Wes Santee, Chased first sub-4 minute mile, RIP, by Walt Murphy, note by Larry Eder

The Perfect Mile

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At the time, it was John Landy, Roger Bannister and one lone American, Wes Santee, chasing the sub four minute mile. Santee ran a 4:00.5 for the mile! The book, the Perfect Mile, by Neal Bascomb, tells the story of these three men, who were followed world wide, in wonderful detail.

Through Wes's friend, Timothy Champman, I found out that Wes Santee had cancer, which he learnt about less than a year ago. Wes died yesterday, in the company of his family. He was 78.

Keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers. He was one of the great ones!
Walt Murphy's News and Results Service  ([email protected])
(c)Copyright 2010-all rights reserved. May not be reprinted or retransmitted without permission

Hall-of-Famer Wes Santee, who was a key player, along with Roger Bannister and John Landy, in the chase for the first sub-4 minute mile, died Sunday at his home in Eureka, Kan. He was 78.

NY Times Obituary by Frank Litsky

While he never did break 4-minutes, Santee did set four American Records in the mile and wound up with a lifetime best of 4:00.5. Aming his many other accomplishments, he was the 1953 NCAA        X-Country Champion and led Kansas to the team title that year.

The battle for the first 4-minute mile was chronicled in Neal Bascomb's bok, "The Perfect Mile"

Santee was involved in one of the more bizarre races of all time. From my "This Day in Track & Field" archives:
The Wanamaker Mile at the 1955 Millrose Games produced a World Record,  but most of the 16,000 fans in attendance didn't see Denmark's Gunnar Nielsen break the tape in 4:03.6. Their attention was focused on the battle that was going on behind him between two of the best Americans, Wes Santee and Villanova's Fred Dwyer. The race is #3 on Meet Director Emeritus Howard Schmertz's list of (
"My 10 Most Memorable Millrose Moments") and here is how he remembers that night. "The 1955 Wanamaker Mile was a World Indoor Record race, which fact alone would make it a memorable one. But it is my Most Memorable Millrose running event not because of the record, but because it was a world record that very few of the 16,000 spectators witnessed. One week previous, Wes Santee, America's top miler, had defeated Gunnar Nielsen by 40 yards in the Boston A.A. Games, creating a World Indoor Record of 4:03.8. His time smashed the record of 4:05.3 set by Gil Dodds in the 1948 Wanamaker Mile. In the 1955 Wanamaker, a fast early pace indicated that Santee's week-old record might fall. With a half-lap to go, Santee led, trailed by Fred Dwyer and Nielsen. Suddenly Nielsen charged past Dwyer and Santee and set sail for home. At the end of the back stretch, as the tiring Santee veered out in a vain attempt to hold off Nielsen, Dwyer, trying to catch Nielsen, attempted to pass Santee on the inside. As Dwyer came abreast of Santee, Wes moved in, forcing Fred off the track and into the infield.  Dwyer, unable to regain the track, ran the last turn in the infield and at the head of the stretch came back on the track ahead of Santee. In frustration, Santee grabbed Dwyer's shoulder and Dwyer wrapped his arms around Santee's waist. To the amazement of the crowd, the two pirouetted down the homestretch.  Nielsen, well out in front and virtually unnoticed, broke the tape with a world record 4:03.6.  Dwyer came out of his clinch with Santee to finish second but was disqualified for running in the infield. No wilder race has ever been seen in the Garden."
SI Vault: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1146313/index.htm

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