Posts Tagged ‘marathon’

Best in the World

May 29, 2012

Thursday evening, I had the pleasure of attending the kick off reception at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, DC for their new exhibit, “Best in the World: Native Athletes in the Olympics.”  This special exhibit, which runs through September 3, is timed to honor the 100th anniversary of the performance of two Carlisle Indians in the 1912 Stockholm Games but doesn’t limit itself to just their performances.  In fact, the first thing one sees upon entering the exhibit is a blown-up photograph of Frank Mt. Pleasant broad jumping while wearing his Dickinson College jersey.  He competed in the 1908 games in London.  The exhibit also includes a photo of Frank Pierce, younger brother of Carlisle football stars Bemus and Hawley, competing in the marathon in the 1904 Games held in conjunction with the St. Louis World’s Fair.  He is believed to have been the first Native American to compete for the United States in the Olympics.  Enough about the exhibit, you can see that for yourself.

At the beginning of the reception, the dignities present were introduced.  There is no mistaking Bill Thorpe due to his strong resemblance to his father.  Bill is lending the use of his father’s Olympic medals to the NMAI for this event.  Lewis Tewanima’s grandson was also present.  He took the time to explain the importance of the kiva to Hopi culture.  It was quite enlightening.  Billy Mills, who broke Lewis Tewanima’s record for the 10,000 meters and won the gold medal in the 1964 Olympics spoke and was taped by a cameraman as he walked from exhibit to exhibit.

Some writers were also in attendance.  Robert W. Wheeler, who wrote the definitive biography of Jim Thorpe, and his wife, Florence Ridlon, whose discovery of the 1912 Olympics Rule Book behind a Library of Congress stack made the restoration of Thorpe’s medals possible, was also present as was Kate Buford, the author of a recent Thorpe book.  The apple didn’t fall far from the Wheeler-Ridlon tree as their son, Rob, whose website, http://www.jimthorperestinpeace.com, supports the effort to have Jim Thorpe’s remains relocated to Oklahoma.

More about the exhibit can be found at http://nmai.si.edu/explore/exhibitions/item/504/

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1912 Olympics – Part III

August 7, 2008

The press was filled with articles about Carlisle’s expected participation in the upcoming games. Various track meets, competitions and races winnowed the field down to those who would eventually participate.

 

The Boston Marathon, which was run on April 20, was used to select the U.S. long distance team. Prior to the race Pop Warner thought that Mitchell Arquette, St. Regis Mohawk, would do even better than Tewanima. However, Michael J. Ryan, of the Irish American A.C. unexpectedly won the race and in world-record time. Andrew Sockalexis, Penobscot from Maine and not enrolled at Carlisle, came in second in conditions so muddy that runners had to run on sidewalks to get decent footing. After the conclusion of the race, the U.S. Olympic marathon team was set: Ryan and Sockalexis were selected as was Lewis Tewanima, the only Carlisle distance runner on the 1912 U.S. Olympic team. Apparently, the other Carlisle distance men didn’t do well enough in spring meets to qualify.

 

Jim Thorpe had a good spring. He was running so well that Warner was quoted as saying , “the man who beats him in the 120 yard [hurdle] event at the Pennsylvania relay meet will have to stagger the world’s record.” In May Thorpe competed in a tryout for the Olympic Pentathlon, a new event that consisted of five track and field competitions: 1) Running broad jump, 2) javelin throw with best hand, 3) 200-meters flat race, 4) discus throw with best hand, and 5) 1,500-meters flat race. He had not thrown the javelin previously but was expected to pick that up quickly. Also new to him was the 1,500-meters run in which his stamina was expected to carry him. Thorpe easily qualified for the Olympic team by winning three events: broad jump, discus and 200-meter run. He placed second in the other two, losing to the national champion in the javelin and finishing two yards behind the leader in the 1,500-meters. His prospects for a successful Olympics were good. Also named to the U.S. team to compete against Thorpoe in the pentathlon and decathlon was Avery Brundage.

 

 

 

 

 

Tewanima wins race & Arquette comes in 5th

Tewanima wins race & Arquette comes in 5th

 

 

1912 Olympics – Part II

August 4, 2008

Carlisle generated much press in the months leading up to the Stockholm games, a good bit of which was focused on the Hopi distance runners. Rather than comment on it, I will present a particular April 1912 newspaper article in its entirety.

April 27, 1912 Sheboygan Journal

Native Americans in the 1908 Olympics

July 24, 2008

The 1908 Olympic Games were held in London, something that required Carlisle Indian School track stars Frank Mt. Pleasant and Lewis Tewanima to cross the Atlantic with the bulk of the U.S. contingent on the steamer Philadelphia. Neither arrived in the best condition. Mt. Pleasant had an injured ligament in his knee and Tewanima was suffering from sore feet and bad knees. The Hopi’s ninth place finish in the marathon was a great performance for a person who, a year prior to this, had not before worn a running shoe. He finished ahead of all the great British runners and Tom Longboat of Canada. Longboat, an Onondaga from the Six Nations reservation near Brantford, Ontario, was leading the race when he fell ill and withdrew from the race. The year before he had established himself as a world-class marathoner by winning the Boston Marathon in record time.

Frank Mt. Pleasant, Tuscarora, also competed as best he could given his condition and finished sixth in both the broad jump and triple jump. Later that summer in Paris, he and Tewanima got a chance to show their stuff in a competition with some other Olympians. Mt. Pleasant won the broad jump by defeating both Frank Irons, the Olympic champion, and Edwin Cook of Cornell, the American intercollegiate champion. Lewis Tewanima came in second in the 3-mile race.

Upon their return to the U. S. Mt. Pleasant and Tewanima visited President Roosevelt and, in New York, were presented with medals in addition to the ones they won in Europe. New Yorkers paid $3,100 for the medals they gave to the members of the Olympic team.

Frank Pierce did not compete in the 1908 Olympics because he died of pneumonia earlier in the year.

Next time we take a look at the later Olympics.

Lewis Tewanima, Hopi distance runner

Lewis Tewanima, Hopi distance runner

Native Americans in 1904 Olympics – Part II

July 18, 2008

Jerry, Frank and Tom Pierce were Senecas who lived, at least part of the time, in Irving, NY around the turn of the last century and ran distance races, often in the U. S. In those days athletes often trained and competed under the auspices of athletic clubs. They were the younger brothers of Bemus and Hawley Pierce, the famous Carlisle Indian School football players. The boys also claimed to be grandsons of Deerfoot, aka Lewis Bennett, the world champion Seneca runner of the mid-19th century, who ran races in England while clothed in a wolfskin and feathered headband for effect. The Pierce brothers were affiliated with the Pastime Athletic Club out of Syracuse, New York. In 1901 Jerry Pierce led Pastime A C to the national AAU Junior Championship at a meet held in Buffalo by running his opponents off their feet in the five-mile run. The next day he was winded after the four-mile mark in the senior meet and did not win that race. On July 28 Jerry’s teammates carried him on their shoulders after he fought out a victory in the 3-mile run at the Metropolitan Association of the AAU meet which was also held in Buffalo. On Labor Day, he won the 3-mile run by 40 yards at the Knickerbocker Athletic Club meet held in Bayonne, NJ. Later that year he won the national cross country championship.

Jerry’s success continued in 1902. In late August, his younger brother, Frank, paced him in the Metropolitan Association meet held this time at Celtic Park. Jerry won easily, but Frank, exhausted from setting a fast pace in the 3-mile race, finished fourth. Jerry was suspended by the AAU in September for having accepted a suit of clothing for winning a race. He was soon reinstated but his appetite for racing was waning. His brothers’ weren’t though. Frank was improving and some observers thought Tom, the youngest, was the fastest of the lot. Commentators attributed their success to unorthodox training methods. The Pierce brothers reputedly got in shape by hunting moose and deer on their reservation in Canada.

In 1904 Frank qualified to run in the marathon at the Olympics to be held at the St. Louis World’s Fair that year. In the days before the race, he was listed as one of the favorites. On the day of the race, the temperature was in the 90s in the shade, of which there was none, the humidity was high and the race course ran along a dusty road over which race officials drove automobiles immediately ahead of the runners. The runners had nothing but dust to breathe. Frank was forced to drop out of the race before the 20-mile mark as were several others. Thomas Hicks, the eventual winner was given a concoction of strychnine and brandy by his trainer to give him the energy to finish the race. He almost died after finishing the race.

We’re not done with Native American participation in the 1904 Olympics yet. Next time we’ll look at lacrosse and football.