Wednesday, May 17, 2017

V 7N. 32 Al Lawrence R.I.P.

Al Lawrence
We got news yesterday that Al Lawrence, 10,000 meter Olympic Bronze medalist at Melboure 1956, has passed away from pancreatic cancer.   He was 86 years old.  My god is that possible?  He was listed as being 26 years old when he ran at Melbourne behind Vladmir Kuts of the U.S.S.R. and Josef Kovacs of Hungary.  There is some trivia for you.  Two Joe Kovacs are now Olympic Silver medalists with the new Joe Kovacs currently reigning as Shot Put Silver medalist.

     How many American colleges can claim an Olympic medal winner matriculated to their school to start a college career?  Today that would be impossible as most medal winners are already professional.  But in those days there were no professionals.

     Lawrence was no stranger to American track and field as he was one of the first of a wave of Aussies who began emigrating to US colleges.   Johnny Morris and Oliver Jackson the coaches at the U. of Houston and Abiliene Christian got that pipeline started and it brought over Barrie Almond, Laurie Elliot, Colin Ridgeway, Geoff Walker, Pat Clohessy, John Lawler, George Scott and a few others.  Lawrence would win the NCAA cross country meet in 1959 and 1960 and the three mile at the NCAA outdoor meet 1960 in 14:19.  
Al Lawrence winning national AAU 10K 1958 in Chicago.
Temp was 12 degrees F.
Photo: Ed Dephoure

     The Aussie emigration provided a lot of knowledge and incentive to American collegiate runners at the time.  They were considered men amongst boys as they were generally in their mid to late 20's when they got to the U.S.  They were a fun loving bunch.  A few people complained that they had an unfair advantage with their physical maturity.   On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, the Australian authorities feared a drain of all their good athletes, and soon put a ban on their going abroad to study.  I don't know if  that applied to study in other Commonwealth countries, but it certainly did to those coming to the US.

You can read some humorous accounts of those days written by John Lawler at Abiliene Christian if you go to our blog and read through several concurrent posts.    Lawler's Chronicles
When Lawler and one of his companions were coming to Abiliene, they were told by Coach Jackson that it was dry there in the town.   Coming from Australia, a hot dry country, they felt they could handle that.  However what they didn't know was that Jackson was talking about the laws banning the consumption of alcohol.  That caused them some problems when they got to that part of Texas.  

    Al Lawrence would remain in America, founding a running club and working for many years as a coach especially for adults getting into running.   He was a contributor of information to this blog when he gave us some background on John Macy, one of his Houston teammates who had jumped ship from the Polish track team during  the European Track and Field Championships in Switzerland about 1954.  This was during the Cold War.  Al said that Macy was convnced that the Polish Secret Police were after him and he never stopped looking over his shoulder the rest of  his life.
John Macy finishing 2nd in that Chicago race.
Photo: "They were taken by a guy named Edward Dephoure who was not a runner
and who I fought for possesion of my future wife."  Ned Price

Al Lawrence Obituary   See this obituary from an Australian news service.  It includes some video of the 10,000 meters in Melbourne.

Always thought it would have been tough to be Laurie Elliot.  No matter what he did, it wouldn't be enough.  George Scott always did better as a first baseman, especially 1975 (.285-36-109) with the Brewers.  Roy

You are obviously mixing up your sports.  Happens to the best of us.

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