UT Track and Field History 1889-1971 – Chapter VI: The New Era

1947 Outdoor Track Season

Tennessee returned to track in 1947 with Walter Mehl as the coach. Under Coach Mehl’s leadership the Volunteers entered an era that surpassed even the 1920 teams in interest and enthusiasm.

The Florida Relays presented the first challenge and an unknown pole vaulter named Martin Korik vaulted 12’-9” for a new school record. Next came the North Carolina Relays; a victory over Tennessee Tech; a victory over Maryville that was highlighted by Louis Schneider’s 9:50.9 two-mile and freshman Forrest Ross’ 9:53.0 two mile, both faster than the existing school record; a trip to the Penn Relays; a victory over Kentucky; a victory in the TIAA meet; and finally an eighth place finish in the SEC meet. Throughout the season high jump sensation Aubrey Ellis soared near the six foot mark and in a qualification meet set the school record at 6’-3”. In the SEC meet Norman Meseroll threw the discus 139’-10½” for second place and Martin Korik vaulted 12’-0” to tie for second place.

1948 Outdoor Track Season

Carleton Crowell was the 1948 mentor and Louis Schneider was the Captain. Another fine season resulted as the Vols won the TIAA, beat Alabama and Tennessee Tech, tied Kentucky, and lost to Georgia Tech in a three-way meet in which they defeated Georgia. Sprinter Bobby Mynatt beat the Alabama runners in the 220 with a record-wrecking 21.6; Norman Meseroll set a record with a discus throw of 144’-10 5/8” against Kentucky; and Martin Korik amazed the Kentuckians with a 13’-8” jump in the pole vault.

In the 1948 SEC meet it was Martin Korik, first at 13’-2” in the pole vault; Jack Stroud, fourth in the javelin at 185”-11¾; Norman Meseroll, fifth in the discus at 136’-6”; and Louis Schneider, fifth in the mile run.

1949 Outdoor Track Season

Martin Korik took over as Captain of the 1949 track team and started the season by winning the pole vault at the Florida Relays with a 14’-1 5/8” vault and tying for first at the Penn Relays with a 13’-8” effort. Then an injury ended his season.

Despite the loss of Martin Korik, Tom Scott, Louis Schneider, football player Jack Stroud, and Norman Meseroll carried the Vols by Alabama and Kentucky. In the state meet, now named the Tennessee Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (TIAC), the University of Tennessee was victorious. The only losses came at the hands of Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt.

A seventh place finish in the 1949 SEC meet was the result of Tom Scott’s second place finishes in the mile and two-mile, both won by Auburn’s Olympian Whitey Overton; Louis Schneider’s third place in the mile and fourth place in the half-mile; Jack Stroud’s fourth in the javelin; and Norman Meseroll’s fifth place in the discus.

Tom Scott and Louis Schneider represented the University of Tennessee as the Southeastern Conference trounced the Southern Conference 92 to 39. Scott captured second place in the two-mile at 9:34.0 and Schneider placed third in the mile at 4:21.6. Both Scott and Schneider set new school records inn this meet.

1950 Outdoor Track Season

Carleton Crowell’s 1950 trackmen, bolstered by high jumper Herb Neff, rolled over Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, and all TIAC opponents. One loss to Alabama marred a perfect record.

Martin Korik, in good shape again, vaulted 13’-8” to tie for first in the Penn Relays and a freshman sensation exchange student from Sweden named Alf Holmberg ran a 4:16.2 mile to finish second and set a school record. Another school record was set by Tom Scott who ran two miles in the time of 9:23.4.

In the SEC meet Martin Korik won the pole vault at 13’-6 7/8”; Tom Scott took second in the mile and third in the two-mile; Herb Neff won the high jump at 6”-6¾”; Jack Stroud won the javelin with a 183’-6½” throw; Jim Fourman placed fifth in the broad jump at 22’-6½”; John Trent was fifth in the mile; William Kerley tied for fifth in the high jump at 6’-0¾”; and Norman Meseroll threw the discus 139’-2” to complete the Tennessee scoring.

In the second Southeastern Conference vs. Southern Conference meet Herb Neff high jumped 6’-5¼” for first place; Tom Scott lost another close race to Auburn’s Whitey Overton despite running a 4:21.0 mile; Jack Stroud whipped the javelin 196’-2” (a school record) for second place; and Martin Korik pole vaulted 12’-10 for another second place.

Herb Neff, having conquered all competition, next competed in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) meet against the best college high jumpers in the United States. When the results were in he had jumped 6’-4” for a six way tie for third place and 2 1/6 points for Tennessee. These were the first points ever scored by a University of Tennessee athlete in an NCAA track meet.

1951 Outdoor Track Season

Carleton Crowell moved to the West Point coaching staff after the 1950 track season leaving Tennessee without a track coach. Louis Schneider took over and coached the team in 1951 with the help of Captain John Trent. An undefeated season resulted as Tennessee won the TIAC; rolled over Alabama, Georgia Tech, and Kentucky; and participated in the Florida Relays, Southern Relays, and Penn Relays. A third place finish in the SEC meet was the best ever for the Vols.

In the Penn Relays Herb Neff jumped 6’-6” for an undisputed first place.

Tennessee, traditionally strong in the distance races, once again proved their worth at the SEC meet. In a display that infuriated the other schools Alf Holmberg. John Trent and Frank Albertson crossed the finish line side by side to win the mile in the fine time of 4:27.3. The wall of orange shirts dominating the field was the most impressive performance in Orange and White track history until a similar performance changed the course of the 1964 SEC track meet.

Alf Holmberg then toyed with the two-mile field before winning in 9:53.3 with John Trent right on his heels. Herb Neff beat his old rival Papa Hall of Florida at 6’-6½” and Jack Stroud hurled the javelin 202’-10¼” for another victory. Jimmy Hill at 186’-8” took fourth place in the javelin.

John Trent went to the last Southeastern Conference vs. Southern Conference meet and won the two-mile run in a fast 9:27.5 time. Alf Holmberg traveled to California to the Compton Invitational where he ran the mile in 4:09.1 for a new school record.

Herb Neff again placed in the NCAA meet with a 6’-4” high jump that earned a six way tie for sixth place and 1/6 of a point.

1952 Outdoor Track Season

Johnny Sines was hired to be the head track coach in 1952. He was very enthusiastic and his leadership was responsible for keeping the track team at the high level it had attained since the war.

Sines first Volunteer team lost to Alabama and finished second in the TIAC meet, but then defeated Georgia Tech and Kentucky, participated in the Florida Relays and Southern Relays, and placed fourth in the 1952 SEC meet.

Aware that they had an excellent chance to win their first SEC title, the Tennessee trackmen turned in some of their best performances. Alf Holmberg was the big gun for the Vols winning the mile and two-mile in 4:16.2 and 9:18.1, both new SEC records. Frank Albertson set another SEC record in winning the 880 in 1:52.8. John Trent finished second to Holmberg in the two-mile; Al Kuykendall was fifth in the mile, Fleming Reeder and Sam Hill placed second and fifth in the half-mile; and Hal Hubbard threw the javelin 186’-11” for third place.

The high jump provided quite a spectacle as Tennessee’s gigantic 230 pound Doug Atkins cleared 6’-6” for second place defeating teammate and school record holder Herb Neff who tied for fourth place.

Going into the final event of the 1952 SEC meet, the mile relay, Tennessee held the lead with 33½ points, followed closely by Alabama and Auburn with 33 points each and Florida with 32½ points. When the final race was run, Alabama broke the tape first and won the meet. Florida finished second in both the mile relay and the meet and Auburn captured fifth place to edge Tennessee out of third place. This was the closest Tennessee had ever come to victory and it would be twelve more years before they came that closer again.

Alf Holmberg left Tennessee after the 1952 track season to return to Sweden and run on the Swedish Olympic team. His influence and unselfishness would not soon be forgotten, nor would his legend of letting teammates catch up with him so they could all finish in a tie. It was common knowledge to all the grade school kids who used to hang around the track that Alf once sat down on the curb in the middle of a race and tied his shoe and when the rest of the field caught up to him he resumed the race and won easily. Truth or fiction, Alf Holmberg will be remembered above all other track Vols for his colorful exploits on the track.

1953 Outdoor Track Season

Coach Sines 1953 trackmen stumbled before Alabama, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky; improved to second in the TIAC meet; and ended the season with a strong third place finish in the SEC meet.

In the SEC meet Sam Hill and Captain Frank Albertson placed first and second in the 880 yard run with Hill running a 1:57.7. Student sports editor Marvin West reported in the The Orange and White that:
As a young sophomore Sam Hill asked Coach Sines, “How fast do you
have to run to get a scholarship at this school? Whatever the answer was
he certainly surpassed it.

Other Volunteer point winners were Frank Albertson, winner of the mile run at 4:21.0; Al Kuykendall, winner of the two-mile run at 9:53.5; Dave Critchlow, third in the high hurdles at a time only slightly slower than his school record of 14.9 seconds; and Hal Hubbard, third in the javelin with a toss of 182’-5½”.

1954 Outdoor Track Season

The Vol trackmen slumped to ninth place in the 1954 SEC meet. The great distance and field event men of the past seven years were gone and a decline had begun. Probably the brightest spots of the season were the fine performances of Captain Sam Hill and the emergence of a freshman who would rival Alf Holmberg for the all-time great Volunteer distance runner – Ed Murphey.

In the 1954 SEC meet, held annually in Birmingham, Alabama, Sam Hill repeated as 880 champion with a fast 1:53.2 and Ed Murphey scored a fourth place finish in the mile.

Due to his performance in varsity meets as a freshman, even though his presence added little to the team’s strength, Murphey was deprived of the chance to compete in the 1957 NCAA meet when he was a senior – a meet in which he would have been favored to place and possibly win.

1955 Outdoor Track Season

The 1955 Vols won two meets and lost four. No longer a track power, they struggled to seventh place in the SEC meet. George Ogles was the Captain and Johnny Sines was still the coach. Even though their leadership was excellent, the lack of scholarships, facilities, and prestige was sending all except the most dedicated Tennesseans to greener track pastures.

Ed Murphey took the 1955 SEC mile with a 4:26.8 performance; Gene Gardner was second in the 440; Ron Taylor was second in the 880; and George Ogles was third in the two-mile.

1956 Outdoor Track Season

The 1956 track year was a big one for Ed Murphey and Ron Taylor. Breezing by all the competition the dual meets could offer, the entered the SEC meet where Murphey won the mile with a 4:17.3 time and Taylor finished second again in a fast half-mile. Max Kirtland placed fourth in the two-mile run and Tennessee’s mile relay team composed of future All-American footballer Johnny Majors, Ron Taylor, Dick Duncan, and Gene Gardner also finished fourth. Probably the outstanding field event of the season was Buddy McFaddin’s shot put record of 47’-8” against Maryville.

Ed Murphey entered the NCAA meet in June of 1956 and placed sixth in the 1500 meter run with a time of 3:52.5, thus scoring one point for Tennessee. This performance qualified Murphey for the Olympic time trials.

Two weeks later at the Olympic time trials in which the first three finishers would qualify for the United States Olympic team, Ed Murphey finished seventh with a time of 3:52.6 for 1500 meters. This accomplishment is the closest any Tennessee athlete had ever come to making the Olympic team.

1957 Outdoor Track Season

During the 1957 season, Tennessee won four dual meets, lost two, placed second in the Memphis Relays, and finished ninth in the SEC meet. Ron Taylor finished fifth in the 880, the third year in a row that he placed in the SEC 880; Max Kirtland was third in the two-mile run; and Ed Murphey won the SEC mile for the third time in a row as he shattered Alf Holmberg’s SEC record with a time of 4:14.8.

Ed Murphey will long be remembered by Tennessee track fans for his greatness on and off the track. Many a scared high school runner came to Murphey for advice and ended up out on the track with him getting a demonstration. Murphey extended an open invitation to all aspiring distance runners to work out with him any time and many took advantage of the offer. He always told the younger boys to work hard, never smoke or drink, eat the right food, and get plenty of sleep if they wanted to be good runners. Alf Holmberg was a legend, but Ed Murphey was a hero to hundreds of local youngsters.

1958 Outdoor Track Season

In 1958 all-around athlete Al Carter led the Vols of Coach Johnny Sines. The presence of ex-Fulton High School All-State basketball player Don Reeverts gave strength to the team. This proved to be another down year for the Volunteers as they lost all five of their dual meets. An eighth place finish in the SEC meet was accomplished only through the efforts of Al Carter who tied for first in the broad jump at 22’-10½”, tied for second in the pole vault at 13’-6”, and tied for fifth in the high jump at 5’-8”; Don Reeverts who was second in the discus with a throw of 137’-2” and third in the shot put at 48’-7” (a school record); and Norman Stone who finished third in the two-mile run. The 440 yard relay team of Al Carter, Carl Smith, Coy Franklin, and Dick Duncan raced over the line in fifth place for another Tennessee point.

1959 Outdoor Track Season

During Coach Sines last year at Tennessee, 1959, the track team beat only Georgia in dual meets and dropped to ninth place in the SEC standings. Don Reeverts, who threw the shot put 50’0” against Georgia, placed second in the discus throw with another school record of 151’-0”. Norman Stone, the last of the Vols 1950’s era of outstanding distance runners placed fourth in the two-mile run, and high hurdler Charlie Scott, who had tied the school record of 14.9, placed fifth.

1960 Outdoor Track Season

Ralph Patterson took over as track coach inn 1960 with Charlie Scott and Coy Franklin acting as Co-Captains. Even though these Volunteers beat Vanderbilt, East Tennessee State, Furman and East Tennessee State in a three-way meet, and Georgia, they lost dual meets to Furman and Alabama and could manage only one point in the SEC meet on Dick Elliott’s fifth place finish in the 100 yard dash.

1961 Outdoor Track Season

Then 1961 team beat East Tennessee State and Georgia, but lost to Alabama, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky. High jumper Howie Moss leaped 6’7” to win the SEC championship and set a new school record but all other Tennessee entries failed to place.

1962 Outdoor Track Season

The last team coached by Ralph Patterson was the 1962 edition with Steve Hendricks the Captain. This team won three dual meets and lost only one, but only Hendricks scored in the SEC meet, picking up a fourth place medal in the discus.

The three years under Coach Patterson are now referred to as the “Old Regime” years. Although many outstanding athletes were out for track, interest was at an all-time low for the same old reasons – poor facilities, a coach with too many other more important duties, lack of scholarships, lack of prestige, and for a few the lack of desire to excel in track.

In years to come the era prior to 1963 may be referred to as the good old days of track at Tennessee, but if they were good it was only because athletes, a few good coaches, and many dedicated fans made them good by overlooking obstacles set in their path by University administrators and ranking members of the Athletic Department.

The Chuck Rohe Track Era

In 1962 the University of Tennessee hired a young track coach, Chuck Rohe. The next nine years, along with the Stan Huntsman era to follow, began the most successful era of SEC track & field and cross-country dominance in the school’s history.

Chuck Rohe