Morrow, Young began rich tradition in Olympics
By TED DUNNAM
Staff Writer, Abilene Reporter-News
June 25, 2000
Earl Young attended Abilene Christian University for several reasons, but one emerged ahead of the pack.
"Bobby Morrow. I knew everything he did in high school and college,'' Young said. "I wanted to go to the same school that Bobby Morrow did.
"It also helped that I was raised as Church of Christ and was offered a scholarship.''
Morrow and Young began a tradition that a school of ACU's size rarely features - one that produces Olympians.
They are the two most shining examples of why the Wildcat track program was selected as the "Texas Sports Dynasty of the Century" by Texas Monthly magazine.
"When you think of the size of the school and all the sports that exist, this truly is a tremendous honor,'' Young said. "And when you look at the accomplishments, it's really overwhelming.
"I often find myself saying that ACU's track program was a dynasty. It is a dynasty.''
Young won a gold medal as a member of the United States 1,600-meter relay team that blazed to a then world record time of 3:02.2. The 19-year-old ACU sophomore was the youngest member of the U.S. men's Olympic team to win a gold medal at the 1960 Olympics in Rome.
He also finished sixth in his specialty, the 400 meters.
"I think the biggest thrill I ever received in track was just making the Olympic team in Palo Alto, Calif.,'' Young said. "I always felt the pressure of making the team and going to Olympics was much more than that of actually competing in them.
"Something that would rival that is when you're standing on the top podium of the Olympic medal stand and hear them playing your national anthem. That's something that you'll remember all of your life.''
Although Young appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in June 1961, he wasn't the first ACU athlete to earn that distinction.
That belonged to the legendary Bobby Morrow. Often called the greatest sprinter of all time, Morrow won three gold medals at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. At ACU, he won 80 of 88 races and claimed 14 national sprint championships.
He set or tied five world records and was the first man since Jesse Owens to win three Olympic gold medals.
"I had no idea what I would accomplish. I never expected to win three gold medals,'' Morrow said. "When I came to ACU, I didn't have any idea how good of a track team we'd have. But we wound up having the best relay team in the world.
"When we went to track meets, other schools felt we were an embarrassment to them because we beat them so bad. A lot of times they'd find out what track meet we were going to, and they'd go somewhere else.''
Bill Woodhouse, a member of ACU's world record-setting 440- and 880-yard relay teams, was an alternate member of the 1960 U.S. Olympic team. He twice tied the world record in the 100-yard dash (9.3 seconds) in 1957 and 1959.
"We won the gold medal in the 440 relay at the Pan American games in 1959, but I pulled a hamstring in 1960 and wasn't able to run my best at the Olympic trials,'' Woodhouse said. "That was a disappointment, but it was still nice to be a part of six world records.
"I really didn't know what to expect when I got here (ACU) because I came from Iowa. For some reason, the second day I got here, everybody started calling me "Yank." I told them I was from the Midwest, but the nickname stuck and that's what they still call me today.''
Morrow credits legendary ACU coach Oliver Jackson for establishing the Wildcat dynasty.
"He had a natural ability to make his athletes work and get the most out of them,'' Morrow said. "He got the ball rolling, and the school soon got a strong reputation for being a great track school. Pretty soon, it just became a magnet for great athletes.''
Many other Olympians would soon follow, including pole vaulters Billy Pemelton and Billy Olson and decathlete/pole vaulter Tim Bright, not to mention a host of international ACU athletes who competed for their native countries.
Morrow has since deeded his three gold medals to ACU and two halls of fame.
"They're special to me, but you want to give something back to all of the people who made it possible for you to be a success,'' Morrow said. "I'm indebted to a lot of good people.''
Contact assistant sports editor Ted Dunnam at 676-6771 or email@example.com.
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