News10 May 2002

Longtime Modesto Relays Director Tom Moore dies at 88 on the eve 2002 meeting.


Longtime Modesto Relays Director Tom Moore dies at 88 on the eve 2002 meeting.
Bob Burns for the IAAF
11 May 2002 – One of the sport’s most remarkable careers came to an end Friday morning (10 May) when Tom Moore, a record-setting athlete, international-class starter and longtime meet director, died in a Modesto, California hospital. Moore was 88.

Moore, who had been ill with bone cancer, passed away just one day before the Modesto Relays. His name is synonymous with the meet that has produced 33 world records since its inception in 1942. Until his health worsened in the past month, he had planned on starting several races in Saturday’s Relays - as he had in each of the previous 60 editions of this world-class meet with the small-town flavor.

A graduate of the University of California, where he competed for the legendary coach Brutus Hamilton, Moore tied the world record in the 120-yard high hurdles in 1935, clocking 14.2 seconds. That same year, he was U.S. champion in the 400m hurdles, but pneumonia prevented him from making a run at the 1936 Olympics.

Moore helped organize what was first known as the Northern California Relays in 1942, and he became the meet director three years later. Among the all-time greats who set world records in Modesto were Cornelius “Dutch” Warmerdam, Ralph Boston, Bobby Morrow and Don Quarrie. The most recent world record was set in 2000, when Stacy Dragila matched the women’s pole vault standard at 4.60m.

Moore was a starter in 18 U.S. national championship meets. At the first Modesto meet in 1942, he started all of the races but one – the high hurdles, which he won.

“I had my track shorts on under my pants,” Moore said. “When it came time for the highs, I stripped down and was ready to go.”

In February, when it became known that Moore was ill, several Olympians attended a testimonial dinner in Modesto. Among those who paid their respects in person were Olympic sprinters John Carlos and Charlie Greene, former U.S. Olympic Track Coach Erv Hunt, and Don Bowden, the first American to break four minutes in the mile.

"I'm not sure there's such a thing as a perfect man," Hunt said that evening, "but Tom's as close as you can come."

Moore started his final race four weeks ago on April 13, a day before his 88th birthday, at the Brutus Hamilton Invitational in Berkeley, Calif.

His memory will be honored at a special ceremony at the Coca-Cola Modesto Relays on Saturday, during what should be one of the strongest editions of this annual central California fixture in recent years. 

The meeting features such athletes as Dragila and Jeff Hartwig in the women’s and men’s pole vault; Dwain Chambers of Great Britain in the 100 meters, long jumper Miguel Pate, and South Africa’s Hezekiel Sepeng in the 800 meters.

The strongest field appears to be assembled in Moore’s specialty event.  World champion Allen Johnson heads a group in the 110-meter high hurdles that includes Mark Crear, Dawane Wallace and Larry Wade.

Meet organizers have a $10,000 bonus on offer for a world record in that event.  And with a 13.04 only two weeks ago in Martinique, Johnson might just be in form to dip under Colin Jackson’s 12.91. 

There could be no more fitting way to honour Tom Moore’s memory. 

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