Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Keegan: Great Santee speaks


The great Wes Santee knows greatness when he sees it. Other than during his morning shave, it sounds as if he didn't see much of it during a recent trip to Eugene, Ore., for the Olympic trials.

Santee, who resides in El Dorado, spent a good part of Tuesday in Lawrence and shared his thoughts on the state of distance running in the United States.

I asked the Great Santee: Was there any one runner who really impressed you?

"In all honesty, no," Santee said.

How did Alan Webb, the nation's most famous active distance runner, do?

"He didn't do," Santee said.

He placed fifth.

A former Marine, Santee thinks he might have put his finger on the lack of predictable excellence among U.S. distance runners.

"One thing that was obvious to me, and I didn't know what to think of it, there were almost no college athletes there," Santee said. "Very, very few. All you saw were athletes being paid $150,000 or more a year with 'Nike' or some company across their chests. As I watched this and looked back at the times these athletes are running, there's nothing consistent about what they're doing. I don't like picking on Alan Webb particularly, but he broke Jim Ryun's high school record, started college but dropped out and took a deal from Nike. There's no structure to their training."

The Great Santee also bemoaned the lack of structure outside of training in the lives of the athletes.

"Now back in my day, the people who got out of school belonged to the New York Athletic Club or the Los Angeles Athletic Club," Santee said. "There was a little bit of structure in that in that they got up every morning and did some workout but also had to go to work, which is like the college athlete going to class, and then they would take off early in the afternoon to work out, which is also like the college kids. But when you don't have that type of coaching and structure, I think we're in trouble for reaching the potential for these athletes."

The prevalence of performance-enhancing drugs also has soured Santee on the sport that made him world famous.

"I was told on fairly good authority that a lot of them are still involved in that," Santee said. "Apparently there is some kind of enhancement that they can take, and if they wait a certain number of days it won't show up. What happened to hard work or good discipline? ... I don't know how we stop this. You've got some type of drug enhancement in all the sports. Everybody wants to be bigger and better in all the sports."

Santee believes in a different method of making men out of boys and not just track athletes.

"Frankly, I think all kids ought to have to spend two years of either military duty or public service that in most cases would teach them good discipline," said the Great Santee, who competed in the 5,000 meters in the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland.

Santee attended the Olympic trials at the request of other past running greats who want to produce a DVD to promote distance running. As for the Olympic Games in Beijing?

"I have no interest in going to China," he said.


Eurekahwk 11 years, 11 months ago

Hearing Wes Santee rip on athletes for getting paid is hypocritical. He was stripped of Pro-Am medals for the very same reason. I agree that it must tear him up to see KU giving Track and Field the punt when they've got more National Titles than football. And yet somehow they have less right to that facility.

FlaHawk 11 years, 11 months ago

Wes Santee was a great one at KU. I amsure the Olympic trials and the KU sneak peak at the demise of the KU RElays really hurt him. He is a legand but his time and influence has ebbed considerable.So sad to see the golden era of KU Track disappear!

KUDB99 11 years, 11 months ago

What a hypocrite.....Keegan, you should do some research before you refer to someone as "great". A "great" person doesn't throw races for money. A "great" athlete doesn't lie, cheat, and blame everyone else. Wes Santee is about as far from a "great" person and athlete as anyone can be.This is the only person I can think of in the KU HOF that really should be removed. For shame....

lilsuzy 11 years, 11 months ago

I'm not sure where you get your information "KUD" but you know not of what you speak. He never threw a race, that was never the contention, if you knew any facts of what happened with the AAU you would know that, besides the fact that Wes wouldn't throw a race for anything, you obviously don't know just how competitive he was and how important it was to him for KU to win, for his team to win, the personal glory he got from that was icing on the cake. He ran 4-5 races every meet and still set world records left and right, something that other athletes at the time and now do not have to do. So maybe you should first find out the facts, from folks in the industry and see just how "tarnished" you think he is, your opinion drips of jealousy and nothing more. Great he is, but not just at a time when he ran in the mud and the muck and still broke records, but he is a fine person and if you had any real life experience with him, you would know that. It's easy to sit behind a monitor and throw baseless insults as if they are somehow true. Be a man, own up to where you get your false allegations, then maybe I can set you straight. That is if you really want to know the truth.

lilsuzy 11 years, 11 months ago

Eurekahwk said "Hearing Wes Santee rip on athletes for getting paid is hypocritical. He was stripped of Pro-Am medals for the very same reason."Now if you really know what happened 50 yrs ago, then you know your statement is an extreme over simplification of what happened. And Wes's main point was not that they were getting paid, it was that they were dropping out of college and taking the check, and therefore in his opinion that changes track and field and not in a good way. He wasn't begrudging anyone making money, he was talking about the lack of dicipline and drive the athletes have. And the fact that there were 3 people there in their school uniforms, that is very different from the way it used to be. But then everything and anyone can be bought today in sports, that's what he was showing disapointment at.

speedy 11 years, 8 months ago

now i could be wrong and i,ll take the blame if i am. as i understood the problem was that wes kept the small airline ticket price fee because his wife did not go along. true/false? one aau body cleared him but the east coast ..... found him guilty and banned him. he was within less than a second of becoming the first under 4 min in the mile. hense r. banister got there first. how many of todays runners could beat his frat in a relay race from perry to law.? AND he did not use drugs! and no i never did outrun him. but i tried.

speedy 11 years, 8 months ago

a final comment. hunger. thats whats missing in too many runners gut. they just do not want IT bad enough to put out the effort in training and in a race. in todays world some runners get appearence money just to help with the gate and prestige for the meet. it might get it onto TV. show up ,run a 3:50 or so m mile,finish back in the pack and claim you tried. webb has been a bust most of his career. he runs on artf. surface not cinders. another in a long line of underachievers. we need more billy mills!

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