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Wes Santee

record-setting college track star

Wes Santee

Wes Santee was born in Ashland, Kansas, in 1932. Growing up on a farm, Santee was subject to his father's often violent temper and frequently found himself the object of his father's wrath. Although the mistreatment may have inspired his passion for running, Santee never dwelt upon his growing up years as an adult.

Although his father had little use for education, he did not prevent Wes from attending the local schools, where he came to the attention of the local track coach. Once he had completed his preparatory education Santee's track coach secured him a place on the University of Kansas track and field team, where he would become a global sensation.

Like many middle-distance runners of his day, Santee dreamed of breaking the four-minute barrier for the mile run. Although he never succeeded in that dream, his ability to run in multiple events did help the University of Kansas win numerous track meets. For example, in one meet against California, he won the 880-yard dash in 1:51.5, the mile in 4:05.5 and ran a 48.0 440-yard relay leg. During his career at KU he set the world indoor record in the mile twice (4:04.9 in 1954 and 4:03.8 in 1955) and the 1,500-meter once (3:48.3 in 1955), set the outdoor 1,500-meter record at the 1956 Compton Invitational (3:42.8), and was an NCAA champion in cross country (1953), the 1,500-meter (1952, 1953 and 1955), the mile (1953), and the 5,000-meter (1952).

In 1952, Santee represented the United States in the 5,000-meter at the Olympic Games in Helsinki.

Santee was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2005. He died of cancer in Eureka, Kansas, on November 14, 2010.


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The Robinson Library >> Recreation >> Track and Field Athletics >> Biography

This page was last updated on September 24, 2017.