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Olympic athlete Edwin Moses on new Morehouse track: ‘Doesn’t it look beautiful?’

Edwin Moses, an Olympic gold medalist and Morehouse College alum, proudly looks over the new track-and-field named in his honor (Photo by Maria Saporta)

By Maria Saporta

A newly restored track at Morehouse College will continue the legacy of the legendary Edwin Moses and spotlight the track-and-field program at the historically black college.

Moses, 66, is a multiple Olympic gold medalist who had a “10-year streak of 122 consecutive wins — one of the greatest feats in the history of sports,” according to a plaque outside the stadium and the track that is named in his honor.

Edwin Moses stands in front of the Morehouse stadium that bears his name. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

When Moses attended Morehouse from 1973 to 1978, there was not even a track. The track team had to run in the streets or go to Washington High School or Lakewood Stadium to practice.

In an interview on June 1, Moses reflected on his time at Morehouse, his athletic career, his devotion to the college, and his decade-long effort to refurbish the track-and-field that bears his name.

“I owe Morehouse,” Moses said. “I would not be sitting here today. I would not have gone to the Olympics had it not been for Morehouse. It only happened because I was in that atmosphere of serious academics, seeing leadership all around and seeing strong role models.”

When Moses entered Morehouse, he said he was not “recruitable” as an athlete because he was a “late bloomer” and was still growing into his body. So, he focused on academics, earning a degree in physics.

Because Moses loved track-and-field, he “walked on” the team — and he began to develop his athletic abilities. Moses and his classmates had to improvise his practice by having him jumping over fences or jumping over chairs and garbage cans in their dorm’s hallways.

Edwin Moses’ athletic honors and medals (Source: Wikipedia.)

In March of 1976, Moses competed in the Florida Relays in the 110-meter hurdles, the 400-meter hurdles and the 400-meters flat. He qualified for the Olympic trials in all three events.

“It was a dream to qualify for the Olympic trials,” said Moses, who was competing in the Montreal Olympics three months later. “Morehouse changed my life in the most unlikely of circumstances. Me becoming an Olympic champion was one chance in a million.”

At the time, the Morehouse track program had an annual budget of just $3,500, which would not cover the costs of Moses’ training for the Olympics. The President of Morehouse at the time, Hugh Gloster, secured an additional $3,000 so Moses could continue his training.

“I got no breaks academically,” Moses laughed. “I was getting battered academically.”

Morehouse President David Thomas said his academic focus did help Moses, who used his knowledge of physics to improve his athletic skills.

“Edwin is the epitome of what we want in our scholar-athletes,” Thomas said in an interview. “Edwin put his physics to work on his hurdles, and he broke the record by using the laws of physics. He just embodies the kind of mindset we want for all of our athletes. Not to mention, it definitely helps the school to have an Olympic champion be a Morehouse alum.”

A plaque outside of the Morehouse stadium depicting Edwin Moses’ accomplishments (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

Morehouse finally built and dedicated a stadium in 1986. “Dr. Gloster told me, ‘We are going to build a track and name it after you,” Moses recounted.

The stadium was last resurfaced 10 years later for the 1996 Olympic Games. After that, little was done to keep the track in good shape. Usually tracks need to be upgraded at least every decade.

“It wasn’t properly taken care of,” Moses said. “Ten years ago, I knew the track was getting worn down. It was getting worse and worse.”

Seeing the track in a state of disrepair was painful for Moses, who lives in Brookhaven.

“It has nothing to do with vanity of having my name on the track,” Moses said. “It’s about what the students and the school deserve.”

Christopher Doomes, associate head coach of the track-and-field program at Morehouse, shows off Edwin Moses’ world record that he got while he was a student at the historically black college. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

Fortunately, early after Thomas became president of Morehouse in January 2018, he realized the track and field needed to be a capital priority for the school. So, when three alums — Moses, David Moody and Cal Vismale — called on Thomas to urge him to fix the track and field, they had a receptive audience.

“I proceeded for the next two years to try to raise money to redo the track and field,” Thomas said.

The $4.5 million effort became possible after Billye Aaron, the widow of legendary Hank Aaron, made a $1 million gift to the project, which also includes a new scoreboard and new locker rooms.

“To me, it’s really about giving our scholar-athletes the kind of facility they deserve,” Thomas said.

For Moses, it also means Morehouse also be able to recruit top athletes.

“Potential athletes didn’t want to come to come to Morehouse because the facilities were so rundown,” Moses said. “I’m totally enthused for what it will mean to the students and the track program. We can have a world-class team. We can recruit athletes who will compete on a national and world-class level. It will put Morehouse at the very high level where it ought to be.”

The new track and field at Morehouse still needs to have lines painted on the rubber surface. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

Christopher Doomes, associate head coach and recruiting coordinator for Morehouse, proudly pointed to Edwin Moses’ record on a plaque of the school’s top track-and-field athletes.

”This is one of the few places where academics and athletics go hand-in-hand,” Doomes said. “Edwin Moses is the ultimate person to show what that truly means.”

The refurbished track still needs to be painted, and there are other finishing touches that need to be completed before it is unveiled later this year. Moses predicted the refurbished track will lead to Morehouse having a national-caliber team in three to four years.

Looking at the refurbished track, Moses said with pride: “Doesn’t it look beautiful?”

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Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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15 Comments

  1. Maynard Eaton June 7, 2022 9:39 am

    Great reporting and storytelling!Report

    Reply
  2. Michael Tierney June 7, 2022 9:42 am

    Was discussing the other day after Nadal won the French Open what individual-sport athletes had the greatest win streaks. Had forgotten about Moses. Appreciate the reminder.Report

    Reply
  3. Santiago Iglesias June 7, 2022 9:43 am

    Followed Edwin closely as a classmate of his brother Irving @ UNC-CH MBA Class of 1978. We were all in awe of your accomplishments, then & now.Report

    Reply
  4. Terence (Smith) Hassan June 7, 2022 5:29 pm

    Ed and I were teammates. We were on the 440 relay team, ran the streets of Atlanta, Washington High, Lakewood Stadium and John White Golf Course. Our team’s training grounds were more diversed than a can of Spam. The track being named after Ed was/is monumental for Ed and the “tracksters” of our era.Report

    Reply
  5. Able Mable Thomas June 8, 2022 5:05 am

    Edwin Moses, A Great ManReport

    Reply
  6. Louis K Brooks June 8, 2022 1:01 pm

    You knew greatness was in Edwin because of the humbleness and dedication that he exhibited. He treated everyone with respect. Our friendship and brotherhood is as strong today as ever, and I am proud that I had the opportunity to watch the great athlete and Man he is.Report

    Reply
  7. John Bevilaqua June 8, 2022 2:04 pm

    While Edwin was a student at Morehouse, I was very actively involved with the Atlanta Track Club. We gave an award to Edwin and I sent to his dorm room at Morehouse to present him with the award since he could not attend the banquet where the awards were presented. Not only do I recall meeting a smart and humble athlete, I remember him telling me that he had to literally “jump the fence” at Lakewood Stadium in order to train for competition because there was no track available. Great news that Morehouse now has a track for potential Olympic athletes, like Edwin, a true superstar. Great report !!Report

    Reply
  8. Donice June 8, 2022 2:56 pm

    Always respected hank aaron back in the day. Was extremely sad to hear of his passing last year. Loved hearing his wife speak of their many years together
    He was truly a gentleman.love to his widow and family.Report

    Reply
  9. Herbert Fuller June 9, 2022 3:55 am

    Outstanding, I have a grass field also. We try to put in the best work we can do with imagination and working around softball and baseball practices. Hopefully, we will get a track soon.Report

    Reply
  10. Milford Greene June 9, 2022 11:18 am

    Many thanks to the Saporta Report for outstanding journalism in covering this extraordinary and compelling story worthy of a documentary. All those involved especially this man of such talent and humility, Edwin Moses and the cast of supporters at Morehouse and beyond deserve recognition. And special thanks are due to Mrs. Henry “Hank” Aaron (Billye) for continuing the legacy of Hank Aaron; and for the gift of belief in what Morehouse is, continues to, and always will be about: the education and uplifting of Black men. Thank you.Report

    Reply
  11. JACQUELINE HAY June 9, 2022 11:48 am

    Wouldn’t it be a wonderful opportunity for Spelman and Morehouse College to merge and collaborate on a co-ed track team? The state of Georgia has some of the best track and field talent in the nation.Report

    Reply
  12. Mauricio June 9, 2022 10:13 pm

    Great to hear about you being honored. You certainly deserve it!
    This is Mauricio Bardales the decathlete from UC Irvine. It was great to watch you workout at our track, you accomplished some amazing feats in track!! Again congratulations!!!Report

    Reply
  13. Dr. Catherine Little Phd June 12, 2022 12:44 am

    AmazingReport

    Reply
  14. Jamie McBride June 12, 2022 3:12 am

    Its hard for me to understand why this track would ever be in such a disarray when we have one of the greatest ever athletes in the history of track and field who perfected his amazing form on that very track Edwin moses the man the Olympic champion and back when i was a kid everybody watched the Olympics we didn’t have cell phones or cable tv so there wasnt many people who didn’t know who Edwin moses wasi never ever saw Edwin moses lose and i never saw this great champion ever be cocky or arrogant he represented the United states of America and he made us proud to be americans he’s given so much wheres Michael Jordan or lebron James or shaq helping keep this dream aliveReport

    Reply
  15. Hugh June 17, 2022 6:59 am

    As a former Wayne State University Coach and fortunate student-athlete who had Coach Q,Jerry Quiller, as our coach. We put on an Track Reunion/Fundraiser that produced A wonderful donation from Dr.Blanchard,a former Penn Relays (College Mile Relay Champion when Wayne State went under the name City College of Detroit) Dr.Blanchard had put in his Will money for an All weather track that the student athletes enjoy today!Report

    Reply

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