UCLA Great Mike Powell to be Inducted into the National Track & Field Hall of Fame
Nov. 3, 2005
NEW YORK (from USA T & F) - Track & field legend and UCLA great Mike Powell, the world record holder in the long jump, along with hurdler Roger Kingdom and University of Arkansas head coach John McDonnell, headline an impressive group of inductees for the National Track & Field Hall of Fame Class of 2005. The inductees, announced on Thursday by USA Track & Field, also include veteran athletes Wes Santee, Earlene Brown, Jim Fuchs and Fred Wolcott.
USATF announced the inductees Thursday afternoon in New York, site of the National Track & Field Hall of Fame and host of this Sunday's New York City Marathon. The Class of 2005 will be inducted Thursday evening, December 1, at the Jesse Owens Awards and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, held in conjunction with USATF's 2005 Annual Meeting in Jacksonville, Fla.
'I take great pride in welcoming the Class of 2005 into the National Track & Field Hall of Fame,' said USATF President Bill Roe. 'These remarkable individuals have made tremendous contributions to the legacy of USA Track & Field, and I congratulate them for all their accomplishments.'
'All of us at USA Track & Field look forward to these all-time greats taking their rightful places in the National Track & Field Hall of Fame,' said USATF CEO Craig Masback. 'All seven made indelible and unique contributions to the heritage of our sport, and they couldn't be more deserving of this honor.'
In what many consider the greatest head-to-head competition in track and field history, Mike Powell, who was named the Bruins' jumps coach in September, won the 1991 World Outdoor Championships men's long jump gold medal over fellow Hall of Famer Carl Lewis by setting the world record of 8.95 meters/29 feet, 4.50 inches, in Tokyo, Japan. The mark broke the previous standard set by Bob Beamon in 1968. Powell, who also won the World Outdoor Championships gold medal in 1993, was a two-time Olympic silver medalist and six-time USA Outdoor champion. Ranked #1 in the world on four occasions, he won 34 consecutive competitions in 1993 and 1994.
As a two-time Olympic gold medalist (1984, '88) and former world record holder, Roger Kingdom's achievements in the 110-meter hurdles set the standard for others to aspire to. A five-time USA Outdoor champion, Kingdom won gold medals at the Pan American Games in 1989 and 1995, and won the NCAA Outdoor title in 1983 and NCAA Indoor hurdles crown in 1984. Kingdom ended five seasons ranked #1 in the world by Track & Field News, and won a World University Games gold medal in 1989.
During his long and distinguished career, John McDonnell's University of Arkansas Razorbacks have set a standard in collegiate sports that may never be equaled. To date, McDonnell-led squads have won 41 NCAA national team championships and produced five seasons in which they won national titles in indoor track, outdoor track and cross country in the same year, known as the 'triple crown.' Arkansas athletes have won 105 NCAA event championships under McDonnell's guidance, and he has produced 161 All-Americans. On 28 occasions he has been named the NCAA coach of the year.
One of America's finest middle distance runners ever, Wes Santee competed in the 1952 Olympics in the 5,000 meters, although he is best remembered for his success in the mile and 1,500 meters. During his career, Santee owned the world indoor 1,500m record on two occasions and set the outdoor 1,500m world record at the 1956 Compton Invitational. The three-time U.S. outdoor champion also was a key contender in the legendary chase to run the first sub-four-minute mile.
One of the greatest American women throwers of all time, Earlene Brown had top ten finishes in both the shot put and discus at the 1956 Olympic Games - when she set American records in both events - and 1960 Olympics, with her highlight being her Olympic bronze medal shot put performance. She was an eight-time national champion in the shot and a three-time champion in the discus, becoming the first American to break the 50-foot barrier in the shot put in 1958, when she was #1 world ranked.
A former world record holder in the men's shot put, Jim Fuchs between 1949-51 won an incredible 88 consecutive competitions and broke the world record four times. That remarkable period was book ended by Olympic bronze medals in 1948 and 1952. A two-time NCAA shot put champion while competing for Yale and three-time national champion, Fuchs also was proficient in the discus, winning the gold medal in that event, along with the shot put, at the 1951 Pan American Games.
Fred Wolcott dominated the men's hurdles during World War II, a period of time when there was no Olympic Games for him to showcase his talent. That unfortunate coincidence did not keep him from setting world records on seven occasions and becoming the first man ever to possess the world records in the low and high hurdles at the same time. A collegiate star at Rice University, Wolcott won five NCAA Outdoor titles and won seven National AAU Outdoor championships.
About the National Track & Field Hall of Fame
To coincide with the 2004 opening of the new National Track & Field Hall of Fame at the Armory Track & Field Center in New York City, the Hall of Fame Steering Committee and Board of Directors modernized the screening, nomination and voting processes. There are now four categories in which individuals may be voted into the Hall of Fame. Those categories are: Modern Athletes, retired less than 25 years; Veteran athletes, retired more than 25 years or more; Coaches and Contributors. Each category has its own selection committee that chooses the finalists from the list of nominations. Members of the selection committees examine the nominations and evaluate their merit based on objective criteria. Elections for Modern and Veteran athletes are held each year. Beginning in 2005, elections for Coaches are held in odd numbered years, with Contributors elections in even numbered years. The National Track & Field Hall of Fame electorate is comprised of Hall of Fame inductees, members of the National Track & Field Hall of Fame Board and Committees, and members of the media. For more information on the National Track & Field Hall of Fame, visit www.usatf.org.
One of the greatest long jumpers of all time, Powell set the existing world record of 8.95 meters/29 feet, 4.50 inches at the 1991 IAAF World Outdoor Championships in Tokyo, winning an epic dual against fellow Hall of Famer Carl Lewis. Powell's dramatic victory, a world record performance that nobody has come close to since, handed Lewis his first defeat in the event in 10 years. During his heralded long jump career, Powell was a two-time world champion (1991-1993), two-time Olympic silver medalist (1988/1992) and six-time U. S. champion (1990-92-93-94-95-96). He was the world's dominant long jumper in 1993 and 1994, winning 34 competitions in a row. In 1991 he earned the AAU's James E. Sullivan Memorial Award as the nation's top amateur athlete. Powell, who was ranked #1 in the world by Track & Field News on four occasions (1990-1991-1993-1994) currently serves as an assistant track and field coach at his collegiate alma mater, UCLA.
Q: What was it like for you to hear that you had been elected to the Hall of Fame?
A: It felt great. I kind of knew what the requirements were for me to get in on paper. I heard that I should be notified by the end of September, and when October rolled around I began to get a little nervous, so they called me a couple days into October and I was really happy about it.
Q: How did you first get involved in track and field?
A: I left Philadelphia when I was about 11 years old and came to sunny, southern California, and just being a kid in southern California you play every sport. You play football during football season and basketball and track, swimming and tennis. Whatever it was, I was an active kid and track was one of the sports that I got better at as I got into high school - that and basketball.
Q: When did you first realize that long jumping would be your forte?
A: I came out of high school as a seven-foot high jumper, and I was recruited in college as a high jumper. My freshman year in college I jumped 24-7, which was pretty good for a freshman. The first jump of my sophomore year I went 26-5 and a half, and at that point I became a long jumper.
Q: Could you talk about your career at UCLA?
A: It was like a dream come true. I wanted to go to UCLA right out of high school, and I felt that way from the time I saw Willie Banks beat USC in the dual meet back in 1975 and they carried him on their shoulders. From then on I wanted to be a Bruin. When I came out of high school I didn't get recruited by them and ended up transferring to UCLA for one season of competition and two years of school, and this is definitely where my greatest memories have come from.
Q: How tough was it for you during your career to constantly have to compete against fellow Hall of Famers Carl Lewis (2001), Larry Myricks (2001) and Mike Conley (2004)?
A: I was always the underdog, the skinny kid (laughter). I was always used to having to overcome big odds. I had to work my way up, fighting over some of the athletes I faced in college such as Leroy Burrell, who people forget jumped 27-5, and Eric Metcalf, who went to the NFL, so we got rid of him. I was able to get up to Mike Conley's level and then get to the level when I could finally beat Larry Myricks, and then that day finally came along when I set the world record and beat Carl Lewis. It was a long uphill battle, but everything happens in the time it's supposed to and it worked out well for me.
Q: We'd be remiss if we didn't discuss the incredible battle you had with Carl Lewis at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo when you won the gold medal and set the existing world record. What do you remember about it?
A: The energy in the stadium. It seemed that everybody came to see Carl Lewis break the world record since he had broken the record in the 100 meters, but anyone who followed the long jump had to know that I was getting close to beating him. In my mind I was going there to beat him and set the world record, so the stage was set.
Q: What was your focus like standing on the runway just before you broke the world record?
A: Before my last jump Carl Lewis had jumped 29-2 3/4, and it was the best jump ever under any conditions, and luckily it was windy. I figured then that I'd better get it going now and not wait until the last jump. For some reason, with Carl jumping that far and with the crowd energy being so high, I was able to have a real moment of clarity and I was able to visualize, which I do a lot of, but I was able to see everything I wanted to do running down the runway, very specifically each step, the feeling, the sounds, everything. It must be like the feeling when Michael Jordan is playing and the basket looks so big that he couldn't miss. What I saw was the jump happening, and I saw everything from running down and jumping through the air and landing and hearing the crowd respond. I just went.
Q: When Carl Lewis took his final jump, it looked like you were in deep prayer. What were your thoughts at the time?
A: I was waiting to see Carl do what he always did, and win on his last jump. I thought he would break my record after my jump, but the wind fortunately turned around and he had some negative wind in his face, so I guess it was meant for me that day. Carl was meant for the gold medal at the Olympics and the world record was meant for me.
Q: How were you emotionally when the competition ended?
A: It's something that lives with me every day. It's a part of me, because when that moment happened for me it wasn't just me setting the world record or beating Carl Lewis, or becoming a world champion. It was the realization that with all the disappointments I've had in my life, that it was okay. The face that I was a skinny little peanut-headed kid, it was okay. Or any dates I didn't get with any girls, it was okay. Or any fights I might have lost, it was okay (laughter). It meant a lot to me.
Q: You've just accepted a position as a member of the coaching staff at UCLA. What's that like for you?
A: It's another dream come true for me. I'm back home at the place where everything got started for me. I'm coaching the men's and women's jumps and I've got my hands into everything. We're recruiting on both sides, so I have a lot of responsibilities. I love being here, and I love passing on what I've learned, not only from my coaches here like John Smith, but also the athletes I was around when I competed here like Willie Banks (National Track & Field Hall of Fame, 1999) and being on the track at the same time with Jackie Joyner-Kersee (HOF, 2004) and Florence Griffith Joyner (HOF, 1995) and Greg Foster (HOF, 1998) and Gail Devers and Mike Marsh and Danny Everett and Kevin Young and Steve Lewis. I've been around a lot of great athletes and I feel really blessed to be where I am, so I'm just here trying to give back what I learned.
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