Houston Elite pioneer John Hartfield dies at 67; jumps record-holder

Bill Collins writes: “It it with a sad heart that I have to inform you of the death of John Hartfield, one of the original members of Houston Elite, and a former world recorded holder in the high jump as a master.  He had been battling cancer for the past few years. John’s service will be held Saturday, January 28, 2012, 10:00 a.m. at Brentwood Baptist Church Lifelong Learning Center, 13033 LandMark St. Houston, Texas 77045.” John was 67, and he was a long jump record-setter, too. In 1992, the Houston Chronicle reported: “John Hartfield … a 1967 graduate of Texas Southern University, was a high-jump champion in college and set a Southwestern Athletic Conference record of 7-1 in 1966. That mark stood until Carlos Garcia of Prairie View broke it in 1986 with a leap of 7-2 1/2.” He was a member of the Drake Relays Hall of Fame. John’s last appearance in the masters rankings was in 2005, in the shot put, according to the site. In 1992, he teamed with Russell Austin, Robert Mitchell and Bill Collins for an over-35 world record in the 4×200 relay, clocking 1:29.85. Our condolences to his friend and family.

Photo courtesy of Annelies Steekelenburg (the blond beauty) next to high school Olympian Reynaldo Brown (center), shows John at left and also Nick Newton (with blocks) and 1968 Olympic silver medalist Ed Caruthers (right).

John also is the listed world indoor record holder in the M50 pentathlon.

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January 24, 2012

9 Responses

  1. Alan Sims - January 24, 2012

    He set a high standard on the track as well as in life.He blazed to trail for all Houston Elite members to follow and be proud of. Thanks for always showing us what greatness and grace should look like.

  2. Jerry Smartt - January 24, 2012

    Wow, that’s sad. Condolences to John’s family and friends. Texas Southern is right down the street from Univ. of Houston where I encamped from 1956 to 1959. We would do X amount of training at U of H and at night, we’d train at the Texas Southern track(with permission). John was waaaay too young for this. Smartty

  3. Horace Grant - January 25, 2012

    John had a great love for Track & Field. He was one of the most gifted all-around athletes I have ever met. He always had encouraging words for his teammates and was a positive coach and role model for younger athletes. Texas Southern University, here in Houston, has produced some of the greatest athletes in the country. John was a member of some of those great teams from the sixties where TSU had ranked athletes in almost every event. John competed at the TSU Relays, which for many years, was the premier track meet in the country. John will be missed and remembered.

  4. Herb Stein - January 26, 2012

    Condolences to John’s family and friends. I concur with Horace’s observation that John was an extremely gifted all-around athlete. I believe that, in addition to his well-known high jump exploits at Texas Southern, he was also very good in the triple jump, with a PR of 52-53 feet. Someone with a better memory than mine might want to comment on that. Back in the early 90’s I was living near Beaumont, Texas and we had a masters track club called the Beaumont Blazers composed of guys who worked for the electric utility in that area. We had a lot of fun running the 4X100 relay against the Houston Elite guys. We always came out on the short end of the stick but we were happy cause we ran a decent time. I got to run a leadoff leg against Big John (he was about 6’5″ and probably weighed 200-210)once and was extremely pleased to not lose much ground to him. John could do a number of different events very well and most important, was a good guy who offered me encouragement when I first got involved in masters track back in 1981. RIP, John.

  5. peter taylor - January 26, 2012

    John Hartfield was a great guy who did a lot for the sport. He was also someone with what I call “the nice combination” — he could high jump, long jump, and triple jump, but he could also sprint like nobody’s business.

    The combination of these events is “nice” because they call for somewhat different talents, but they are all very attractive to watch. I’m so sorry we lost him at such a young age.

  6. grant lamothe - January 26, 2012

    First of all, my condolences to the family of John. I never met him, but he sounds like he was a great athlete and person. It also sounds like he lived well through most of his life, we should all be so lucky.
    Second of all, I`d like to say ‘hello’ to Herb Stein (poster #5). You may not remember me, but I met you on my very first Masters Track Event, the M45 pentathlon in Spokane in 1992 or so. You were very encouraging to me, as were the others I competed against, and I thank you for it as a (then) very overwhelmed new participant in the sport. You are a great ‘Southern Gentleman’ and I hope we meet sometime again on the Masters T&F trail. -Grant Lamothe

  7. Roger Pierce - January 27, 2012

    I met John at the National Outdoor Championships in Indianapolis in 1990, and was impressed with his high jump ability and his sprint speed. For such a tall guy, he could motor along the track quite well. He was always smiling and had a kind word for everyone.
    He will be missed and my thoughts are with his family…

  8. Ken Stone - January 27, 2012

    Houston Chronicle obituary was posted late Thursday night (Jan. 26, 2012):

  9. Beau Patterson - April 19, 2014

    John and I were high school classmates at Manual High School in Denver, CO. I remember his outstanding athletic career (9 letters) over three years including thr State high jump record. What I remember most is his kind, humble spirit. A true champion of life and sport!

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