Phil Scott brought John Bennett to our attention recently and he certainly deserves a page or two. In reading about Bennett, we learned of the fascinating career of Meredith Gourdine, whom John Bennett refers to in his email. Gourdine was also a silver medalist in the Long Jump in 1952.
|Bennett on the podium in Melbourne with|
Greg Bell and Jorma Valkama of Finland
from the Devil's Lake Journal May 25, 2011 by Ray Maloney MIDDLETON, Wis. — John Bennett was simply looking for a way to secure a few more points to earn his first varsity letter in track at Grand Forks Central in the spring of 1947.
While many first experiments can often go awry, Bennett's was simply magical as he claimed the silver medal at the Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia just nine years after trying his hand at long jumping for the first time.
That feat has cemented Bennett as one of the greats in North Dakota high school track and has earned him a place in the North Dakota Track and Field Hall of Fame. Bennett, along with several other former standouts, will be inducted Friday night in Bismarck following the first day of the state high school track meet at the Bismarck Community Bowl.
"This is a tremendous honor," Bennett said of his recognition as one of the state's greats. "Track and field has always been a big part of my life and I just want to salute the people responsible for getting this hall of fame going.
“It is humbling to be included on the list of some truly outstanding athletes who call North Dakota home,” Bennett added.
An all-around athlete, Bennett was an all-state running back in 1949 and captained Central's basketball team in 1949-50. But it was as a jumper that Bennett's star would lead to Olympic glory.
"My experiences in North Dakota track and field started in 1947," Bennett said. "I needed four more points at the end of the season to make a letter (at Central) as a freshman.
"I was fortunate to have a brother who took an interest and suggested trying the long jump," Bennett added. "We stayed late one day to experiment."
Bennett proved to have a knack for the event.
Just days later, in a meet in Devils Lake, Bennett soared 19-7 1/2 to win the district title. He would go on to win a pair of state titles in the event, along with one championship in the high jump. If not for a broken leg suffered one week before the state meet in his final prep season, Bennett likely would have made it three crowns in the long jump.
He would later say the injury and not having the opportunity to defend his titles as a senior was the biggest disappointment of his athletic career.
Following his graduation from Central in 1950 Bennett went on to stardom and gained international fame at Marquette University in Milwaukee.
"Marquette was well respected in the Midwest and had a terrific coach (Bus Shimek)," Bennett said. "I talked it over with my family ... and decided to give it a try."
Just like the 'experiment' years earlier, the decision to attend Marquette proved to be a good one for Bennett.
Under Shimek's tutelage, Bennett would earn four letters for the Hilltoppers, as the Marquette teams were known at the time. He would also emerge as one top long jumpers in the world.
"(Bennett) had both the speed and the spring to be a great broad jumper," the late MU coach once said. "He had the knack of consistently hitting the takeoff board in the correct place which is necessary for one to be a great broad jumper."
The North Dakota native would go on to win a pair of NCAA broad jump titles during his college career. He won the 1953 crown with a leap of 25-3 1/4 in Lincoln, Neb. and defended that title the following year in Ann Arbor, Mich. with a leap of 25-10 3/4. He still owns the Marquette school record in the event more than 60 years following his graduation.
"It pays to work hard toward a goal," Bennett said, "and that is proof positive."
Bennett continued competing while serving in the Army and at the 1955 Pan American Games he soared to a personal-best of 26-3 3/8. That jump, perhaps, ironically, was registered in the same Mexico City pit that Bob Beamon would set a world record 13 years later. He finished second in the Pan-Am Games to Army teammate Roslyn Range, who edged Bennett by five-eighths of an inch for the top medal.
Bennett continued to train for the Olympics and in 1956 finished first in the Trials when he and former Indiana University standout Greg Bell both sailed 25-8 1/2. It was the fourth best jump in the world that year.
At the Olympics just five months later Bennett finished second to Bell, whose gold-medal winning jump of 25-8 1/4 was six inches better than the former Central sensation's 25-2 1/4.
Bennett went on to operate a line of men's clothing stores in Wisconsin before his retirement. He now lives in Middleton, Wis.
But he fondly recalls his days on the northern plains.
"I still look back at the rocky, but productive experiences competing in high school in North Dakota as the turning point of my life," Bennett said. "My grandparents homesteaded near Grand Forks when it was the Dakota Territory. I have always considered the area home and proudly so."
Phil Scott received this email from Mr. Bennett recently.
While I was in my second season with Marquette and the '52 indoor season I used the hitch kick effectively for the first time and increased my "best effort" by 13 inches overnight (Drake University) and suddenly was in the top tier nationwide. Things got better from that point on (53) with much success leading to the NCAA Div 1 win at Lincoln, Neb, and third or fourth in the Nat'l AAU (worst ever performance).
It did lead to a summer trip to Europe, however, and our coach was Don Canham of Michigan who later became Athletic Director. It was on that trip I won the 100 meters in Stockholm in 9.4 seconds..a dream come true. Don passed away a couple years ago age 90 plus.
I respected him so much, as I have Melvin Bus Shimek at Marquette, track coach going back to 1927.
In 1954, my senior year, I repeated the NCAA win at Michigan with 25'10 3/4", the current school record, and won the Nat'l AAU at St Louis. One of the AAU second place efforts was in Dayton and I believe it was '57.
Going back to 1950 while best man at my brother's wedding in Yonkers, NY and before entering Marquette, my brother and I went to the IC4A meet at Randels Island to watch Meredith Gourdine of Cornell U jump. He used the (sizzers) (hitch kick) and I wanted to get that form down pat. He won silver at Helsinki in 1952. At the 1996 Games in Atlanta I spoke to Merideth, who by then was blind and dying of diabetes. I told him how he influenced me and that it led to my success. He replied : "Thanks, John, but you are the one who got it right." A few months later he passed away.
I met with and got tailor-made jump shoes from Adi Dassler in Germany and the protective heel base saved the day for me as I had an ongoing injury which drove me crazy. With the form and shoe I was finally satisfied.
Here is something we found on Meredith Gourdine from Jackie's Facts
Born in 1929 in Newark, New Jersey, Meredith Gourdine was a physicist, pioneer researcher and inventor in the field of electrogasdynamics, a process dealing with the action of charged particles moving through a gas stream. He held more than 40 patents, while developing practical applications based on this esoteric procedure in four areas—energy conversion, paint-spraying systems, pollution control and printing.
|Meredith Gourdine in his Lab|
Graduating from Caltech in 1960 (Phd?), he worked for the Aeronautical Division of Curtiss-Wright Corporation, where he became aware of an 18th-century procedure, and developed a generator based on this principle. In 1964, after failing to sell his ideas and his invention to his employer, Gourdine founded his own research and development company.
Gourdine Laboratories moved from research to the development of products and processes based on the use of electrogasdynamics technology. Gourdine is best known for his Incineraid system, which was used for the removal of smoke from burning buildings, and a technique for dispersing fog from airport runways. These techniques purify the polluted air by introducing a negative charge to the airborne particles, causing them to become electromagnetically attracted to the ground, thus leaving clean air in its place. Gourdine was also issued a patent for the Focus Flow Heat Sink, which is used to cool computer chips.
In 1973, he founded Energy Innovations in Houston to produce direct-energy conversion devices and was CEO there until his death in 1998.
Meredith Gourdine also enjoyed success in another field. He won a silver medal for the long jump at the Olympic Games in 1952.
Meredith Gourdine of Cornell won the 1951 IC4A with a career best of 25-9¾ (7.87) and at the same meet won the 220y hurdles. In the Olympic year, Gourdine beatJerome Biffle to win the Final Trials. One week earlier, at the AAU, he had also defeated Biffle, although finishing second to George Brown. However, Biffle won the one that mattered, finishing a bare four centimeters ahead of Gourdine in the Olympic final.
Of course, we SoCal guys saw Meredith Gourdine compete a number of times. Dennis Kavanaugh
Well done, Dennis, I just wanted to see if you guys were awake on the West Coast. George
Once saw him at an all-comers meet in Alhambra.
Great articles on John Bennett and Meredith Gourdine. I find their stories to be much more interesting than their long jump marks, just indicating that it is the journey rather than the destination which is ultimately attractive. Gourdine's work as a physicist was certainly more important than his long jump, but it is no surprise to know that such people chose T&F as their sport. That tradition is still going on today. Bill Schnier