Prof: What are the
three great races of mankind?
Hundred, two-twenty and quarter.
--Coe College Cosmos "Locals," February 12, 1912
Clement P. "Mut" Wilson, a boy from Mechanicsville, Iowa, was a
freshman at Coe in 1908, he was not yet eligible to compete with the
track team. However, he made his mark at Coe's home meet and the
Freshman Invitation Meet by winning all three dashes: the 100-yard, the
220-yard, and the 440-yard. The next year, in the spring of 1910, he
donned the Coe crimson and gold to become the most famous sprinter in
sophomore and junior years on the Coe track were even more exciting.
Tying and breaking many college and even world records, he only lost
three of the forty-three races he ran in. The track team that Coe
boasted in the spring of 1912 was particularly strong, led, but not
entirely dominated, by Captain Clem Wilson. This season, a freshman
named Bailey joined the Coe ranks whose running style was said to be
"almost identical to that of Wilson."
superb college season, including first place at the Drake Relay
Carnival and a new record on the 440-yard relay leg for Wilson, the
American Olympic Trials of 1912 were held in Evanston, Illinois, on
June 8. Wilson easily advanced to the final 100-meter dash. Wilson
overcame tripping and nearly falling on the track in the beginning
meters to win the race and earn a place at the Olympics.
afternoon following commencement, Wilson traveled east to begin his
training. The American Olympic athletes traveled to Stockholm on a
chartered steamer, which served as both hotel and training quarters for
the athletes upon its arrival in Sweden. On July 6, Wilson placed
second in the preliminary heat to an Englishman, after some
disagreement about the placing of the runners. Wilson also ran on the
400-meter relay team, which easily beat the English team, but was
disqualified on a technical violation. The home-town press was
indignant at the disqualification, calling Wilson a “victim of
circumstances.” Iowa was still proud of the “little Coe flyer,” and Mut
Wilson returned as a local hero to Cedar Rapids after the Games.
almost ninety years since Clem Wilson’s outstanding track achievements,
a legend arose that he earned a silver medal at the Olympic Games. A
plaque displayed in a trophy case at Eby Fieldhouse claims Wilson
placed second at Stockholm. A brief Courier article announcing his
death in 1983 is headlined: “Coe’s Only Olympic Medalist.” This
misinformation is apparently the result of confusion regarding
preliminary heats and final heats at the Games. Regardless of the false
legend, Clem Wilson was an outstanding athlete who deserves to have his
accomplishments remembered with honor.
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