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Athletics Hall of Fame to induct PHS 1957 track team, April 14

Athletics Hall of Fame to induct PHS 1957 track team, April 14
Posted on 04/13/2018
Athletics Hall of Fame to induct PHS 1957 track team, April 14

Athletics Hall of Fame 2018 inducts 1957 track team
Members of the PHS 1957 State Champions in track.

By Reesha Brown
PISD Communications

It was 1957. Rock and roll legends Little Richard and Elvis Presley dominated the airwaves. Slinkys and Hula Hoops were the it toys. And Dodgers’ fans bid farewell as Jackie Robinson traded his bat for retirement. While U.S. citizens watched these historical events, stitched into the fabric of American history unfold – the Pasadena High School track team was creating history of its own.

On May 4, 1957, with head coach Allen Brown and assistant coach Harry Morgan at the helm, the Eagles track team broke two state records and raced to victory to become state champions.

On April 14, they will claim a place in history once again as they are inducted into Pasadena ISD’s 2018 Athletics Hall of Fame.

“Most of us played multiple sports in high school, but winning a state championship was a great experience for our school and community,” recalled Ben Meador, former PHS track team star and Athletics Hall of Fame member.

The 440 relay team consisted of Carl Choate, Larry Witte, Larry May and Bert Coan.  The Eagles mile relay team of Meador, Choate, May and Coan clocked one of the fastest times in the nation.  Choate and Meador were quarter milers and Meador also ran the 880 yd. dash.  Coan and Phillip Breeden excelled in the sprints, Bill Donaldson threw the shot put and discus, Morris Cherry was besting others by leaps and bounds in the high hurdles while May was doing the same in the low hurdles.  Robert Redwine and the late Larry Early shined as the team’s high jumper and pole-vaulter, respectively.

The meet was chock full of surprises that day.

Clouds gave way to a rainy forecast, which any athlete would admit, is never pleasant. But the team was resilient, determined and committed to take home the gold, despite any hurdles. 

Coan, perhaps one of the most celebrated football and track athletes in the state at the time, racked up the most points, helping the team get a leg up on the competition.  Although Coan rarely competed in the long jump during the regular season, the 6 ft. 4 Eagle was thrust in action at the state meet where he soared 24 feet, 4 inches – shattering the state record.  The jump was registered on national records, ranking No. 3 in the country.

Coan also won the two sprint competitions in the 100-meter dash, clocking in at 10 seconds flat and the 220-meter in 22.1 seconds.  A junior at the time, he ran the fastest leg on the 440 sprint-relay team that included Choate, May and Witte which placed first with a time of 43.3 seconds.

Coan and Choate were inducted into the Pasadena ISD Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015.

“When Coan won these events the points kept adding up,” Meador said, “It came down to the last event, the 440 relay.  The team knew that when they won that relay, they had enough points to win the state championship.”

While he was the undisputed star, Coan had a strong team behind him.

“Coach Brown would have us run in a meet on Friday night and then take us to another meet on a Saturday, Meador said. “At one of those meets the Eagles won in Victoria, they took first place in almost every event including the two relays and set meet records in five of those events.

Donaldson threw the shot put 49.8 and three quarters, earning first place in the division and setting a new record; and the Eagles’ mile relay team of Choate, Meador, May and Coan clocked as one of the fastest times in the nation. Meador, also bested the rest in the 880 yard dash, winning first place with Cherry winning the high hurdles and May getting first place in the low hurdles; both in record time.

The meet went down as one of best in PHS sports history and Pasadena ISD, earning them a No. 4 spot in 1999 as Pasadena’s top 5 sports achievements of the century.

The road to state was grueling and the Eagles faced tough competition to get there.

Throughout the track season, their primary competitors were Lee High School from Baytown, TX and Lamar High School from Houston. “They competed with us in most of the major events that we participated in,” Meador said.

The Eagles left Lee High in the dust, by 10 points, with a score of 46.

The team competed at least twice each weekend throughout the season before the district meet, then advanced to regionals and qualified for the state competition. This was PHS’ second time to earn a seat at state, where they not only participated, but placed second at the 1956 track meet. From then on, they would be known as the Speedy Eagles.

“Once you get to the state meet, it’s the cream of the crop across the state of Texas, in your classification,” Meador said.

It had been 11 years since Pasadena High School’s 1946 basketball team captured a state championship-which sweetened the victory for the track team.

On and off the track, lifetime friendships unfolded. There was no social media back then. Typically, students participated in multiple sports.

“Larry Witte and Coan were friends of mine,” Meador said. “We went to the movies and sporting events together. Nobody got into trouble. We just spent time doing things that were decent things to do.”

During Meador’s 50- year high school reunion, Coach Morgan sat at his table, along with some of the other track team members.

“We all had great respect for our coaches as they put in a lot of time year after year.” Meador stated. “I think Coach Morgan is now 93 years of age.  At that reunion he could recall the times that we posted for our sprint and mile relay teams, even 50 years later.”

Members of the PHS track team will reunite at Phillips Field House to be the first team inducted into the Pasadena ISD Athletics Hall of Fame.