Black History Month: A runner for the record books
Editor’s Note: As our nation celebrates Black History Month, this series in The Norwich Times looks at the accomplishments of some of the exceptional athletes from Norwich who attended NFA and were inducted into the NFA/Norwich Sports Hall of Fame. This is the third in our series.
Every small city has its share of fast runners, but how many can say they rose to national prominence? Here is the story of one with Norwich ties whose 1960s and 1970s exploits can still be found in the record books.
James Euell, Class of 1970
James Euell, known to all as Jim, will always be a part of any discussion about some of the greatest track athletes in Norwich history.
He was a member of the cross country team his sophomore, junior and senior years and the track team all four years of high school. As a senior, he was also a member of the Varsity N Club and traffic patrol. He received senior awards for Most Respected, Class Athlete, and the Century Cup.
In his junior year, during the 1968 cross country season, Euell set four course records in dual meets and went on to win the CDC meet in another course record. He continued to win the Eastern Sectional Meet, Class L Meet and the State Open title followed by a fourth-place finish in the New England meet, which was the best finish ever by an NFA runner in that meet.
The 1969 cross country season was more of the same as Euell again won the CDC, Class L and State Open titles; but this year he won the New England Championship while breaking that course record by 14 seconds.
It was in track where Euell showed great versatility. In 1970 during the indoor track season, he set the state record for the 1,000-yard run when he won the state title in 2:13.5, which was the seventh fastest high school time ever run.
In outdoor track in his junior year, Euell won the Class L and Open 880-yard titles and then raced to the New England Championship with a meet record of 1:52.3.
In his senior season, Euell focused on the mile. He won the CDC with a meet record time of 4:14.4, won the Class L title and at the open meet he set a state record in the mile with a time of 4:10.8. This is still the fastest time ever run at the State Open.
Euell then went to the Golden West Meet, which at the time was the National Championship meet, and finished fourth with a time of 4:10.1.
The 1970 NFA yearbook reads: “Jim Euell was the first NFA athlete to reign as New England High School Cross Country Champion, and he will be the last. His outstanding athletic achievements have brought much honor to his school, community, state, and some day perhaps his country.”
After NFA, Euell enrolled at Mesa Junior College in Arizona, where he earned All-American honors in cross-country and track. In 1971, he set the Mesa record in the 800 meters with a time of 1:49.3. That record still stands, according to the college’s website.
In 1972, Euell ran on the school record distance medley relay, and that mark has not been beaten, either.
Following Mesa, Euell enrolled at Kansas University where he was a varsity letter winner in 1973 and 1974 in both cross country and track. He has personal mile bests of 4:07.4 (indoors) and 4:05.8 (outdoors), and his personal best time in the 1,000-yard run is 2:10.24; which he ran in 1972 at the Northeast Louisiana Invitational in Monroe, La., which placed him No. 8 of the Top 10 performers. This is second by one-tenth of a second on the Kansas All-time list. In the cross country record book, he is listed as one of the NCAA Championship’s Top Performers in 1972, placing 51st with a time of 29:47.00.
Euell was honored as Sportsperson of the Year in 1969 by the Norwich Sports Hall of Fame, inducted into the NFA Sports Hall of Fame in 2002 and inducted into the Norwich Sports Hall of Fame in 2014; and is listed as among the 50th Anniversary Best of the Decades under Decade 6.
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