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Quick feet in the hall
By Ian Ross
Time stands still for Western's appreciation for four of the greatest track athletes to sprint for gold in a Mustang uniform.
On Saturday, Western will induct its first athletes into the newly established Track and Field/Cross Country Hall of Fame. Former Mustangs Don Wright, Bob McFarlane, Don McFarlane and the late John Loaring will be honoured for their past displays of brilliance in the sport.
The McFarlane brothers both raced for five years (1946-50) at Western, dominating the university circuit and carried their talents to England for the 1948 Olympic Games. Don was a Canadian varsity and amateur champion in the 880-yard sprint and handed off the baton to his brother to break four Canadian relay records. Bob never lost to another Canadian during his days at Western and broke an additional seven national records ranging from the 300-yard indoor dash to the 1,000-yard indoor sprint. He was honoured with the 1950 Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada's top athlete.
"I think you are always surprised," Don said. "We had our day 40 or 50 years ago but I think this still compares to many of those past awards."
Another former Olympian was Loaring. At the 1936 Games in Berlin, he captured a silver medal in the 400 m hurdles and sixth in the 400 m dash.
Loaring's son John Jr. will receive the award for his father who passed away in 1969 of cancer. He said the award will be honoured by the family in memory of John Sr..
"It always feels good when your father is being remembered for his performances in the past," he said.
The eldest honouree is Don Wright at the age of 90. "The Ironman" competed in up to nine events during one day competitions between 1929 and 1933, rarely falling out of the medal count. His Mustang record of 6.91 m in the broad jump was left unchallenged for 44 years and still stands in the top 10, 70 years later.
"These are the top people," Wright said referring to his fellow honourees. "They were strong people and ran long races. Look at their records they were fantastic."
Wright thought the idea of a Hall of Fame was needed to spotlight a sport which does not get enough attention in Canada.
"Track and field doesn't get enough publicity because it doesn't last very long. It is ready, set and done in about 10 seconds for many events. It is not long enough to be considered a crowd pleaser."
The defining reason for the timing of the new honours is difficult to place a finger on, said Bob Vigars, Western's head coach of cross country and men's track and field.
"We've been thinking about it for a number of years," Vigars said. "Last fall, we finally decided to go for it."
The selection committee was composed of Western women's athletic coordinator Vicki Croley, long-time London Free Press reporter Bob Gage and track alumnist Jim Parker.
"I don't think they could have come up with better athletes," Vigars added.