Northwest Missouri State teams, coaches and student-athletes have been competing for Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association track and field championship trophies for more than eight decades. The Bearcats have had their share of high finishes, but only seven times have they carried a first-place trophy back to Maryville. Don Neil hauled four of them.
The Neil name has been synonymous with Northwest track and field since the 1930s. Don's older brother, Herschel, won 17 MIAA individual championships from 1934-37, was inducted into Northwest's "M" Club Hall of Fame in 1982 and has the track named in his honor.
In 1935, Herchel won the league's 100-yard dash with a time of 10 seconds flat. Fifteen years later, Don accomplished the exact same feat with the exact same time - 100 yards in 10 seconds.
Don competed on Northwest's indoor and outdoor track and field teams from 1948 through 1950. He's a nine-time MIAA champion with six titles earned at outdoor championship meets. Three he earned at indoor championships.
Don was the championship's high-point scorer in leading the Bearcats to the 1949 MIAA outdoor title. He accomplished that feat by winning three events - the 100- and 220-yard dashes and the 880-yard relay, which he anchored. He defended his title in all three events in 1950 and finished as the meet's second-highest scorer. Again, Northwest brought home a championship and in 1991, both were enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Northwest has three MIAA indoor championships on its books. The first two were won in 1949 and 1950 with Don leading the way. He won back-to-back 60-yard dash championships in 1948 and 1949 with identical times of 6.5 seconds. In 1950, he earned a title as a member of the mile relay.
Oh what could have been had Don stuck around for his senior season. Instead, he put the "student" in "student-athlete" and earned his degree in three years.Don has been married to his wife, Brennan, for 63 years. They have a daughter, Cynthia, and a grandson, Neil.