Truex: a hidden Lima gem

Mark Altstaetter - Guest Columnist

For many years, many middle-distance runners attempted to break the four-minute barrier in the mile, a feat that seemed nearly impossible.

Finally, on May 6, 1954, a British middle-distance runner and neurologist named Roger Bannister, finally accomplished this incredible feat, clocking a time of three minutes, 59.4 seconds.

However, Bannister’s record lasted just 46 days.

Before Bannister’s record-breaking performance in the mile, there was a young middle-distance runner here in Lima named Leonard Truex, who was setting records himself.

Truex, who attended Lima Central High School, quickly made a name for himself, finishing second in the mile at the 1948 state track meet in a time of 4:28.4.

Truex went on to compete collegiately at Ohio State, where he was a standout in most of the middle-distance events.

Truex never clocked a sub-four-minute mile. However, he did become one of the best middle-distance runners at Ohio State during his era.

For all his accolades, Truex was inducted into the Ohio Track and Cross-Country Coaches Hall of Fame this past weekend in Columbus.

Before heading to Ohio State, Truex (a senior at Central) was invited by the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country (OATC) in 1948 to represent Team Ohio in what was an early version of today’s Midwest Meet of the Champions. He defeated the top seniors from Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois at that meet.

Truex went on to compete at the Junior Nationals (1948), where he finished sixth in the 1,500 meters (4:04). Truex was the only high school athlete to compete at this prestigious meet.

From there, Truex went on to become one of Ohio State’s pioneers in middle-distance running.

His first season as a Buckeye, Truex set the freshman record in the outdoor mile (4:23.8). His best time in the mile came during his junior season (4:09.7).

At the 1951 Big Ten Championships, Truex became the first ever Buckeye to win the mile.

The three-time All-American also won the 1950 NCAA 880-yard run (1:50.9) and the 1951 AAU 1,500-meter title (3:52).

Unfortunately for Truex, a severe case of the mumps kept him out of the 1952 indoor track season. Truex also had a lingering case of the flu that hampered his outdoor season in the spring.

Despite all the adversity, Truex competed in the 1,500 meters at the 1952 Olympic Trials, where he finished fourth, just one spot off from qualifying for the Helsinki Olympics.

Truex continued to compete for the Air Force from 1954-56, where he set his personal best in the mile (4:07).

Truex also was inducted into Lima Senior’s first Athletic Hall of Fame in February, 2018. Lima Central High School and Lima South High School merged to become Lima Senior in 1955.

Leonard and his wife Sonya still reside in Lima

Mark Altstaetter

Guest Columnist

Post navigation