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Northwest student Herschel Neil attended the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany, prior to World War II. Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party allowed only members of the Aryan race to compete for Germany to promote his ideological belief of racial supremacy. Jesse Owens, who Neil competed against in the Olympic Trails, proved that ideology a fallacy when he won gold for the United States.
Neil placed fourth in the Olympic Trials in New York City because one of his long jumps was disqualified, thus, missing his chance to compete against Owens in Berlin. Neil traveled with the Olympic Team to Germany and was proud to see Owens win four gold medals for the United States. Herschel praised Owens as an "outstanding athlete." Herschel, who competed against Jesse Owens in the Triple Jump during the Olympic Trials, was considered by Owens to be the "better jumper that day." What Owens saw on Neil's first leap was a distance of almost 51 feet, a mark that would have won the event for the Bearcat All-American, who was the 1936 NCAA Champion in the Triple Jump. Owens was in fact "relieved" when the Olympic officials judged Neil's first jump a foul and disallowed the jump.
Born in Gentry County, Herschel won five individual Missouri High School State Championships while at Grandview High School in Worth County. During his sports career, Herschel was the NCAA record holder in the Triple Jump and had 17 individual MIAA conference titles. He also achieved eight school records while attending Northwest and obtained NCAA All-American in 1936 and 1937. Additionally, Herschel was a two time AAU National Champion. Herschel, who is a member of the M-Club Hall of Fame, was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 1972. Neil died in 1961. The Bearcat Stadium track is named after Neil. For a complete list of M-Club Hall of Fame inductees, click here.