Ben Eastman Elected To National Track & Field Hall Of Fame

Nov. 25, 2006

Indianapolis, Ind. - Track & field legends Dan O'Brien, Lynn Jennings and Kevin Young headline an impressive group of inductees for the National Track & Field Hall of Fame Class of 2006. The inductees, announced on Tuesday by USA Track & Field, also include legendary Veteran athletes Rex Cawley, Ben Eastman, Matt McGrath and Bill Nieder, as well as former USATF Executive Director Ollan Cassell in the Contributor category. The Class of 2006 will be inducted Saturday evening, December 2, at the Jesse Owens Awards and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, held in conjunction with USATF's 2006 Annual Meeting in Indianapolis.

'I congratulate our tremendous Class of 2006 on their induction into the National Track & Field Hall of Fame,' said USATF President Bill Roe. 'These highly accomplished individuals have made invaluable contributions to the betterment of track and field in our country, and they are all most deserving of this high honor.'

One of the greatest all-around athletes in history, Dan O'Brien earned the title of 'world's greatest athlete' by setting the world record in the decathlon, along with winning the Olympic gold medal and three world titles in the grueling 10-event challenge. O'Brien ended his remarkable career having earned the #1 ranking in the world from Track & Field News on six occasions.

The 1992 Olympic bronze medalist in the 10,000 meters, Lynn Jennings will always be remembered for her remarkable career in women's cross country. Jennings captured an amazing nine USA cross country titles during a career that was capped off with three consecutive World Cross Country Championships, from 1990 to 1992.

One of the most unforgettable performances in Olympic history occurred at the 1992 Games in Barcelona, Spain when Kevin Young won the gold medal in the men's 400m hurdles in the world-record time of 46.78 seconds - a mark that still stands. The two-time NCAA champion and 1993 world champion, Young is the first and only man in history to crack the 47-second barrier in that event.

One of the greatest hurdlers in track and field history, Rex Cawley set the world record in the men's 400m hurdles in 1964 and also won the gold medal at the Olympic Games that summer in Tokyo, Japan. A star at the University of Southern California as a collegian, Cawley won the NCAA 440-yard hurdles national title in 1963.

One of three Americans to hold the men's 400m and 800m world records, Ben Eastman was a dynamic competitor who held world records on 14 separate occasions. The silver medalist in the 400 meters at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Eastman won the national 800m crown in 1934.

A former New York City policeman and known as one of the famous 'Irish Whales,' Matt McGrath competed in four Olympics, including the Games of 1908, where he toiled on the U.S. Tug of War team and won the silver medal in the hammer throw. McGrath won the gold in the hammer in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm and added another silver hammer throw medal to his collection in 1924.

Part of the legacy of great American shot putters, Bill Nieder earned that classification by setting the world record on three occasions and winning Olympic gold in 1960 and silver in 1956. A collegiate star at the University of Kansas, Nieder won the NCAA men's shot put title in 1955.

The track and field administrator for the Amateur Athletic Union from 1965-1970 and that organization's Executive Director from 1970-1980, Ollan Cassell served as the executive director of The Athletics Congress/USA Track & Field from 1980-1997. First elected to the International Association of Athletics Federations Council in 1976, Cassell, a 1964 Olympic gold medalist, is a former Vice-President of the IAAF.

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.

Class of 2006 biographies
Biographies for the 'Class of 2006' for the National Track & Field Hall of Fame follow:

MODERN ATHLETES
LYNN JENNINGS: One of the most accomplished women's long distance runners in U.S. history, Jennings was a dominant force in cross country, both in the U.S. and internationally. Jennings has won more U.S. women's cross country titles than anyone in history with nine crowns over a 12-year span from 1985 to 1996. She won three consecutive women's world cross country championship titles from 1990 to 1992. She won the silver medal in that event in 1986 and the bronze medal in 1993. A three-time Olympian, Jennings won the bronze medal in the 10,000 meters at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. A four-time member of U.S. World Outdoor Championship teams, Jennings medaled at two World Indoor Championships, winning 3,000m bronze in 1993 and silver in 1995. Jennings won 10 U.S. Outdoor Champion titles (3,000m-1988 and, 1990, 5,000m in1996, plus seven 10,000m titles), and set the women's world indoor 5,000m record of 15:22.64 in 1990. Her U.S. 10,000m record of 31:19.89 set in 1992 lasted for a decade.

DAN O'BRIEN: One of the finest decathletes the world has ever known, O'Brien is tied with 1968 Olympic gold medalist and fellow Hall of Famer Bill Toomey for the most U.S. national 10-event titles ever with five. O'Brien captured his own Olympic gold medal at the 1996 Games in Atlanta with 8,824 points in what was his 11th consecutive decathlon win since September 1992. In winning, he avenged a no-height performance in the pole vault at the 1992 Olympic Trials - which kept him off the U.S. Olympic team. O'Brien also twice set the world record in the decathlon, and had a best of 8,891. The world decathlon champion in 1991, 1993 and 1995, O'Brien earned the year-end world #1 ranking from Track & Field News on six occasions and finished in the top ten of T&FN's World Athlete of the Year voting four times during his career.

KEVIN YOUNG: In an electrifying performance that would have won the flat 400m title as recently as the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Young became the first and only man in history to shatter the 47-second barrier by winning the 1992 Olympic men's 400m hurdles gold medal in the astounding world record time of 46.78 seconds. Using his unusual technique of switching between 12 and 13-stride intervals between hurdles, Young bettered the world record of 47.02 set by Edwin Moses in 1983 despite slamming the final hurdle and raising his arms in triumph prior to reaching the finish. His record still stands and he remains the only athlete ever to break the 47-second barrier. As a collegian, Young was nicknamed 'Spiderman' by his teammates at UCLA, where he won the 1987 and 1988 NCAA 400m hurdles crowns. After winning the 400m hurdles at the 1993 USA Outdoor Championships, later that summer Young won the gold medal at the World Outdoor Championships in Stuttgart, Germany.

CONTRIBUTOR
OLLAN CASSELL: A figure who reached the highest levels of track and field as both an athlete and an official, Cassell served as the track & field administrator for the AAU from 1965-1970, and as the AAU's executive director from 1970-1980. Following the implementation of the Amateur Sports Act of 1978, Cassell managed the transition from the AAU to the new national governing body as the executive director of The Athletics Congress/USA Track & Field. He served in that capacity from 1980 thru July 1997. An IAAF Vice-President from 1984 to 1996, during his tenure as the nation's chief track and field administrator the sport transitioned from an amateur to a professional sport. Cassell currently is involved in real estate and is a professor of Olympic Sports history at universities in the Indianapolis area. He also serves as the president of the Indiana Olympians Association.

VETERAN ATHLETES
REX CAWLEY: As a student at USC, Cawley won the NCAA national title in the 440 yard hurdles in 1963. He set the world record of 49.1 seconds in the 400m hurdles during the 1964 Olympic Trials, becoming a favorite to medal at the Olympic Games. At the Olympics in Tokyo, he defeated his nearest competitor in the event, John Cooper of Great Britain, by .5 seconds to take home the gold medal. A two-time USA 400m hurdles champion (1963 & 1965), Cawley was twice world-ranked #1 in the 400-meter hurdles by Track & Field News, and he also achieved rankings in the 400m dash and 110m hurdles. Cawley was the runner-up in the 1963 USA vs. Russia dual meet in Moscow with his time of 50.9 seconds before winning against the Russians in another dual affair in 1964 at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 49.5 seconds.

BEN EASTMAN: A collegiate star at Stanford University, Eastman won the IC4A 880 yard run in 1931, and in the spring of 1932 he set three world records running 440 yards in 46.4 seconds, and the 880 in 1:51.3 and 1:50.9. In 1932, Eastman won his second IC4A half-mile crown and finished as the 400m runner-up at both the Olympic Trials and the Olympic Games in Los Angeles to former world record holder Bill Carr. In 1933, Eastman turned his attention to the 800m/880y and won that event at the AAU Nationals. That year he set world indoor records in the 500 meters (1:02.0) and the 600y dash in 1:09.2. In 1934 he lowered the world record for the 880 to 1:49.8. Eastman retired in 1934 and made a comeback two years later before permanently hanging up his spikes after placing fifth in the 800 meters at the 1936 Olympic Trials. He died October 6, 2002.

MATT McGRATH: Born in Ireland and later immigrated to the United States, McGrath was included in the group of large and dominant throwers of the era knowns as the 'Irish Whales.' Considered world class in the hammer at 27, McGrath remarkably remained in the top ten of the world list until age 50. The winner of seven national hammer titles, McGrath also captured seven indoor weight throw crowns. McGrath won the silver medal at the 1908 Olympics in London and later dominated the competition by winning gold at the 1912 Stockholm Games, where the shortest of his six throws was 15 feet farther than anyone else's best. His longest throw of 54.74 meters/179 feet, 7 inches was an Olympic record that lasted 24 years. McGrath won Olympic silver at Paris in 1924 and held the world hammer throw world record on two occasions. He died January 29, 1941.

BILL NIEDER: As a high school star Nieder became one of the first prep athletes to break the 60-foot barrier with a 12-pound shot put. Coincidentally, at the University of Kansas, he was the first collegiate athlete to better the 60-foot mark with a 16-pound shot. During his career, Nieder faced the difficult task of competiting against fellow National Track & Field Hall of Famers Parry O'Brien and Dallas Long. The winner of the 1955 NCAA Outdoor title and the AAU crown in 1957, Nieder won the silver medal, finishing as the runner-up to O'Brien at the 1956 Olympic Games before winning the gold medal in 1960 in Rome with an Olympic record throw of 19.05 meters/62 feet, 6.25 inches. Nieder, who set the shot put world record on four occasions, tried boxing when his track and field career ended following the 1960 Olympics. He lost in his first bout and hung up the gloves for good.

Courtesy of USATF: www.usatf.org

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