Wednesday, March 08, 2017

L. D. Weldon

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L. D. Weldon[a][1] (1908 – May 6, 1989)[2] was an American track and field coach. He trained decathletes, including two Olympic medal winners, 40 years apart.

Early career[edit]

A native of California, in 1925 Weldon moved to Graceland Academy in Lamoni, Iowa for the final two years of high school. He continued there to Graceland University for his first year of college before transferring to the University of Iowa. As an athlete at Graceland, he won the javelin throw at the nearby Drake Relays and at the Kansas Relays in 1928. After a year of forced ineligibility due to the change in schools, he returned in 1930 to again win the Drake Relays and Kansas Relays plus added the Texas Relays for the trifecta of the top competitions in the country.

Sacramento City College[edit]

After graduating Weldon found work coaching at Sacramento City College from 1931 to 1945. He was elected into the school's Hall of Fame in 1997.[3]
His first notable coaching success was Jack Parker, a farm boy from Lamoni, Iowa[4] who he recruited to Sacramento. In the summer of 1936, Weldon drove Parker to the decathlon Olympic Trials in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Parker finished in third place at the trials, qualifying him to participate in the 1936 Olympics. Against the best athletes in the world, the American team finished in the same order, with Parker taking the bronze medal.
Other athletes coached by Weldon included:
  • Tom Moore, who later achieved the world record in the 120 yard high hurdles after transferring to the University of California, Berkeley.[3]
  • Joe Batiste, who set the junior college record at Sacramento and won the national championship in the 120 yard high hurdles.[5] Batiste qualified for both the 1940 and 1944 Olympic teams, but there were no Olympics due to World War II. With Batiste as a multi-event star, Sacramento won the National Junior College Championship in both 1941 and 1942.[6][7]
  • Lou Nova was a member of Weldon's 1933 track team, but the coach advised him his best sport might be boxing. Nova took that advice. He beat former title holder Max Baer twice, the first time was the first televised boxing match in 1939. He later fought Joe Louis for the title before retiring to become an actor.[1]
During World War II, Weldon took over the Sacramento football team which was undefeated in 1941 and 1942. The team suffered just one loss in 1943.


In 1945, heart problems forced his retirement from coaching at Sacramento City College. For the next eight years he spent his time as a beekeeper and farm equipment salesman in Moorhead, Iowa. In 1953 he felt healthy enough to return to coaching at Amphitheater High School in Tucson, Arizona, the home town of his star athlete, Joe Batiste, while working on his master's degree at the University of Arizona.[1]
In 1959, Welton took a job as Athletic Director and track coach at one of his alma maters, Graceland University. While there his track teams dominated the Missouri College Athletic Union and later the Heart of America Athletic Conference, winning 11 conference titles in his 14 years at the school.[1]


The small school offered a $250 football scholarship to an athletic quarterback and water skiing champion from Connecticut named Bruce Jenner (now Caitlyn Jenner).[b] A knee injury in his first season required surgery on January 1, 1969.[9] Like he did with Lou Nova, Weldon suggested Jenner might try a different athletic pursuit, this time the decathlon. He began to train Jenner, whose first competition in 1970 was the nearby Drake Relays where he placed fifth.[10][11] A year later, Jenner was the NAIA Champion. The following year Jenner made the Olympic team by finishing third at the Olympic Trials representing Graceland.[12] At the 1972 Olympics, the first event to start after the Munich massacre was the decathlon. Jenner watched as Mykola Avilov beat Bill Toomey's world record while he finished in tenth place. But Jenner was encouraged in defeat. After Jenner graduated from Graceland, Weldon took on an emeritus position with the college while Jenner moved to San Jose, California and began an intense training regimen while continuing to correspond with Weldon. By 1974, Jenner was the USA National Champion. By 1975 he had surpassed Avilov's world record. Jenner set another record while winning the Olympic trials, though that was muddled in a timing malfunction in other heats. Jenner settled the problem by setting a new world record while winning the gold medal at the 1976 Olympics.[13] Jenner subsequently retired from athletics and went on to become an actor and celebrity.


  1. Jump up ^ His given name was in the form of initials.
  2. Jump up ^ Jenner changed her name due to gender transition in 2015.[8]


  1. ^ Jump up to: a b c d "Register Sports Hall of Fame Database - L.D. Weldon -". Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  2. Jump up ^
  3. ^ Jump up to: a b
  4. Jump up ^
  5. Jump up ^ "USA Track & Field - USA Outdoor Track & Field Champions". Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  6. Jump up ^ "Joe Batiste Pima County Sports Hall of Fame". Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  7. Jump up ^ [1] Eugene Register-Guard - May 31, 1942
  8. Jump up ^ Buzz Bissinger (June 1, 2015). "Introducing Caitlyn Jenner". Vanity Fair. Retrieved June 1, 2015. 
  9. Jump up ^ Holst, Don; Popp, Marcia S. (December 8, 2004). American Men of Olympic Track and Field: Interviews with Athletes and Coaches. McFarland & Company. pp. 53–62. ISBN 978-0-7864-1930-2. Retrieved July 13, 2014. 
  10. Jump up ^ Jenner, Bruce (April 1, 1999). Finding the Champion Within: A Step-by-Step Plan for Reaching Your Full Potential. Simon & Schuster. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-684-87037-3. Retrieved July 13, 2014. 
  11. Jump up ^ Murry R. Nelson, ed. (May 23, 2013). American Sports: A History of Icons, Idols, and Ideas: A History of Icons, Idols, and Ideas. ABC-CLIO. p. 611. ISBN 978-0-313-39753-0. Retrieved July 13, 2014. 
  12. Jump up ^ Richard Hymans (2008) The History of the United States Olympic trials – Track and Field. USA Track and Field
  13. Jump up ^ "Athletics at the 1976 Montréal Summer Games: Men's Decathlon". Retrieved April 2, 2014. 


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