Class of 1959
Warren Jay “Rex” Cawley was a versatile enough track and field athlete that he set a 100-yard dash record in 1959 at Farmington HS in Michigan that was never broken (9.7 seconds) … and also qualified for the Michigan state meet in the pole vault. Yet neither was really close to being his best event. Cawley was, first and foremost, an outstanding hurdler and as a junior in 1958 won his first state title in the 180y lows with a 19.0 clocking. He had yet to find his sweet spot and it was only a hint of what he would accomplish the following year.
Cawley’s strength and speed reached an apex his senior year and he rocked to national records at nearly every hurdle distance available to preps. He equaled the 120yHH mark at 13.9 and claimed the 110m (42”) standard with the same time (lasted six years). He improved at the 180s to 18.9/18.3w and at the 200mLH distance he clocked 23.0 twice – a mark never broken in a discontinued event. But it was a full lap of hurdling where Cawley really found his niche: He blasted to times of 51.5 440yH and 51.3 400mH that stood as national records for nine years and placed 6th in the Senior AAU meet. In fact, he became the first ever to place in all three hurdle events at AAUs, adding a 3rd in the 200mLH and 5th in 110mH.
Cawley’s 1959 campaign was so prodigious that he was named the Track and Field News Athlete of the Year. And his 1-lap hurdling was so good, in fact, that he World-ranked #5 (as well as #7 at the 110s). He attracted the attention of the USC Trojan powerhouse program across the country and headed there to continue his career and education. By 1963, he was the AAU and NCAA champ for the Trojans, setting the stage of the glory that would follow a year later.
At the 1964 Olympic Trials, Cawley crushed the World Record with a 49.1 clocking, establishing himself as the favorite for the Tokyo Games that followed. There he didn’t just win, he dominated – leading the way through all three rounds and taking the gold by a half-second in 49.6. And that was despite pulling a hamstring just before the Games. After track and field, Cawley worked in the medical/electronics industry and then as a travel agent after retiring.
Did You Know?
After high school, Rex Cawley twice ranked #1 in the world in the 400H by Track and Field News — including 1964 when he won Olympic Gold in Tokyo.