form of three clubs or chapters (Alpha, Gamma, Delta) that elected its officers for the term of a year at the beginning or the closing of an academic year. The officers then served as administrators of the fraternity for a year. The Spike and Cleat Fraternity was highly successful and undoubtedly was the pride and joy of its creator. Meanwhile track was abandoned.

In 1926, however, the athletic director was confronted with the problem of satisfying the students’ request for participation in conference track and tennis. Coach Bill Houle was eager to take over track and make it a major sport on the St. John’s campus, but he had been too much occupied coaching the baseball team and too busy to organize a track team. Austin Quinn, a student interested in track, was delegated to carry out some form of track training, but apparently was without much authority to make decisions. Since there was little time before the annual MIAC track meet at Hamline, Athletic Director Flynn conceived the plan of calling for a chapter-wide Field Day meet  of the Spike and Cleat Fraternity through which six men with the highest number of points would be chosen to represent St. John’s at the MIAC meet.

The results of the elimination tournament were about what could be expected. The top trackmen who emerged were all runners. St. John’s was unprepared at the time to provide the students with the expert coaching of specialties in the hurdles, the throwing of the discus or the shot put, the high jump and the pole vault-all the field events that make up a large track and field meet. To add to the problem, one runner, Dan Buscher, broke an ankle sliding in baseball practice and could not attend the meet, which left only five competitors.

Harold Lien, a baseball pitcher, took fourth place in the 100-yard dash, Austin Quinn fourth in the 220. Roman Niedzielski, who was in second place and gaining in the 440 when he was spiked rounding the curve, had to settle for sixth place. Norbert Schoenecker failed to place in the mile and Elmer Ethen in the half-mile. Yet, everything considered, St. John’s did very well. The talent for track competition was there on the campus awaiting development.

– 1927-31 –

The history of track at St. John’s for the years 1927-31 can be best presented in a rapid review. The well-intentioned plans of Bill Houle to revive interest in track and establish it as a major sport failed to survive into 1927. There was certainly apathy on the part of the student body as a whole, but it was intensified by the greater apathy of the Record sportswriters who devoted all the sport space to football, basketball, baseball and tennis-the last-named coming up for attention at that time through the propaganda work of the tennis enthusiasts. A mild revival of interest in track took place in 1929 with the appointment of newly graduated George Durenberger to the athletic staff. Following the system devised by former Director of Athletics Edward Flynn for the choice of a track team by a process of elimination in a Spike and Cleat field day meet, “Big George” secured only one really dedicated trackman to send to the MIAC meet at Macalester College. George Fairbanks (now Fr. Florian, O.S.B., of Assumption Abbey in North Dakota) was his single point-getter. Fairbanks took second place in the half-mile and fourth in the 440.

In 1930 St. John’s again sent a track group to Hamline for the annual meet. Once more George Fairbanks was the sole point winner. He placed third in the mile event and second in the two-mile, losing first place by only one step. Fairbanks’ five points tied with St. Thomas’ five for fifth place in the conference.

There is no report of interest or competition in track for the year 1931. In 1932, however, George Durenberger, who was now director of athletics, appointed William Arth, a student, to the position of track coach. In order to awaken interest in track, that spring he purchased new equipment in the hope of arousing at least the curiosity of the student body. The fact that Arth was a regular on the 1931 baseball team would seem to indicate that there was little active response on the part of the coach to the training of the squad, a group of eight aspirants to honors on the track: Al Schoeneberger, Regis Klaras, Matthias Himsl, Albert Schaefer, “Red” McBride, Theodore Korolewski, George Donaldson and “Bud” Black.

The meet took place on May 28, 1932, which happens to have been close to the last few days of the school year, a fact that accounts for the absence of any report on the conference meet results in the Record.

– 1933 –

There are no records available of track activities in 1933.

– 1934 –

St. John’s had long ceased to consider track a viable intercollegiate sport on the campus when, in 1934, Bernard “Sparky” Coyle took over the coaching reins. The reasons for the neglect of track at St. John’s must have been manifold, though the basic ones were doubtless the matter of finances and the lack of a qualified, dedicated coach who had experience in the organizing and the training of a track team. Coach Coyle was a graduate of the St. John’s Prep School, but following graduation in the days of the Great Depression he was unable to continue his work at St. John’s. He first attended Minot Teachers’ College of North Dakota, then secured an athletic scholarship in basketball and track at Loyola University in Chicago, where he played on both the basketball and track teams. In a meeting with Athletic Director George Durenberger, after a year at Loyola, he arranged to finish his college work at St. John’s, working in the athletic director’s office and coaching the track team.

“Sparky,” as he was named, was aware of the deficiencies of the St. John’s track program. His objective was more than the selection of the highest point winners in a field day meet to represent St. John’s in the MIAC meet, but rather the development of a well-balanced team through a tough training program. With the cooperation of “Big George” he placed the track program on a solid, point-winning basis the training of several individual performers in each of the events that make up a full track tournament.

Out of the large number of candidates who signed up for the team, Sparky settled on fifteen who would mesh together in what could be called his first stringers. His first dual meet was with Holdingford High School, the only opposition available at the time, which he overwhelmed by a score of 103 – 50 1/2.  He next defeated St. Cloud T.C. in a second dual meet 53 1/2 – 32 1/2.  In this latter meet Joseph Marx (later Fr. Michael O.S.B.) ran the 100-yard dash in ten seconds flat.

But a full track team is not created in one season! The team did not fare so well in the state meet held at Macalester May 26, partly  because of the superiority of such well established track teams as the Macalester and St. Olaf entries, partly because of the comparatively few trained men St. John’s could enter at this stage in their development. St. John’s scored 15-5/6 points to finish in fourth place. It was not a high score, but it outnumbered the points that had been gathered in all past conference meets put together.

At this meet took place the much disputed “victory” of St. Olaf’s Newby over Joseph Marx. Marx led Newby the whole distance from the firing of the gun to the finish line. It was the opinion of the entire crowd and of Joe himself that it was he who had broken the finish line. The judges themselves were puzzled, but since Newby was the pregame favorite, they finally solved the mystery by declaring Newby winner, with Marx and Macalester’s Wilson tied for second place. St. John’s is still convinced that Marx was the winner. In recognition of Coach Coyle’s achievement the Record expressed the appreciation of St. John’s: “This fine showing is a tribute to the efforts of Student-Coach Coyle who took an inexperienced squad and in two months developed it into the best track team that has ever represented St. John’s” (Record, May 31, 1934).

Individual results: Bernard Coyle, 1st in high jump; Math Himsl, 1st in discus; Joseph Marx, 2nd in 100 dash; Joseph Conroy, 3rd in 440 dash; Albert Schaefer, 4th in discus; George Nemmers, 4th in high jump

Roster: Bernard Coyle, Joseph Conroy, William Davini, Matthias Himsl, Daniel Kelly, Lawrence McArthur, Joseph Marx, Edwin Maus, Richard Maus, James Murphy, George Nemmers, Albert Schaefer

Conference standing: Macalester 60 1/2, St. Olaf 40 1/2, Hamline 22, St. John’s 15-5/6. St. Thomas 14, Gustavus 8

– 1935 –

In 1935 track came into its own as a recognized varsity sport. The success of Sparky Coyle had attracted the attention of the faculty and student body alike. A new cinder track had been constructed during the summer of 1934 and Athletic Director George Durenberger had purchased new hurdles and all the necessary equipment for a full-scale meet on the Johnnie campus. Big George was now able to plan his own long-cherished ambition to inaugurate the District 19 High School Invitational Track and Field Meet that was held for the first time in1939 on the new track.

The year 1935 is memorable also as the first time St. John’s entered a full track team in the MIAC track meet. The fifteen-man team of 1934 had done very well, but it was still too small in number to attain the number of points sufficient for a conference championship. Coach Coyle planned two meets to precede the state meet, the first, a triangular meet between St. Thomas, St. Cloud T.C. and St. John’s; the second a dual meet with St. Cloud. The plan was to gain a higher rating through a larger number of point winners who had been well tested before meeting the MIAC track “powers.”

Unfortunately, bad weather forced the cancellation of the triangular meet. In the mid-May dual meeting with St. Cloud T.C. the Jays won by a decisive score of 70-56. The score proved in the end to be a false prognosis for the MIAC track meet that was to follow on the following week. St. John’s found itself pitted against the powerful, wellbalanced Macalester team that ran up a score of 58 points, more than double the score of its nearest competitor. The Johnnies had to settle for ten points and fourth place in the MIAC track standings.

St. John’s was satisfied with the outcome, however. “The Johnnies staged a gallant fight all the way in spite of the veteran competition,” reported the Record, “but were forced to be content with a mere ten points.” The report continued: “AI Schaefer made the best showing for St. John’s by taking second in the discus. The high jump was a bitterly fought event, but Sparky Coyle did well enough to win a tie for third place. Fred Cary gave a good account of himself against the best hurdlers the conference had to offer, taking fourth place.” Raymond Lang placed fourth in the javelin, as also Edwin Maus in the 440. The relay team came in with fourth place.

Roster: Fred Cary, Bernard Coyle, Alphonse Fleck, Robert Halverson, Robert Harshberger, Matthew Himsl, Emerson Hynes, Brooks Keogh, Raymond Lang, Joseph Marx, Edwin Maus, Lawrence McArthur, (?) Meier, Jerome Mulvehill, James Murphy, George Nemmers, (?) Palubecki, Myron Pauley, (?) Pendergast, Ferdinand Peters, Adolph Prickril, Albert Schaefer, Carl Schlichting, LeRoy Schuller, Anthony Schultheis, Henry Uberecken

– 1936 –

Bernard “Sparky” Coyle graduated in 1935 and was succeeded as track coach by Fred Cary, a three-letter winner from Technical High School, St. Cloud, where he had starred in the low and high hurdles, the dashes and the relay. His specialty was hurdling, however. Fred Cary was an enthusiast like Coach Coyle, and like him determined to raise the quality of track at St. John’s. In his second year as coach in 1937 he extended his coaching activities to writing a weekly column in the Record entitled “Cinders”-“to spread the gospel of track,” in called his first stringers. His first dual meet was with Holdingford High School, the only opposition available at the time, which he overwhelmed by a score of 103 – 50 1/2. He next defeated St. Cloud T.C. in a second dual meet 53 1/2 – 32 1/2.  In this latter meet Joseph Marx (later Fr. Michael O.S.B.) ran the 100-yard dash in ten seconds flat.

But a full track team is not created in one season! The team did not fare so well in the state meet held at Macalester May 26, partly because of the superiority of such well established track teams as the Macalester and St. Olaf entries, partly because of the comparatively few trained men St. John’s could enter at this stage in their development. St. John’s scored 15-5/6 points to finish in fourth place. It was not a high score, but it outnumbered the points that had been gathered in all past conference meets put together.

At this meet took place the much disputed “victory” of St. Olaf’s Newby over Joseph Marx. Marx led Newby the whole distance from the firing of the gun to the finish line. It was the opinion of the entire crowd and of Joe himself that it was he who had broken the finish line. The judges themselves were puzzled, but since Newby was the pregame favorite, they finally solved the mystery by declaring Newby winner, with Marx and Macalester’s Wilson tied for second place. St. John’s is still convinced that Marx was the winner.

In recognition of Coach Coyle’s achievement the Record expressed the appreciation of St. John’s: “This fine showing is a tribute to the efforts of Student-Coach Coyle who took an inexperienced squad and in two months developed it into the best track team that has ever represented St. John’s” (Record, May 31, 1934).

Individual results: Bernard Coyle, 1st in high jump; Math Himsl, 1st in discus; Joseph Marx, 2nd in 100 dash; Joseph Conroy, 3rd in 440 dash; Albert Schaefer, 4th in discus; George Nemmers, 4th in high jump

Roster: Bernard Coyle, Joseph Conroy, William Davini, Matthias Himsl, Daniel Kelly, Lawrence McArthur, Joseph Marx, Edwin Maus, Richard Maus, James Murphy, George Nemmers, Albert Schaefer

Conference standing: Macalester 60 1/2, St. Olaf 40 1/2, Hamline 22, St. John’s 15-5/6. St. Thomas 14, Gustavus 8

– 1937-

The first competition of the track team for 1937 was the annual MIAC indoor meet held in March in the University of Minnesota field house. It was St. John’s first indoor track meet since 1908 when the St. John’s Athletic Association scheduled a contest with the St. Paul YMCA.

Coach Cary brought six men to the meet. There were five veterans and one freshman in the group, the last named James Roche, the most promising trackman among the freshmen. Despite the small number of contestants, St. John’s did very well, taking fourth place behind Macalester, Hamline and Concordia, in that order. Macalester took first place with 42 points, Hamline 30, Concordia 27 and St. John’s 24. The Record did not report the scores of the three remaining participating schools.

Individual results: 60 yard dash-James Roche 1st, Sylvester Burke 2nd; high hurdles-Fred Cary 2nd; broad jump-Raymond Lang 3rd, James Roche 4th; half-mile relay-St. John’s 1st (Burke, Lang, Maus, Roche 

Quadrangular Outdoor Meet

The first outdoor meet (quadrangular) with St. Thomas, Hamline, St. Cloud T.C. and St. John’s was for the Johnnies a spectacular success, the high point of Cary’s coaching career, as well as the highest point at this time in St. John’s track history. It was a thrilling meet, a close battle between well-matched teams. The winner was decided only in the last event, the mile relay. This last event found St. Cloud and St. John’s tied with 42 points and Hamline with 40. The winner of the relay would be high point team of the meet.

Members of the St. John’s relay team were all veterans-Si Burke, John Moore, James Murphy and anchor man, Captain Edwin Maus. As told by the Record, Maus was running in the last place at the start of the final quarter-mile lap of the relay. “He hung on doggedly around the loop and put on a beautiful sprint in the last few yards to pass Johnson of Hamline and finish first by inches” (Record, May 30, 1937). The victory of the relay team was the final test of the stamina, the team spirit, and the pure will-to-win of Coach Cary’s teams.

Individual results: Si Burke, 1st in 100 yard dash and 200 dash; James Roche, 3rd in 100 and 200, 3rd in low hurdles; John Kiewel, 4th in 100 dash; Nicholas Stoffel, 1st in shot put; Joseph Wolf, 4th in mile; John Moore, 4th in half-mile; Emerson Hynes, 2nd in pole vault; Fritz Schneider, 2nd in pole vault; Ray Lang, 3rd in javelin; Edwin Maus, 2nd in 440 dash; Fred Cary, 2nd in high hurdles, 4th in low hurdles; relay-Burke, Moore, Murphy, Maus

Records are unavailable for the MIAC tournament at the end of the year, other than that St. John’s garnered only 13 points for a fifth place standing in the MIAC. Si Burke took first place in the 220 and second in the 100 dash.

Roster: Sylvester Burke, Fred Cary, Emerson Hynes, John Kiewel, Raymond Lang, John McNeil, Edwin Maus, John Moore, James Roche, Gary Roggenbuck, Cyril Runnoe, Frank “Fritz” Schneider, Nicholas Stoffel, Leonard Terwey, Leonard Van Hoof, Joseph Wolf

– 1938 –

Student-coach Fred Cary did not return to St. John’s in the fall of 1937 and was replaced by John Uldrich as track coach. Uldrich, a former track star in the East, both in high school and college, was older than the young trackmen. His running days were over as he was accumulating credits in preparation for a career in secondary education. He was an exacting technician and insisted on the minutiae-the right form, good footwork, posture and rhythm. He was also a hard driver and it was not long before a chance saying of his became a sort of byword: “You want to win! Well, that word triumph has two parts: try and umph.”

Track training began in the fall with cross-country, the first official reference at St. John’s to this sport as distinct from track. Spring training began early in March, a long-desired possibility that had become real with the rebuilding and enlargement of the gymnasium in the summer of 1937.

John Uldrich was a man to shoot high. As an incentive to hard work and a goal he called the trackmen’s attention to the National Collegiate Track and Field Meet to be held at the University of Minnesota in June. Then, for 1939 there were to be the Drake Relays. The immediate goal, however, was for each man to improve his record of the year before.

In the first meet between St. Thomas, St. Cloud T.C. and St. John’s, the Johnnies tied St. Cloud with identical scores of 67-1/2 points, with St. Thomas scoring 24. Several St. John’s records were broken by the SJU tracksters: Ed Schnettler in the mile (4:57), Jean Ochert in the discus (128 feet), and the mile relay team made up of Al Fonder, Gary Roggenbuck, Robert Fitzgerald and Si Burke, in 3:36.8.

In the second meet St. John’s lost to Hamline by a score of 78-53, with St. John’s taking seven first places, four second places and six third places. Captain Si Burke scored 11-1/2 points himself in two first place wins.

The third meet, a dual meet with St. Cloud T.C., ended with a victory for St. John’s with scores of 68-57. Francis “Fritz” Schneider was high point man with wins in the pole vault, the high jump and the running broad jump. Ed Schnettler broke the local 880 record with a run of 2 minutes, 8-1/2 seconds.

In the MIAC meet held at Hamline, however, St. John’s garnered a disappointing nineteen points for fourth place. St. John’s failed to take first place in any of the events. Captain Si Burke took second in the 100 and the 220 dashes, Schnettler third in the half-mile, and Jean Ochert and Nicholas Stoffel second and third places respectively in the shot put.

Strange to say, Coach Uldrich did not appear to be overly discouraged. He attributed the poor showing mainly to the lack of experience. Definite improvement had been made and he was satisfied that by 1939 St. John’s was going to give the other colleges in the MIAC a close run for the championship, if not actually win it.

Roster: Pierre Backes, (?) Barrett, William Browne, Captain Si Burke, Fred Cary, Thomas Felion, Aelred “Al” Fonder, Peter Gadient, Richard Hermann, Bernard LePage, Bernard Lorsung, Orvell Lundby, Linus Mercil, Charles Nielson, Ralph Oby, Jean Ockert, Donald Robideau, Gary Roggenbuck, Francis “Fritz” Schneider, Edward Schnettler, Nicholas Stoffel, Leander Van Hoof, Conrad Winter

– 1939 –

Coach John Uldrich’s ambitions for a conference track championship at St. John’s were crowned with success in 1939. The long haul from fourth place in 1934 and 1935, fifth in 1936 and 1937, fourth again in 1938 was finally climaxed by first place and the championship in 1939. The 1939 championship was not easily won by any means. The Johnnies won over second place St. Olaf by the tiny margin of one point, 56-1/5 – 55-1/5. They needed every second, third, fourth, and even Jerry German’s fifth place win in the 440 to build up the 56-1/5 points that clinched the title.

Actually, the 1939 title was the logical conclusion of six years of building, beginning with Sparky Coyle in 1934, continued into the 1936-37 period of Fred Cary’s coaching, and finally concluded in the canny handling of patient, methodical, tough John Uldrich in 1938 and 1939. It had been a matter of attracting the attention of talented athletes to track, back in 1934, first of all, and then building up a sound, well-balanced team according as each trackman for six years succeeded in contributing team pride and morale as well as his achievement in steady year-to-year progress. Not to be ignored was the stellar writing of Homer “Rod” Hurd, football, basketball and tennis player and St. John’s U-time greatest sports reporter, whose fluent pen and engaging wit made the track season the most interesting spring activity on the St. John’s campus. Likewise, the return of Fred Cary in 1939 to complete his college work was a strong morale boost because of his enthusiasm and proficiency in the hurdles.

The 1939 track program was made up of four meets, the first of which was a dual meet with Macalester College won by a score of 67- 61. Homer Hurd, the Record sports columnist, called it “the most thrilling dual meet ever staged on the St. John’s track. The fans ate it up!” Jim Boyd, an ex-Prep School star, who was a member of the baseball team, took off his spikes after the end of a conference. baseball game to take part in the meet and ran the high hurdles in his stocking feet; he won third place in the event. Jim Roche ran the 220-yard dash in baseball spikes and uniform to finish in third place.

Next, in a triangular meet with Hamline and St. Thomas, St. John’s out-scored its opponents decisively: Hamline 70-64, St. Thomas 70-28. The last meet before the conference tournament was a dual meet with St. Cloud T.C., won by St. John’s by a score of 71-53. In this meet St. John’s was first place victor in ten events.

One of the most thrilling events of the meet was the mile relay. Earlier in the season St. John’s had won over the strong Macalester relay team, but St. Olaf was strong too, and in the state meet dropped the Johnnie relay men (Cary, Roggenbuck, Burke and German) into a second place finish. The scores of St. Olaf and St. John’s were so close, however, that St. John’s, by taking second place in the relay, nevertheless squeezed out the one point advantage that won for them first place in the meet and the championship..

Individual results: relay-St. John’s 2nd (Cary, Roggenbuck, Schnettler, Burke); discus-Ockert 1st; pole vault-Schneider 3rd; 100 dash-Roche-Burke 1st (tied); 120 high hurdles-Cary 3rd; 880 run-Schnettler 3rd; shot put-Stoffel 2nd, Ockert 4th; mile run-Schnettler 3rd; 440 dash~German 5th; high jump- Schneider 3rd; 220 hurdles-Cary 1st, Roche 3rd; broad jump-Schneider 4th; 220 dash-Burke 1st, Roche 3rd

Roster: Pierre Backes, Andrew Boffenkamp, Captain Sylvester “Si” Burke, Fred Cary, Joseph Connelly, Peter Gadient, Jerome German, Richard Hermann, Duane Jennings, Bernard Lorenz, Donald Robideau, James Roche, Gary Roggenbuck, Francis Schneider, Edward Schnettler, Robert Sibinski, Nicholas Stoffel, Leonard Van Hoof, Adrian Winkler

Conference standing: St. John’s 56-1/5, St. Olaf 55-1/5, Hamline 39-1/5, Gustavus 19-1/5, St. Thomas 13-1/5

– 1940 –

All-state football star Vernon McGree, who had assisted John Uldrich in 1939, was appointed to coach the track team in 1940.Coach McGree was faced with one of those most frustrating tasks of a new coach who is taking over a team following a championship year, and especially when most of the stars were seniors and no longer with the club. Gone were six of the highest point-getters of 1939. There were no illusions! It was frankly understood that, with only four point-getters returning, the new coach would have to depend on a few talented freshmen who had matriculated in the fall of 1939. Prominent among these freshmen were William Fahnlander, Everett Kulas, Robert Stone, Herbert McKnight, and a promising weight man, Clarence Grell.

Contrary to what had been at first feared, the 1940 season results were better than had been expected. After winning the first two preliminary meets without much trouble, the team spirit climbed high. The team finished the season following the state meet in fourth place and a score of 26½. points.

In preparation for the MIAC meet Coach McGree scheduled three preliminary meets. In the first, a triangular held at St. John’s early in May, the Johnnies captured first place with 66 points, followed by St. Thomas with 58 and St. Cloud T.C. 35. Captain Roche garnered 16 points individually. The Johnnies overall won eight first places, five seconds, five thirds and one fourth place.

The second meet (between St. Cloud and St. John’s) was also an impressive victory of 80 points versus 46 by St. Cloud.

Unfortunately for St. John’s, the third and most important meet scheduled to be held at St. Olaf with the Oles and Macalester was cancelled at an inopportune moment because of poor field conditions. The Johnnies had traveled to St. Olaf, were dressed and on the track when the cancellation was announced. The cancellation was more than a mere disappointment, for Coach McGree had planned to acquaint his freshmen with the strange field, one of the handicaps his freshmen had found most trying in previous contests. Moreover, it was a disadvantage for the coach himself, since he had never had the opportunity to see in action the two powers of the conference, St. Olaf and Macalester, and, therefore, was unable to pair his runners effectively.

Conference standing: St. Olaf 65, Macalester 49 1/2 , St. Thomas 33, St. John’s 26 ½, Hamline, 21, Concordia 5 ½, St. Mary’s 2

Roster: Eldred Cleare, Donald Coome, Jos. Connelly, Stephen Delyea, Wm. Fahnlander, Aelred Fonder, Jerome German, Clarence Grell, Herbert McKnight, Benno Marx, John Ollman, Captain James Roche, Edward Schnettler, Nicholas Stoffel, Robert Stone, Norbert Vos, Alex Winkler, Edward Zins, Everett Kulas

Individual results: 220 yard dash-Roche 1st; 100 dash-Roche 3rd; 220 hurdles- Roche 5th; 440 dash-Stone 2nd; 440 dash-German 5th; mile run-Schnettler 4th; half-mile- Kulas 5th; mile relay- St. John’s 4th; shot put- Stoffel 2nd; shot put- Grell 5th; broad jump- Connelly 3rd

– 1941 –

At the beginning of the track season in 1941 Coach Vernon McGree and Captain-elect Edward Schnettler were greeted by thirty-five aspirants for the team. Of these only seventeen survived the try-outs and the training period, leaving the coach with eight veterans from 1940 and nine freshmen, some of the latter with genuine athletic talent and ambition.

From the beginning there were no illusions regarding a championship. Of the eight holdovers from 1940, six were runners, one a broad jumper, and another a weight man. Almost completely lacking were the hurdlers, high jump and pole vault experts, javelin and discus throwers, so necessary to produce a well-balanced team. For these, the coach had to depend on what talent he could find among the freshmen. Among them, however, he found a wiry speedster named Wallace Wellenstein, from Albany, who turned out to be the fasted 100-yard dash man in the conference, the only competitor who consistently won the 100-yard dash in the meets, including the state meet at the close of the school year.

Two track meets, both triangular, preceded the conference classic held at Hamline. In the first, St. John’s took second place behind Macalester (the favorite for the title) with a score of 49 points behind Macalester’s 70. Hamline followed St. John’s closely with a score of 46. In a second triangular meet with St. Thomas and Gustavus, St. John’s again had to settle for second place behind St. Thomas with a score of 59 to the former’s 65 ½ Gustavus finished at 38 ½.

The MIAC tournament held at Hamline on May 24 was not St. John’s day by any means. Hamline came out on top with 58 points, Macalester 38 and St. John’s in third place with 12y. points. Wally Wellenstein was the only St. John’s participant who ran according to form. He took first place in the 100-yard dash at lOA with little difficulty. But Kenneth Gillette, who had jumped six feet in the preliminary meets, took fifth place. Joseph Connelly, who had broad jumped 21 feet and more consistently throughout the training period, won third place despite the fact that the MIAC winner jumped only 20’3″. Clarence “Clancy” Grell did well in the shot put with a throw of 43’9″. Final proof that the St. John’s tracksters had a bad day at the meet was the failure of the relay team of Schnettler, Moore, Maher and Wellenstein to place.

Roster: Joseph Connelly, William Fahnlander, Kenneth Gillette, Clarence “Clancy” Grell, Everett Kulas, Jerome Landsberger, Donald Maher, Herbert McKnight, Benno Marx, Theodore Matuseski, John Moore, John “Doc” OIlman, Edward Schnettler, Robert Stone, Robert Sweeney, Wallace Wellenstein, Harvey Zahn, Edward Zins II

– 1942 –

When in December 1941 war broke out against Japan and shortly afterwards against Germany, the problem arose whether to continue or discontinue the athletic program. At first the athletic departments of all the MIAC colleges decided to “continue as usual.” By this time, however, Vernon McGree had resigned his position at St. John’s and the athletic director, George Durenberger, had to take over the track team.

George had an exceptionally successful year. In three meets preliminary to the MIAC tournament in late May his team first overwhelmed St. Cloud by a score of 93-31. In a triangular meet that followed, St. John’s had to be satisfied with second place behind St. Olaf (72 ½  points) with its record of 63 ½ points. Ramline dropped far behind with 18 points. In the third meet with the conference powers of the time, Macalester and St. Olaf, St. John’s finished in third place- Macalester 67 points, St. Olaf 58 and St. John’s 38 ½.

The MIAC Meet

We will let the Record report the outcome of the 1942 tournament: “Big George’s trackmen dug their spikes into the cinders for the last time this season at the annual track meet held at Macalester and came away with 43 ½ points and third place. Macalester took the crown with 70 ½ points; St. Olaf wound up second with 60 points; St. John’s was third with 43y.. St. Thomas had 22, Hamline 19, and St. Mary’s 2. “The St. John’s squad rang up places in all but two of the events. Dash man Fonder gave the Johnnies their one and only first place when he copped the 220 lows in 26.3 seconds. Captain Clancy Grell threw in his share of points with a second in the shot and the discus, and a fourth in the javelin.

“Victories in the dashes rolled up considerable points for the Card ‘n Blue with Wellenstein, Fonder, and McKnight taking second, fourth, and fifth places respectively in the 100-yard dash, in that order. Schulte took a fourth place in the 440, and Everett Kulas did the same in the half-mile. The 2 mile saw Doc OIlman in fourth with Trettel right behind him. McKnight came in third in the broad jump. John McKenzie tied for fifth in the pole vault. Schulte, Pozorski, Kulas and Wellenstein combined to give the Johnnies second place in the mile relay. “

By fall of 1942 the draft had so reduced the enrollment that before the academic year had been completed athletics for the duration had been discontinued. Track was not resumed again until 1946.

Roster: Jerome Anderson, David Andrews, John Busch, William Demarest, Aelred “AI” Fonder, Kenneth Gillette, Clarence “Clancy” Grell, Joseph Henry, Raymond Hengel, Douglas Kern, Everett Kulas, John Link, David McKenzie, John McKenzie, Thomas Madden, Elmer Monette, Duane Nathe, Francis Niess, John “Doc” Oilman, Eugene Pozorski, George Raths, William Riley, Thomas Schulte, William Smith, Robert Stevenson, Charles Travnicek, Donald Travnicek, Jerome Trettel, Maurice Vernig, Victor Waiste, Richard Weber, Wallace Wellenstein.

Chapter V Continued…