ÛÒ A track star at the University of Kansas, who was also an Olympian
and world record holder, Wes Santee died Sunday of cancer at his home in
Eureka, Kansas. He was 78.
1952 Olympian who competed in the 5,000 meters at the Games in
Helsinki, Santee is most known for his prowess in the mile and 1,500
Santee was one of a
handful of competitors considered to be a serious threat to break the
four-minute mile barrier before Roger Bannister did it 1954. Santee set
the world record in the 1,500 meters on June 4, 1956, when he was timed
in 3 minutes, 42.8 seconds at the Compton Invitational. He
also set the indoor mile world record twice (4:04.9-1954 &
4:03.8-1955), and the indoor 1,500m world record once in 1955 (3:48.3).
Known for his
versatility as a collegiate star at the University of Kansas, on April
10, 1954, Santee had an amazing three-race performance against the
University of California at Berkeley, where he won the 880y in 1:51.5,
the mile in 4:05.5 and ran a 440 relay leg in 48-flat.
As a Jayhawk, Santee
won the NCAA outdoor mile title in 1953, the NCAA 5,000m crown in 1952,
and the NCAA cross country title in 1953. The national indoor mile
champion in 1955, Santee captured USA Outdoor 1,500m/Mile crowns in
1952, 1953 and 1955. He was world ranked by Track & Field News in the 800 meters in 1953 (#2), 1954 (#8) & 1955 (#6); and in the 1,500 meters in 1953 (#2), 1954 (#3) & 1955 (#7).
Santee, who was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2005, joined the Marine Corps after leaving Kansas. He later moved back to Kansas and worked in the insurance business, while remaining active in the Marine Corps Reserves. He
later retired as a colonel from the Marines and became the national
president of the Marine Officers Association. He retired from the
insurance business in the early 1990s.
immortalized in statue form, along with other KU track stars Glenn
Cunningham and Jim Ryun, at The Legends in Kansas City, Kan., and Rim
Rock Farm, home of the Jayhawk cross country team. He is survived by his daughter, Susie; his two sons, Edward and Bob; his sister, Ina May Walsh; and seven grandchildren.