Hall of Fame 2010 - Mel Larson Profile
City: Ames, Iowa
Mel has had a major impact on Senior Track & Field in Iowa but his influence has stretched far beyond our borders. He has represented Iowa at the National Championships all over the country and then represented the U.S. in every World Championships since 1989. His fast legs have taken him to Finland, Japan, Australia, England, Spain and Italy. In 11 years of competing in the Iowa Senior Olympics Mel has stepped to the starting line 27 times and won 27 Gold Medals. He isn’t sure how many medals he has won at the Nationals Championships but is comfortable saying that he has taken home 15 – 20 medals at World Championships. 13 – 15 World Records have had his name next to them over the years.
Mel was an outstanding track athlete while in college. He earned All-American Honors in the Long Jump at the NCAA Championships in 1945. After graduation he started work as an Engineer and didn’t compete again for nearly 40 years. When he was living in Springfield, Illinois in 1987 he competed in a State competition and went to the National Championships in St. Louis. Later that year he set his first World Record, leaping 16-5 in the long jump indoors. The record for the 65+ age group has stood for many years.
With all the high level competitions there are many memories to celebrate. It is interesting that one of the first memories is not a completely positive one. His first World Championships was in Eugene, Oregon and Mel was in top form. There were 4 rounds of competition for the 100 meter dash and Mel had the fastest time in each of the first three rounds. In the finals his starting blocks weren’t adjusted correctly but he didn’t want to hold up the race and went with them the way they were. Despite closing on the other runners at the finish he came up on the short end of one of the closest races in the Championships, finishing 0.02 seconds out of first but taking 4th. He said, “I learned a lesson to make sure I have everything right before the race starts.”
One of Mel’s very positive memories happened at the World Championships in Japan in 1993. The Long Jump was the first event of the meet and had the undivided attention of the crowd and other competitors. With one jump remaining, Mel had the event won with a leap of 16-11. On his final attempt everyone was clapping for him and he landed well past the 17 foot mark, which would have been a World Record. Alas he barely fouled the jump but the support he had from people who didn’t even know him really stuck as a great memory.
Mel has spread the word for Senior competition since he moved back to Ames, Iowa in 1997. He convinced the Iowa State track coach to have a race in every home meet for Senior athletes. Often the largest cheers of the competitions came for the “old guys” racing around the track, proud to show that competition and quality performances don’t end when you leave college. Anyone who has watched or competed against Mel over the years remember him as the one breaking the tape and setting records. But they also know him as the guy who has a smile on his face a quick shake of the hand and a good word of encouragement for the people he is running against.