April 2022

Ohio State has produced more world class sprinters than just Jesse Owens | Rob Oller

Courtesy of The Columbus Dispatch
By Rob Oiler
April 22, 2022

The eponymous Jesse Owens Classic that concludes Saturday at the eponymous Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium appropriately recognizes the most famous track and field athlete ever to pass through Columbus, but the four-time gold medalist wasn’t the only record-setting Ohio State sprinter to leave a lasting mark. He wasn’t even the first Buckeye Bullet to do so.

Owens set world records while blazing the straightaways, turns and ovals at Ohio State in 1935-36, then went to Berlin and buried Adolf Hitler’s claim of Aryan superiority. Owens, a sharecropper’s son from Alabama who grew up in Cleveland, became the world’s first cross-cultural sports icon. In Berlin, he awoke to find German soldiers shoving autograph books through his bedroom window. When Owens competed, race became an action instead of a color.

As fast as Owens was, his role in Ohio track and field history is more relay race than individual sprint. As fast as he was, Owens neither led things off nor anchored them home.

More than just Jesse Owens in Ohio State’s sprinting history

Here’s a look at others who made noise at Ohio Stadium before the track was removed in 1998 and constructed at its current location on Fred Taylor Drive:

• East High School sprinter George S. Simpson was dubbed the Buckeye Bullet almost 10 years before Owens earned the nickname. Simpson recovered from a sickly childhood to win city, state and national high school titles in the 100- and 220-yard dashes before graduating in 1926. Moving a few miles northwest to Ohio State, he won his first race for the Buckeyes, and over the next three years became a world-class sprinter whose fame extended overseas.

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