One of only two teams in Wesleyan athletic history to go undefeated over a span of four consecutive seasons, the men’s track and field squads went a collective 27-0-1 from 1952–55. Under the guidance of Head Coach Fritz Martin, who also served as chairman of the department of physical education, these teams conquered Amherst and Williams four years in a row to claim the Little Three title each time.
The 1953 season gave rise to the closest results during the four years as Wesleyan tied Springfield, 67.5-67.5 on April 18, then defeated Amherst by a single point, 68-67 on May 2. Against Amherst, Wesleyan had 67 points going into the last event, the javelin, and secured the necessary third-place finish from Bob Muir ’54 for the triumph. His third-place throw against Springfield also was the team’s final point for the tie, though newspaper accounts indicate his toss was just inches shy of second place, which would have given Wesleyan a win.
Three individuals on the team were responsible for bringing home five New England titles during their careers. In 1953, Bill Ellis ’53 captured both the 100-yard and 220-yard dashes. Lew Thorgerson (Tappan) ’55 was the regional 880-yard champion in 1954, joined by Bill Ranscht ’54 in the 220-yard low hurdles. Thorgerson (Tappan) repeated as half-mile champ in 1955.
With a win over Trinity to end the 1951 campaign and another one to start the 1956 season, the duration of the unbeaten streak spanned 30 dual opponents collectively over a six-season period.
1952 Track and Field Team
Front Row: John B. Timberlake, Harold O. Locke, Joseph H. Moll, Donald S. Harry, Charles R. Brown, Frank L. Soule Jr., Joseph G. Buchman
Middle Row: Manager Theodore Shapiro, Victor A. Glazer, William A. Morrill, Allen M. Stuhl, Thomas R. Soukup (Co-Captain), George A. MacIver (Co-Captain), Donn W. Maurer, Robert L. Hadley, William W. Ellis Back Row: Asst. Coach O’Hanlon, John P. Remensnyder, Joseph S. Lunn, Robert L. McMahon, Carter B. Hearn, Alan C. Schneeberger, William F. Ranscht, Robert Muir, George W. Ray, John W. Miller, James D. Griffis, Head Coach Fritz Martin
Missing From Photo: George A. James, Howard K. Kummer
The 1952 track team opened the season with a dominant performance in its first and only indoor meet of the year. The Cardinals mauled WPI, nearly doubling their score, 65 2/3 – 33 1/3. The Wesmen compiled a total of eight first place finishes, six seconds, and seven thirds.
In their first outdoor meet, the cindermen had a decisive win over Coast Guard, 90 – 45. The Cards won 11 of the 15 events. Bill Ellis and Bill Ranscht led the way with two wins each. Ellis won the 100- and 220-yard dashes, and Ranscht took the 220-yard low hurdles and high jump.
The closest result of the year was still a 15-point Cardinal victory at the expense of the Springfield Gymnasts, 75-60. Again, Bill Ellis won the 100 and 220, while co-captain George MacIver and John Remensnyder were also outstanding for the Wesmen.
With an easy win over Williams on May 2, and another over Amherst seven days later, Wesleyan won its first of four consecutive Little Three titles. Outstanding sprinter Bill Ellis won the 100 and 220 in both meets yet again. The two-mile run was another event that the Cards dominated with Joe Proud winning and co-captain Tom Soukup taking second in both meets.
The cindermen finished their first undefeated season since 1947 with the most decisive victory of the year, a 52-point win over Trinity. Wesleyan won 10 of the 15 events, sweeping five of them. Also staying undefeated was sprinter Bill Ellis, who again won the 100 and 220, making it six straight meets that he won both events.
1953 Track and Field Team
Front Row: Daniel M. Phillips, Harold O. Locke, William C. Gordon, Charles R. Brown, Donald S. Harry, Frank L. Soule Jr., Joseph G. Buchman, John W. Miller, Joseph S. Alessi
Back Row: Asst. Manager Curtis P. McLaughlin, Asst. Coach Elespuru, Robert G. Frazer, Richard J. Congleton, Victor A. Glazer, Robert Muir, Lewis S. Thorgerson (Tappan), George W. Ray, Charles F. Smith Jr., William H. Young, Head Coach Fritz Martin, Asst. Coach Johnson
Missing From Photo: Benjamin A. DiIorio, William W. Ellis (Captain), Joel D. Finegan, Joseph S. Lunn, William F. Ranscht, John P. Remensnyder
The opening meet of the ’53 season was the only indoor meet of the year. The Wes trackmen ran rampant against UMass, downing the visitors by an 87-25 margin in the Cage. Bill Ranscht was the individual star for the Cardinals as he captured two first places and tied for another. His victory in the 45-yard high hurdles tied the school record of 6.1 seconds. Bill Ellis also tied a school record with a time of 5.1 seconds in the 45-yard dash.
The only meet that the Cardinals did not win from ’52-’55 was a 67.5-67.5 tie with Springfield. Continuing his trend from last season, Bill Ellis won both the 100- and 220-yard dashes. It was the last event of the meet that cost the Cardinals their eighth straight win. Bob Muir, already having won the pole vault, gave it everything he had, but failed by inches to provide the necessary second-place points in the javelin the Cards needed for a win.
The next two meets gave rise to a couple of very impressive performances from sophomore sensation Lew Thorgerson (Tappan). He won the mile and the half-mile run against Amherst, a meet Wesleyan won by only one point, then broke the 59-year-old school record in the mile against UConn with a 4:24.6 performance.
The remaining two meets were easy wins for Wesleyan over Coast Guard and Trinity. Thorgerson (Tappan) broke his own record in the 880-yard run and finished undefeated for the year in that event.
After winning both the 100 and 220 in nine out of 10 outdoor meets between ’52-’53, Ellis capped off his career in the most fitting way, by winning both events at the New England Championships.
1954 Track and Field Team
Front Row: Rocco R. Fazio, David J. Cox, James W. Gramentine, Robert A. Seymour, William F. Ranscht (Captain), Benjamin A. DiIorio, Richard W. Bauer, William C. Gordon
Middle Row: Hickox, Head Coach Fritz Martin, Manager Curtis P. McLaughlin, Orlando T. Hines, Alan H. Haas, Walter C. Dueger, Lawrence A. Wold, Richard J. Congleton, Joel D. Finegan, Victor A. Glazer, George W. Ray, Asst. Manager Bradford H. Miter, Asst. Coach Elespuru
Back Row: Gordon W. Krauss, Michael S. Cohen, John W. MacFarlane, William H. Young, Lewis S. Thorgerson (Tappan), Charles F. Smith Jr., John A. Dunn Jr., James D. Griffis, John F. Mosher Jr.
Missing From Photo: Robert Muir, William B. Rush
The Wes trackmen looked to continue their undefeated streak into a third straight year and did so in record-breaking fashion. In the first meet of the year Ben DiIorio broke the school record in the shot put, and the Cardinals had three double winners who set the pace for an outstanding year. Ben DiIorio went on to break his own shot put record several more times in ’54.
Captain Bill Ranscht was undefeated all year in the 120-yard high hurdles and the 220-yard low hurdles. Ranscht won the New England title in the 220 lows, and placed second in the 120 highs. Ranscht capped off an impressive career by amassing a team high 114 points in his senior season. The star hurdler was undefeated over his last two seasons in the 220 low hurdles, and lost the 120 high hurdles just once in that time period.
Junior star Lew Thorgerson (Tappan) broke two school records (the 440 and 880-yard events) over the course of the ’54 season to add to the record he set in the mile a year earlier. Even more impressive was when “Thorgy” broke the 880 record in the New England Championships. With a time of 1:51.5, he tied for the fastest time in the nation that year. He would then better that clocking when he placed third at the IC4A meet in 1:51.2.
1955 Track and Field Team
Front Row: Gary B. Rundle, Anthony Austin, Dale R. Lott, Robert A. Seymour, John A. Fitz-Gerald, Roger M. Nelson, Frederic E. Fischer, David J. Cox,
Middle Row: Richard W. Bauer, Herbert H. Hinman, William H. Young, Richard G. Sanderson, Charles F. Smith Jr., Lewis S. Thorgersen (Tappan) (Captain), Benjamin A. DiIorio, William C. Gordon, John F. Mosher Jr., Rocco R. Fazio, Miller, James W. Gramentine
Back Row: Head Coach Fritz Martin, Asst. Manager Robert F. Bowman Jr., Emilio L. Roma III, Gordon W. Krauss, Walter R. Morgan, John W. MacFarlane, John A. Dunn Jr., Richard F. Boyden, Frederick P. Boynton III, William B. Rush, Thomas H. Connell, Edward E. Johnson, Alan H. Haas, Richard A. Jaynes, Peter B. Johnson, Manager Bradford H. Miter, Asst. Coach Elespuru
Missing From Photo: Layton G. Wilson
Continuing the trend from last season, the ’55 season was also one for record-breaking. Ben DiIorio broke his own school record in the shot put several more times while winning that event in nearly every meet.
Captain Lew Thorgerson (Tappan) broke his own school record in the mile run (4:22.4) and was a double winner in almost every outing. He ended his stellar track career at Wesleyan by winning a New England title in the 880-yard run for a second straight season while also setting a Bates Garcelon Field record in Lewiston, Maine.
Bill Rush picked up for the graduated New England champ Bill Ranscht and went undefeated in both the 120-yard high hurdles and the 220-yard low hurdles all season. This made it three straight seasons that Wesleyan had not lost the 220 low hurdles event with Ranscht or Rush in the lineup.
The Cardinals won their fourth straight Little Three title in fairly easy fashion, with the closest meet of the year a 75-60 victory over Williams.