Lawrence E. Myers
track and field
Before Michael Johnson, who is considered one of track and field's most versatile athletes because of his dual victories in the 200-meter and 400-meter at the 1996 Olympics, there was Lon Myers. Like Johnson, Myers ran the intermediate sprints (220-yard and 440-yard in his time) with a peculiar upright style and his strides seemed to grow longer as he tired. Yet unlike Johnson, Myers dared to venture into the middle distances. His success in these events solidified the belief that he was the greatest runner of the 19th Century.
Myers was considered the greatest short-distance runner of the 19th Century, and became one of the first Jewish sports celebrities. Born in the ante-bellum South, his 5'7", 112-pound body was perfectly suited for running. In 1878, at the age of 20, Myers began running competitively and the following year was the first person to run the quarter-mile in less than 50 seconds (49.2). In 1880, he showed his versatility by winning all four races from 100 to 880-yards at the National AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) championships. One week later, he won the same events at the Canadian Nationals. He is probably the only runner in history to capture eight national titles in one week.
After establishing himself as one of the top runners in the world, Myers toured England. In 1882, he met English runner W.G. George, and they competed in a three-race event to decide who was the world's greatest runner. Unfortunately Myers won only the 880-yard race, losing the two longer distance races. In 1886, Myers and George met again, and this time Lon swept the three races. One year later, the two runners met again in Australia and again Lon swept all three races to become the undisputed best runner in the world.
From 1880-1888, he held world records in the 100-yard, 440-yard, and 880-yard events. At one time or another during his career, Myers held every American running record from 50-yards to one mile. He won 15 American National titles, including six straight titles in the 440-yard dash! Lon ran more 880-yard races under two minutes and more 440-yard races under 50 seconds than the total run by amateur and professional athletes of his era. He is a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. Feb. 16, 1858 - d. Feb. 15, 1899
Use links below to navigate through the olympics section of Jews In Sports.
In 1993, D.H. Potts wrote a biography on Myers, called Lon (Mountain View: Tafnews Press, 1993).
Great Jews in Sports by Robert Slater (New York: Jonathan David Publishers, 2000)
Jewish Sports Legends: The International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, by Joseph Siegman (Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, 2000)
encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)