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Clem Wilson

         

            Prof: What are the three great races of mankind?
            Mut: Hundred, two-twenty and quarter.

                                  --Coe College Cosmos "Locals," February 12, 1912
 

When 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 the area. 

Wilson's 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."

After a 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.

The very 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.

In the 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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