Gehrmann Starred In The Mile/1500

Celebrating A Century of NCAA Track & Field Championships

Gehrmann Starred In The Mile/1500

Don Gehrmann of Wisconsin – the first athlete to ever win three NCAA titles in the mile/1500 meters – rarely had a particularly fast time.

“I only ran for place,” Gehrmann recalled in 2012 to Gary D’Amato of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “I never ran for time.”

That place was almost always first, as Gehrmann was blessed with a kick that was once described as “burning high-octane gas while the others were powered with low-grade fuel.”

Gehrmann entered the 1947 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships as a 19-year-old freshman having defeated reigning NCAA champion Bob Rehberg of Illinois for the Big Nine (now Big Ten) mile title. At the NCAA meet, Gehrmann stayed too far back to use his kick and finished fourth as Penn State’s Gerry Karver won.

Gehrmann wouldn’t lose a collegiate track race – at any distance – again.

Just a sophomore in 1948, Gehrmann won the NCAA 1500 and three weeks later added the U.S. title. He would eventually finish seventh in the London Olympics after falling on the last curve by stepping on the curb.

Gehrmann won the 1949 and 1950 NCAA miles by more than two seconds each time, but the Milwaukee native’s dominance began to grow beyond collegiate competition. Indoors in 1949, he won the famous Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games, outkicking Wim Slijkhuis of the Netherlands, who won Olympic 1500-meter bronze in London.

That race was the first of four consecutive Wanamaker Mile victories as Gehrmann compiled a record of 39 consecutive mile wins from 1949-52.

Gehrmann displayed incredible range, finishing runner-up twice in the NCAA Cross Country Championships in 1948 and 1949 (when the distance was 4 miles) and clocking an indoor collegiate record for the 880 (1:51.5 in 1949). His speed made him a fixture on the Badgers’ mile relay team, even anchoring the 1950 squad to a conference win after winning the mile and 880.

posted: September 15, 2020
The NCAA's First Championships

The NCAA and collegiate track & field will mark a momentous milestone in the spring of 2021 -- the 100th anniversary of the NCAA Championships and with that, the NCAA Track & Field Championships. In June 1921, the University of Chicago hosted the first track & field championships in NCAA history.

This point can’t be emphasized enough: Not only was the event the first for NCAA track & field, but the first championships for any sport under the sponsorship of the NCAA.

To celebrate, over each of the next 365 days, the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) will celebrate moments, student-athletes, and coaches that have made a century’s worth of championships special. From humble beginnings to important historical milestones to the modern-day, collegiate track & field has evolved with the American society.

The 2021 edition of the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships begin with preliminary round action on May 27-29 in Jacksonville, Fla., and College Station, Texas. The championships final site and culmination of the celebration is slated for June 9-12, 2021 at the newly rebuilt Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.

Memorable Moments
Reese Left Her Mark On NCAA LJ
June 12, 2008

Brittney Reese won the long jump at the 2008 NCAA DI Outdoor T&F Championships with a mark of 6.93m (22-9). Reese missed the meet record by just 1cm (½ inch).

Tupuritis Shocked The Field In 1996
May 31, 1996

Einars Tupuritis won the 800 at the 1996 NCAA DI Outdoor T&F Championships by 0.14 seconds! Turpiritis crossed the finish line in 1:45.08.

Ellis Sent USC To A Thrilling Victory
June 9, 2018

Kendall Ellis had a remarkable come-from-behind victory in the 4×400 relay at the 2018 NCAA DI Outdoor T&F Championships that sent Southern California to the meet title.