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Academy in Pa. has Olympic tradition

August 03, 2008|By DON AINES

MERCERSBURG, PA. - Since 1900, more than 40 Mercersburg Academy students have gone on to compete in the Olympics - athletes who have collected 12 gold, five silver and three bronze medals in track and field and, more recently, swimming events.

"Everyone on the list is a Summer Olympian," academy Publications Director Lee Owen said. "We're really proud of having such an outstanding athletic history."

Basil Kaaki almost made the list for the 2008 Summer Olympics set to begin Friday in Beijing. Kaaki, who now swims for Penn State, recently fell short of making the Olympic team of his native Lebanon, a feat his older brother and fellow Mercersburg graduate, Abed, accomplished in 2004.

Beyond establishing a tradition of athletic excellence, Mercersburg Academy has an advantage most public schools do not: it draws students from across the nation and around the globe. There were students from 28 states and about as many countries making up its student population of about 430 last year, Owen said.

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Class of '97 - that's 1897 - graduate Walter Drumheller was the first academy alum in the Olympics, competing in 400-meter and 800-meter events in Paris in 1900, though he was not a medalist.

In the 1906 Olympics in Athens, Bob Leavitt of the class of 1903 picked up the first gold, edging England's Alfred Healey in the 110-meter hurdles. Called the Intercalated Olympics, the 1906 event was a quadrennial sporting event held in Greece between Olympic Games and, while medals were awarded, they no longer are recognized by the International Olympic Committee, according to Wikipedia.

Ted Meredith was just out of Mercersburg Academy when he won two gold medals in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden.

Meredith struck gold with a world-record time of 1:51.9 in the 800-meter race and as a member of the 4-by-400-meter relay team. There were no Olympics in 1916 due to World War I, and Meredith, who served in the U.S. Army, qualified for the 1920 Olympics, but did not win a medal.

Allen Woodring, who graduated in 1918, was a surprise winner of the 200-meter race in the 1920 Games in London.

Harrison Glancy graduated in 1924 and made it to the Summer Olympics that year in Paris, winning gold as a member of the 4-by-200-meter freestyle relay swim team. Glancy never became a household name, but teammate Johnny Weissmuller did as Tarzan.

Glancy also competed on relay teams with another Olympian and Tarzan, Buster Crabbe, Owen said. Glancy was in the 1928 Olympics, but did not win a medal.

The academy got back on track, literally, at the 1932 Los Angeles Games, where William Carr earned gold with a world-record time of 46.2 seconds in the 400 meters. He took home more gold when the 4-by-400-meter relay team set a world record.

Charles Moore Jr. was the last academy graduate to medal in track, winning gold in 1952 in the 400-meter hurdles in Helsinki, Finland, along with silver as a member of the 4-by-400-meter relay team. Moore's father, Charles "Crip" Moore, also went to Mercersburg, and was on the 1924 U.S. Olympic Team, Owen said.

The younger Moore never lost a 400-meter hurdles race, Owen said.

In recent decades, Mercersburg Academy graduates who have made it to the Olympics have done so in swimming events. Rich Saeger struck gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, and Betsy Mitchell won a gold and two silver medals in swimming events in the 1984 and 1988 Games.

The last medalist to emerge from the academy was 1988 graduate Melvin Stewart. At the 1988 games in Seoul, South Korea, he failed to medal, but came back from Barcelona, Spain, in 1992 with golds in the 200-meter butterfly and 4-by-100-meter medley relay and a bronze in the 4-by-200-meter medley relay.

Stewart followed his academy swimming coach, John Trembley, to the University of Tennessee, Owen said. Trembley had a 95-2 record in dual meets at the academy between 1980 and 1988.

Pete Williams, the school's current swimming coach, was an alternate at the 1968 Mexico City Games and has been a part of four Olympics as an athlete, coach or official, Owen said.

Stewart was, to date, the last American that the academy helped prepare for the Olympics. Since then, students from the Philippines, Bahamas, Bermuda, Pakistan, Croatia, Malaysia, Thailand, Grenada and Lebanon have gone on to make their respective national teams, Owen said.

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