A contributor to the sport as an athlete, coach and author, Fred Wilt was an outstanding distance runner at Indiana University under USTFCCCA Hall of Fame coach Billy Hayes and a two-time Olympian. Wilt later became the head women’s track & field and cross country coach at Purdue University from 1978-89, leading the Boilermakers to a .763 record in cross country and a .797 record in track & field.
At Indiana, Wilt was a two-time NCAA champion, winning a cross country crown and an outdoor two-mile title. He also won eight national AAU titles and twice competed for the U.S. in the Olympic 10,000m finals (1948 and 1952). In 1950, Wilt was named the Sullivan Award winner as the nation’s top amateur athlete; in 1952, at the age of 32, Wilt set an indoor world record in the two-mile run and later broke an 18-year-old American record in the 5000m.
An FBI agent during his competitive days, Wilt’s interests later turned to the technical side of track & field. His book, How they Train, was a long-time best seller; he helped start Track Technique, one of the best technical journals in the world; and he advised various athletes, including 1964 Olympian and former marathon world record holder Buddy Edelen.
In 1978, nearing the age of 60 and retired from the FBI, Wilt embarked on a new career as the head women’s cross country and track & field coach at Purdue. Purdue finished as runners-up at the 1983 Big Ten cross country championships and at the 1986 Big Ten outdoor meet before winning their first Big Ten women’s title in outdoor track & field in 1987. He coached 17 different All Americans, including the 1982 national champion in the 3000m, Andrea Marek.
Wilt’s accomplishments are recognized in the Purdue University Athletics Hall of Fame, the USATF Hall of Fame, and the Indiana University Athletics Hall of Fame.