The Post-Journal

Watts Flats Man Wrote Track History During Medal-Bedecked Cinder Career

A smile of appreciation, one that displayed supreme confidence played over the lips of the sturdy athlete. Supposedly, his days of glory – which were achieved on the cinder paths and the wooden boards – had passed before.

But the fierce competitive flames that continually lay smoldering within the heart of a once-great athlete, can never be extinguished. The memories, the trophies, the medals, and above all, the deep inner pride that accompanies self exploit, always probe the possibility of one more game, one more battle, or – as is the case with Bradley Rendell – one more race.

“You know, I might not even finish, let alone win it.” There Rendell’s voice died to a whisper. “But – but there’s always that chance.” The catchy smile, one that exhibits the confidence endeared by this Watts Flats resident, returned.

Rendell was thinking about today’s revival of the ancient Thanksgiving Day Marathon, a six-mile cross country test that finds the former Falconer High School and Alfred University harrier star listed among the eight starting entrants.

Faced Track Greats

“I always wanted to race in the Marathon,” Brad tells you. “But it was discontinued before I was old enough to enter, and now – well, I’m 36 years old.”

This is that “last” race for Rendell, who officially quit running back in 1940, but only after a brilliant scholastic and collegiate career that ranked him with the top distance men of the nation.

The likes of Leslie MacMitchell, Glenn Cunningham, Joe McCluskey, the Rideout twins – Wayne and Blaine - and Don Lash were everyday opponents for the Falconer graduate once he matriculated into the collegiate ranks. And often the lean 5-11 Rendell, who tipped 142 pounds in his prime, was on the blue ribbon end.

It was in the Fall of ‘36 that Rendell, running against the great MacMitchell, won the Schoolboy Olympics’ outdoor mile championship, and in the process set a new world’s record of 4:22.4. Rendell’s mark stood until the following Spring when Lou Zamperini, later to gain fame at Southern California, covered the distance in 4:21.2, today’s record.

Broke Cunningham’s Mark

Both Rendell and Ray Trail, an Indian youth, broke Cunningham’s world mark the year before, Rendell hitting 4:23.2 and Trail 4:22.1.

Rendell, who ran 17 times at famed Madison Square Garden, rang up 5 records at Alfred, where he obtained a degree in agriculture and technology. The easy-going Brad still holds the 5-mile cross-country record at West Point.

He captained the ‘39 Alfred cross-country tracksters, a year they placed fifth in the NCAA finals at Lansing, Mich. The ‘37 Alfred squad, led by the outstanding distance man, went through the season with nary a tarnish on its slate.

In ‘39, a year Rendell won the 3,000 meter steeplechase event in the 45th annual Penn Relays, he was adjudged the fourth fastest collegiate runner in the nation.

Probably the greatest disappointment of his star-studded career came in 1939, when, after being selected to the U.S. Olympic track squad, the annual games, to be held at Finland, were canceled.

Stepped 4:17 Mile

Ken Anderson was Rendell’s scholastic coach at Falconer and he once clocked the fleetster at an unofficial 4:17 in the mile. Rendell still holds the Southwestern Conference (4:28.1), County (4:34.3) and Section VI (4:29.4) records.

Rendell later turned coach himself, taking over at Panama Central School in ‘46, but only for that one year.

His biggest thrill, strange as it may seem, was derived in a County scholastic track meet in Dunkirk. “I won a small medal over there,” the proud Rendell said. “And I still treasure it as one of my most prized possessions.” And possessions are many in the Rendell trophy case. He has won some 20-odd trophies, and 60-plus medals in his cinder campaigning.

The disinterest in track today, Rendell asserts, “Is that kids are not willing to work. Things come too easy. I can remember walking 14 miles to school everyday from my Gerry home.” Smoking is also tabooed by Rendell, who to this day, abstains from that habit.

In Original Marathon

The original 13-mile marathons started Rendell on his track career. “I once saw a Paul Bunyan Marathon go through Levant and right there I wanted to start running.” No scholarships are connected with the Rendell story, only the intense desire to run and win.

Married to the former Doris Keefe of Lakewood and the father of two girls, Kay, 6, and Marsha, 8, Rendell is now well occupied on his Watts Flats farm. But he always has time to talk about running.

Yes, he’s now 36 years old and weighs 175 pounds. But let Rendell tell it. “You know I might not even finish, let alone win it. But… but there’s always that chance.

Don’t bet against this veteran. A competitive heart like his cannot be evaluated in minutes and seconds.

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