Boo Morcom

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Albert Richmond "Boo" Morcom (May 1, 1921 – October 3, 2012)[1] was an American track and field athlete.

Early career[edit]

He was born in Braintree, Massachusetts. While he is primarily known for his exploits in the pole vault event, he has demonstrated versatility in other events including long jump and high jump. He set several records at Braintree High School. At the age of 19 he was the best pole vaulter in the state of Massachusetts. He became known as "the Barefoot Boy" for his habit of high jumping with one shoe on and one shoe off. Then when he matriculated to the University of New Hampshire under coach Paul Sweet, the Boston newspaper sport pages would refer to him as "One Shoe Boo." His fame spread as he pole vaulted on an athletic tour of Canada with three other athletes including Babe Ruth.[2] In 1940 he took his athletic skills to the University of New Hampshire, where his record in the long jump lasted for 67 years.[3] But his studies were interrupted by World War II. Before departing for the conflict, he won the 1942 United States National Championships in the pole vault.[4] He also finished in second place in the high jump.[5] He returned to UNH to become the 1947 NCAA pole vault champion.[6] In 1950, he was recalled to the Army's 101st Airborne Division "Screaming Eagles" as an officer and Jumpmaster for the Korean War.[7]

Olympics[edit]

Morcom competed in the pole vault at the 1948 Summer Olympics for the United States,[8] finishing in 6th place after passing at lesser heights, then missing at the height the eventual winners would clear of 4.20 meters.[9] A week later he beat the winning height by 6 inches.[2] In 1949 he won his second United States national championship.[4]

He graduated with a degree in biology and went on to coach Track and Field at the University of Pennsylvania for 35 years before returning to coach in New Hampshire. He started one of the first high school track teams for girls in 1954 and opened the Penn athletic facilities to poor minority high school students.[2] In 1956, he was the coach of the USA Women's Olympic Track Team.

Masters[edit]

Morcom continued to compete in athletics as he advanced in age, competing in college meets through his 40s. As an early pioneer of masters athletics, he held the world record for the pole vault as he passed through each of the age divisions between age 50 and 70, plus world records in the high jump, long jump, decathlon, and pentathlon.[10][11] He continued to vault past age 75, still ranked number one.[12] He became well known for these activities, encountering, by his recollection, Jesse Owens, Wilt Chamberlain, and Jackie Robinson. He appeared on The Bob Hope Show.[2] He was inducted into the USATF Masters Hall of Fame in 1997.[13] He is also in the Braintree High School Athletic Hall of Fame, the UNH Athletic Hall of Fame, the Pole Vault Hall of Fame, the Massachusetts Track Coaches Hall of Fame, and as a coach in the Women's Track and Field Hall of Fame. In 1987, at the age of 66, he was still able to jump 12'6" in the pole vault, as high as any high school athlete in the state of New Hampshire.[14] He was given the New Hampshire Male Athlete of the Year Trophy.[7]

“I went to 105 different countries. I won records everywhere. I’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt and caught malaria.” “I would go to Canada, set a record, come home. My wife would have my bag packed, and 12 hours later I was in South America talking to Eva Peron.” “When we get to heaven, we’ll have a track meet, And everybody will be young and strong.”

Author and historian[edit]

Morcom was a member of Mensa International. He wrote articles on a range of subjects, from the Hale family of New Hampshire[15] to detailed antique bottles.[16]

References[edit]