Maker of Champions

The record of a coach's triumphs and the astonishing string of successes won by his schoolboy protégée's

H. H. ROXBOROUGH September 1 1931

Maker of Champions

The record of a coach's triumphs and the astonishing string of successes won by his schoolboy protégée's

H. H. ROXBOROUGH September 1 1931

Maker of Champions

The record of a coach's triumphs and the astonishing string of successes won by his schoolboy protégée's


ON LABOR DAY, in the City of Winnipeg, the Canadian National Track and Field championships will be contested, and when the sprinters in the first heat of the one hundred yards race get “on their marks,” get “set" and leap with the flash from the starter’s gun, Canada’s first officially designated trial for the 1932 Olympic team will be under way.

This is pre-Olympiad year and throughout the world the nations are hastily mobilizing athletic armies, seeking the most talented performers, testing individual speed and strength, and focusing upon the likeliest the most intensive training and coaching. What are Canada’s chances likely to be in the race for championship honors?

You will recall that in the summer of 1928 the Dominion finished sixth among the forty nations competing at Amsterdam. Every Canadian remembers that the outstanding hero of the Ninth Olympiad was the twice-crowned sprinting sensation from Vancouver, Percy Williams. Every Canadian remembers, too, that the Canadian women’s team defeated the representatives of sixteen other nations and, like Alexander of old, emerged from the contest world-conquerors.

Can such a record be repeated at Los Angeles in 1932? Or bettered? What are the prospects?

On the unfavorable side we have the fact that practically the entire women’s championship team of 1928 has retired from track and field competition. Furthermore, the United States has developed a remarkable woman runner who has repeatedly beaten Canada's best; England, which was not represented in women's sport at Amsterdam, will likely respond to the call from California and the English are likely to be prominent also in jumping and throwing.

The men’s battalion of Canada s athletic army is not so likely to be riddled by retirements, but it will be forced to secure a successor to Percy Williams. Williams injured his leg at the Empire Games and apparently has not regained his former speed. Already this season he has suffered two defeats, finishing fourth in one race, and he is certainly not running so well as he did prior to 1928. Then, in all the years of the games no Olympic winner of either the KX) or 200 metre race has repeated his victory. It is. therefore, too much to expect that the Vancouver flash will again battle his wav to international leadership.

But Canada’s Olympic prospect should not be depicted as a gloomy one. for there are favorable omens not a few of which have been indicated during the past few weeks by that master athletic instructor, Captain J. R. Cornelius of Hamilton, Ontario. At a season when hope and optimism should prevail in our Olympic camp, it is well to recall the recent triumphs of this supercoach and his Central Collegiate boys.

About four months ago. in the City of PhilaL delphia, the University of Pennsylvania conducted its internationally recognized relay races; and so attracti /e and important have they become tliât

this year’s meet attracted more than thirty thousand spectators.

For these games the schoolboys of the United States had spent months in preparations and training, while the Central Collegiate team from Hamilton had been compelled to train mostly indoors, had lacked the competition available to most of the United States teams, and were further handicapped by the fact that every opposition coach had instructed his boys to stick to the Canadian quartette.

On the first day of the meet twenty of the most outstanding preparatory and high school teams on the continent were represented in the two mile medley relay race. After the first score of runners jumped from the mark, Fred Shaver, running the first half-mile leg for Hamilton, passed his baton to Gordon Winfield just five yards behind the leading runner from St. James Academy of Brooklyn. Winfield, in his quarter-mile gallop, not only recovered the initial loss but handed Bert Pearson a five-yard lead. ’ Pearson, a real sprinter and an Olympic possibility, increased this advantage to fifteen yards; and then Earle Moore began the last long leg of one mile.

On the first lap Moore tenaciously retained that fifteen yard margin, but then, amid the plaudits of the excited thousands who were pulling for a United States victory, the St. James Academy miler slowly but surely cut down that lead, yard by yard. He swung into the last lap with an advantage apparently sufficient to assure victory for the Stars and Stripes. With only one-eighth of a mile to go, the Brooklyn lad still showed ahead. But at that moment, with defeat imminent, Earle Moore quickened his pace, jumped his opponent, regained the lead, pulled away down the stretch and finished fifteen yards ahead of the second runner. In time only two seconds behind a world’s record, he grabbed for Canada an important schoolboy triumph.

Remember. United States, with six victories in eight Olympic relay events, has been recognized as a superior nation in this form of competition. Could this Cornelius-coached team invade the relay stronghold of the world, face quality and quantity and repeat its medley relay victory? It certainly could. On the day following the first triumph another Central Collegiate team finished a Ixing-up third in the one-mile relay; and then in the two-mile race the quartette from the Ambitious City quickly forged to the lead, held it throughout the journey, and won another international title.

With such achievements most coaches would have been content and would have gracefully withdrawn from further immediate competition, but

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Captain Cornelius believed he had a group of boys who were not only unbeatable but who could better the records in their relay specialties. So, a week later, the Hamilton tutor and his boys invaded the Ohio Relays, held annually at Columbus, Ohio.

Early in the day the one-mile team won another championship rather easily, but it was the two mile event in which they hoped to make their best showing. Prior to the start, Coach Cornelius reminded the boys that it was likely to be their last race as a team and told them to make it one they would never forget. They did. Moore grabbed a twenty-five yard lead, McGillvray stretched it to fifty, Winfield increased it to 170 yards, and, with 20.000 spectators cheering the display, Shaver lapped three teams on the final leg, finishing 220 yards ahead of the second runner. Despite the softness of the track and the absence of competition, the Hamilton boys broke the record for the preparatory school two-mile relay race by four-fifths of a second.

The successes at Philadelphia and Columbus, commendable as they were, do not, however, tell the whole story. The boys from Hamilton Central Collegiate know considerably more than relay racing. Early in June their versatility was strikingly demonstrated at Cornwall. Ontario, where the Canadian Interscholastic championships were conducted. At this important meet the Cornelius-inspired boys not only earned seventeen points more than the nearest competing team but they tied one Canadian schoolboy record and broke five others.

New Athletic Material Needed

THESE outstanding accomplishments in a pre-Olympic year considerably brighten our athletic horizon, but Canada possesses other talented athletes of international ability. Coach Cornelius is naturally proud of protégés such as Pearson, Shaver

and Moore. He is equally pleased, however, with “Ollie” Holland, his colored broadjumper, who early this summer covered twenty-three feet seven inches and thereby made a longer leap than any other Canadian in the past twenty-three years. The capable Scottish-Canadian tutor knows there are many more strings to our Olympic harp, and he emphasizes the possibilities of Ciernan, Smallcombe, Ravensdale, Crummer and Portland.

“Hank” Ciernan is a heel-and-toe marvel who holds most of the important walking championships of this continent.

Canada has not hitherto shown ability in the running hop, step and jump, but for 1932 she has one of the best hop-steppers in the world. This wonderful prospect answers to the name of “Spike” Smallcombe. At the Empire Carnes last year he covered forty-eight feet five inches, broke a Canadian record that had existed for twenty two years, and achieved a distance that would have won first place at five Olympiads.

Ever since 1920. when Earl Thompson, United States-trained but Canadian-born, established his hurdling records, Canada has not been prominent in these spectacular events. But now comes “Art” Ravensdale, a Cobourg lad who learned his hurdling in Ontario schools, later was adopted by Marquette University, and now is “topping the timbers” in such sensational style that he, trxi. is a “sure-fire” prospect.

Jack Portland of Collingwood is another lad whom Captain Cornelius especially admires. This schoolboy genius has exjx-rienced little difficulty in high-jumping over the six-foot mark. K. Crummer of Chatham, is so versatile and durable that he is almost a one-man team, and his record of eighteen points secured at Cornwall last June made him the individual schoolboy champion of Canada.

It is evident that, in addition to such stellar performers as Alex Wilson, Phil

Edwards, Jack and Pete Walters, and others of the 1928 team who are still actively competing, Canada has the nucleus of a new group who were not in action at Holland.

Championships of 1932 are not to be won on the performances of 1931, however, and unless this new cluster continues to train and improve our Olympic chances will be considerably reduced. That thought naturally leads us to a consideration of the work of such a man as Captain Cornelius whose record as a maker of champions has been, to say the least, remarkable.

Winning In Other Fields

SINCE 1922, regardless of the athletic material presented to him he has never suffered a championship famine. For eight successive years his boys have never known defeat in Canadian schoolboy championships; and rarely has there been a season when he has not gone to Uncle Sam’s choicest meets and brought “home the bacon.” One of the secrets of his success has been that he plans at least a year ahead. Last spring he had eighty-four boys in his junior track team, and already he has a relay team pointed for the 1932 invasion of the States which he thinks will be even faster than the record-smashers of 1931.

Planning, however, would have been insufficient without athletic knowledge. That he knows the art of running, jumping and throwing is evidenced by the fact that five members of the 1924 Olympic team and four members of the 1928 group were his pupils, and that two of the latter were Canadian point-winners. Also he was selected by the Olympic Committee to act as coach for both the Paris and the Amsterdam games, and after the Holland contests he was honored with the position of coach for the British Empire team in its athletic duel with United

Vision and accurate information would be

ineffective, however, without an inborn faculty for teaching the budding athlete. Unquestionably Cornelius is a super trainer. Apart altogether from track triumphs his influence has been exerted. Let me illustrate.

A few years ago the canny Scot, who had been an officer in the Queen’s Edinburgh Regiment and a war veteran, organized a cadet corps which at its peak mustered 345 members and began to teach them rifle shooting. And the riflemen were just as successful as his runners. Nearly every prize offered to cadets in Canada and the Empire has been won by Hamilton Central Collegiate cadets. Not only did they reach the peaks in cadet competition, but in 1927 five boys visited historic Bisley and competed in open competition against the best riflemen in the Empire. E. Matchett scored a possible at 500 yards and tied for first in the Daily Mail Trophy; Alex Hillson scored 104 out of 105 in the first stage of the King's Prize and tied for first place; J. D. Hunter finished in twenty-sixth place in the King's Prize final after more than a thousand others had been eliminated.

Not only lias Cornelius conquered on land; he has also been victorious on water. So well did he teach the science of rowing that his pupils speedily swept to victory, winning a Canadian rowing championship for I ligh School Fours.

The man seems to have the knack of excelling in whatever he undertakes. Professionally he was a musician, so he formed and taught a school military band comprising forty-eight pieces, then organized and directed the largest school orchestra on the continent. This seventy-two-piece orchestra, with every instrument except a harp, not only included five gold medalists but has won four championships, while the school choir lias also gained high awards at choral competitions. Rarely has any educator possessed teaching talent in a higher degree.

We need more coaches like Cornelius.