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Wednesday, July 12, 2000 -- Connellsville, PA
The John Woodruff Story
Story & photos by Julie Bertsch

[2000 Race Coverage] [2001 Race Coverage]

John Woodruff
To this day, Woodruff inspires young runners in his hometown
In 1936, the Olympics were held in Berlin, Germany, where Adolf Hitler preached his ideas of an "Aryan" culture. Team USA had 18 African Americans who represented the country including the fastest human being, Jesse Owens, and an inspiring young athlete from Connellsville, Pennsylvania, John Woodruff. It was a hostile time in the world, one of which many of us could not even imagine living in.

What was it was like to be in the 1936 Olympics?
"I ran 3 races, the preliminary, the semi-final, and the final. Everything in the Olympics is run in meters, not yards you see." said Woodruff.

What happened during those races?
"I stayed out in front in the first 2 races, and that's how I won them." he explained.

"In the final race, I decided to run 2nd to the leader who was Phil Edwards of Canada." Woodruff's eyes widened. "He set a very slow pace. At the end of the first turn of the last 400 meters, I got boxed in."

Boxed in?
"Yes, boxed in by the other runners." Woodruff repeated. "I couldn't pass straight ahead, or I might have been disqualified for clipping somebody." Of the 8 runners in the race, Woodruff was among the top 3 or 4 in the pack. Elbow to elbow, they battled round the last tight turn of the track.

"Finally, I just stopped." he said.

Standing Tall
The Woodruff tree stands tall in the Connellsville sunset
Stopped dead in your tracks?!
"Well I completely stopped, and then went out into the 3rd lane to get out of "the box". Then I ran around the leaders and won the race! My time was 1:52.9." he said with a stiff upper lip and then a hearty smile.

After finishing the 800-meter run from a stand-still, to a full sprint over the line passing the world's elites, John Woodruff won the gold medal. He also served as an officer in a segregated army unit during World War II.
(FPG International, New York)

He has been a part of the John Woodruff Run for 18 years, and happily signs autographs for racers every year. There is a tree called The Woodruff that is rumored, was brought back from Berlin as a sapling, and planted in the Connellsville Stadium. It's sturdiness forever reminds us of the stand that Woodruff and the other American Athletes took by participating in the 1936 Olympics.