Geneseo athletic department receives souvenirs from 1952 track athlete

Claudia Loucks
A former Geneseo athlete recently donated his track souvenirs to the Geneseo Athletic Department. The photo was taken at the presentation and includes, from left, Cooper Schaad, sophomore pole vaulter at GHS; Malakai Schaad, senior pole vault record holder who set the current record of 16’ in 2021; Jeff Johnson, GHS graduate who set the GHS pole vault record in 1966; Gayle Anderson of Fishers, Ind., who set the GHS pole vault record at the Palatine Relays in May of 1952 with a jump of 12’ ¼”, a record that remained unbroken for 14 years; Arthur Atwell, former pole vault record holder who helps coach the current GHS track team; and Matt Deets, current GHS track coach, who commented on Schaad’s jump and said, “Malakai’s record jump was incredible because he got 15’ 9” on his third attempt and then cleared 16’ on his third attempt as well.”

The Geneseo High School Athletic Department recently was honored with a visit from a 1952 GHS graduate who was an elite athlete at Geneseo High School, and set a pole vault record in his senior year. .

Gayle Anderson traveled from Fishers, IN, where he currently resides, to GHS to visit with current coaches and athletes, and he also gave the Athletic Department the treasured souvenirs he received for his accomplishments while a student at GHS.

Anderson, now age 88, presented Athletic Director Joe Nichols with the bamboo pole and track shoes that he used in competition during his track seasons at Geneseo. He set the GHS pole vault record in his senior year at the Palatine Relays in May of 1952, with a jump of 12’ ¼”, a record that remained unbroken for 14 years. The record was broken by Jeff Johnson, who set a pole vault record at GHS in 1966.

In addition to setting a pole vault record, Anderson also earned six varsity letters – two each for football, basketball and track, all of which he presented to the GHS Athletic Department along with the three sophomore letters and three freshman letters he earned at GHS. He also gave the department his “varsity letter sweater.”

He was the quarterback for the GHS Varsity Football Team in the 1950 and 1951 seasons.

Anderson made the decision to give his memorabilia to his high school alma mater…”I’ve been out of high school 70 years this year, 2022, so my wife and I talked about it and since we are getting up in age, we thought maybe the high school would want these things, so we took them there.”

He shared how he came to have the bamboo pole and said, “John McCormick was the athletic director and track coach when I was in high school. At the end of my freshman year, Coach McCormick gave me the bamboo pole and said, ‘Gayle, go home and practice this summer,’ and that’s what I did.”

In receiving the souvenirs from Anderson, GHS Athletic Director Nichols thanked Anderson for his visit to GHS and for his donation and said, “Mr. Anderson, please rest assured that your donations are much appreciated and will find a permanent home in the Geneseo Sports Memorabilia collection. We are honored that you would entrust your treasured high school items to us. It is our sincere pleasure to meet you today, have a chance to hear about your Geneseo athletic history, and accept your vaulting pole, shoes, letter sweater and your freshman, sophomore and varsity letters.”

Anderson also qualified for the Illinois State Track Meet with a jump of 11’ 6” in 1952.

During the 1952 track season, he was one of the top pole vaulters in the State, but was unable to compete in the State Finals due to a broken ankle which he incurred after qualifying for the State Finals at the District Track Meet which was held in Rock Island.

“That qualified me for the State Track Meet that was held in Champaign and that particular weekend, it rained so we vaulted in the Armory at the University of Illinois,” he said. “Of the 50 who went from District to the State Meet, there were 11 of us who qualified for the finals on Saturday. I broke my ankle warming up for the finals on Saturday.”

Anderson recalled what Coach McCormick said when he was interviewed for his induction into the Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame in 1991, McCormick recognized Anderson during the interview by stating, “Gayle Anderson had a fighting chance for a State title in pole vault. Anderson, however, broke his leg in preliminary competition and did not get a chance to vault. Back then, the vaulters and jumpers landed in a sand pit rather than the cushion we have today. Anderson came down on a retaining board that lined the pit and suffered a hairline facture in his leg. He was a good little vaulter and looked as good as any of them on that day.”

After graduating from GHS in 1952, Anderson worked for Stanley Engineering in Muscatine, Iowa, for one year. He later attended Augustana College on a part time basis and worked part time.

He later enrolled at Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, to study engineering and after just a quarter of one semester, he said, “It was a bad time, my Mother was ill and she passed away during finals week.”

In 1956, Anderson planned to return to Iowa State to complete his education, but was drafted into the U.S. Army and he served for two years. He then returned to Iowa State where he earned a degree in engineering.

He worked for Corn Products in Pekin and enrolled at Bradley University in Peoria where he earned a Master’s Degree in Business.

After moving to Milwaukee, WI, Anderson built a plant to manufacture Zein, a product found in field corn that is used as a coating for pharmaceutical tablets, he explained.

He also built two process plants for Colorcom Inc., and later established his own engineering firm, GNA Inc., which he operated for 20 years, retiring in 2005.

Anderson was accompanied to Geneseo High School by his wife, Phyllis Anderson; his daughters, Jolene Bracale and Jill Dietz, and son-in-law, Andy Dietz, all from Fishers, IN, which is a suburb of Indianapolis.