Reminiscing About a Record-Setting Track Career

 

By Robert Gillespie
 

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Cliff Veysey '36

As a youngster, Cliff Veysey '36 ran 12 to 15 miles every day, rain or shine, at a five-minute mile pace on the roads of New Sharon, Maine, hoping publicity might earn him a college scholarship.

Publicity? Somebody once phoned his mother to tell her what her son was up to. "They think you're nuts, running," he recalled at the C Club celebration. He'd duck off the road when a car came along.

#cclub932#right#40%#At his first race, his mother watched unhappily even though he was first across the finish line. Other runners "were coming in and falling on their faces," Veysey said. Mother Veysey beckoned him over. "No more!" she said. "You dumb fool."

But headlines followed more victories, and track coach Mike Ryan plucked Veysey for Colby, where he became one of the College's great track and cross-country runners. In May 1935 at the Eastern Intercollegiate Track and Field Meet in Worcester, Mass., Veysey set a meet record in the mile (4:22) and won the two-mile race (9:41.6), marks that stood as Colby records until 1967. "I had a nice time. I enjoyed every minute of it," Veysey said. "I wasn't very serious."

Don't believe it.

In the fall of 1933 Veysey finished third in the IC4A National Cross-Country Championship at Van Cortlandt Park in New York and was third in the National Intercollegiate Cross Country race. The following fall he won the New England cross-country championship in Boston and took second in the National Intercollegiate Cross Country event. In 1935 he won the state cross-country race for the third straight year but missed the nationals with a leg injury.

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Cliff Veysey in 1935, at the height of his Colby running career.
His best track events were the two-mile and 10,000-meter races. He ran before 18,000 people at the 8th Avenue Arena in New York in March 1934, finishing second in the 3,000. In May the following year he won the two-mile race at the New England Championships in Springfield, Mass.

And he bested some of the biggest names of his era-Tom Ottey of Michigan State, Penn's Gene Venske and two-time Boston Marathon winner Johnny Kelley. Veysey ran four or five marathons, including the Boston Marathon in 1935. "I wasn't last," he recalled, as modest today about his accomplishments as he was 70 years ago.

After school ended in 1936 he prepared for the Berlin Olympic Games, running 10,000-meter track races all across the country. In the final event at Princeton, Don Lash "scorched me," Veysey said. "I was beating his time all spring, but he

ran like a deer." Only the winner went to the Olympics.

Veysey competed in his last race in the late '30s while in the military. During World War II he served as a staff sergeant in the South Pacific and Okinawa.

The father of two daughters and a son, Veysey owned a general contracting business in Glens Falls, N.Y., where he still lives and where his son, Wesley, runs the company today. Now 93, Veysey lost his left leg below the knee to an aneurysm in 1993, but the Veysey running gene has been passed on. Granddaughter Meredith Veysey was preparing for her first Boston Marathon in April.