Mel Patton dies at 89; inspired many masters sprinters of old

Cover boy Mel in 1948.

Mel Patton, the USC sprinter and Olympic champion of the late 1940s, may not have run masters track — but his example of overcoming adversity (a shattered leg) inspired many tracksters back in the day and probably even some of us still competing. He died May 9 at his Fallbrook home north of San Diego, but it wasn’t reported until May 14. As his school reported: “The third of USC’s ‘World’s Fastest Humans’ (following Charles Paddock and Frank Wykoff), Patton set world records in the 100- and 220-yard dashes. He ran a world record 9.3 in the 100 in 1948 after tying the mark of 9.4 in 1947 and he went 20.2 in the 220 on a straightaway in 1949 to break Jesse Owens’ world standard. The 9.3 mark in the 100 still ranks second on USC’s all-time list and the 20.2 is a still-standing school 220 record. He also once ran a wind-aided 9.1 in the 100-yard dash.” And remember that those marks didn’t come on Mondo. The New York Times has a great obituary.

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May 16, 2014

3 Responses

  1. al cestero - May 18, 2014

    amazing when you factor in the surfaces he ran on…i believe worth at least .2 -.3 seconds difference..with all the computer simulation models i’m surprised there hasn’t been a study to compare running on cinders/ clay to mondo….

  2. Peter Taylor - May 21, 2014


    As you recall so well, in 1967 the Penn Relays converted to a synthetic track. In 1966 and earlier the meet had been held on a cinder track, and the switch resulted in an immediate improvement in times.

    This is relevant to your search for a computer simulation model that could convert the times of the sprinters “back in the day” to the marks they could probably achieve now.

    As a minor point, I should note that Penn “went metric” in 1976; before that they ran the 4 x 440 yards instead of the current 4 x 400. And now, Al, I am going to give you the last nine winning times for the collegiate “Championship of America” 4 x 440 yards at Penn on CINDERS and then the first nine winning times for that race in the SYNTHETIC era.

    Cinders 4 x 440 yards (1958-1966)

    1958 3:11.8
    1959 3:11.8
    1960 3:12.2
    1961 3:14.3
    1962 3:12.9
    1963 3:12.4
    1964 3:15.3
    1965 3:12.5
    1966 3:15.2

    Synthetic 4 x 440 yds 1967-1975

    1967 3:06.9
    1968 3:06.1
    1969 3:07.2
    1970 3:07.9
    1971 3:07.9
    1972 3:03.1
    1973 3:10.9
    1974 3:05.3
    1975 3:09.0

    I guess the surface makes a difference.

  3. Jeff Davison - May 24, 2014

    Masters field event record holder
    Tom Patsalis – trained with him while they attended USC.

    My dad ran against him while they were in college. My dad remembers his legend very well.

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