Class of 1912
What stands out when you first review the biography of long-sprint/middle-distance legend Ted Meredith is that not only did he win the 1912 Olympic 800 meters while still a prep, but that his world records that day of 1:51.9 (and 1:52.5 for 880 yards) stood as high school records for 45 and 42 years, respectively. Yes, no prep ran faster than those respective times until 1954/57.
At this point it bears mentioning that Meredith – born in November, 1891 – was 20 years old on that historic day in Stockholm, having gone from Media HS in Pennsylvania to Williamsburg Trade School and finishing college prep at Mercersburg Academy in 1912. But that hardly makes the achievement less impressive.
When Meredith first competed for Media in 1907 at age 15, he ran in his first Penn Relays – part of a runner-up 4×440, though he was more of an 880/mile type. When he returned to Penn in 1909 with Williamsburg, he was becoming a 3-sport star and helped the school to three relay titles. But it was in 1910 that Meredith really started to progress, running 51-1/5 seconds in the 440 – then #3 prep ever – and running 2:03-1/5 in the half. He finished at Williamsburg in April, 1911 and had a low-key track season.
Mercersburg coach Jimmy Curran – who served the school for 51 years – saw Meredith run and encouraged him to enroll, as he earned a working scholarship. In 1912, Meredith started maturing into the nation’s best young 400/800 runner, noted for having great “lung and leg power.” He twice lowered the prep 440 mark in the spring, to 49-1/5 and 48-4/5, and did the same in the 880, getting down to 1:54-2/5.
Coach Curran sent Meredith to the Eastern Olympic Trials at Harvard, where defending Olympic champ Mel Sheppard was the 800 favorite. Meredith finished a strong 3rd behind Sheppard and was chosen for the Stockholm team in both the 400 and 800. Against a stellar Olympic Final field, the young “Mercersburg Schoolboy” was the clear underdog, but he followed Sheppard’s surge on the second lap and had the best kick – winning by 18 inches and securing his place in history.
After Stockholm, Meredith headed to Penn, where he had a tremendous career, setting a variety of collegiate and world records, individually and as part of relays (and both indoors and out). Unfortunately, World War I caused the 1916 Berlin Olympics to be cancelled, when Meredith was in his prime. He retired in 1917 and joined the Army for 21 months of service. He made a comeback to win a spot on Team USA for the 1920 Olympics, but did not medal. Meredith, who passed away in 1957, is a member of the USATF Hall of Fame and the Penn Relays Wall of Fame.
Did You Know?
Ted Meredith’s 880y and 800m high school records each stood for more than 40 years.