A-Z Index

Olympic Dream

Student Herschel Neil competed in the Olympic Trials for the Summer Olympics in 1936.  Herschel is pictured in the Olympic Stadium in Germany, prior to World War II.  Berlin won the bid to host the Games over Barcelona, Spain in 1931.Neil, who competed against Jesse Owens during the Olympic Trials, traveled with the Olympic Team by cruise ship to Germany.Adolf Hitler allowed only members of the Aryan race to compete for Germany, promoting his ideological belief of racial supremacy. While the Olympics were underway, the Nazi Party removed signs stating "Jews not wanted" and similar slogans from the city's main tourist attractions.The Olympic Flame was used for the second time for the 1936 games.  However, it was the first time that the Olympic flame was  brought to the Olympic Village by a torch relay starting in Olympia, Greece.While the Olympic Torch burned brightly in Berlin, all Romani (gypsies) were rounded up by the Nazi Party and sent to a special camp in an attempt to "clean up" Berlin.The Berlin Olympics was the first to have live television coverage.Despite a national record in the high jump, German-born Gretel Bergmann was not allowed to compete in the Olympics because she was Jewish.  Bergmann would later immigrate to the United States.Neil praised Jesse Owens as an "outstanding athlete" and Owens similarly respected Neil. Owens said he was the "better jumper that day," referring to the Triple Jump competition held during the Olympic Trials in New York City. That day--being the Triple Jump competition during the Olympic Trials in New York City.  Neil would have won the event, if his 51-feet leap had not been disallowed.According to the Nazi Party, ethnic Africans were inferior and German "Aryans" were superior.  Owens put such propaganda to shame by winning four gold medals.Neil witnessed Owens' inspiring victories and was proud to see him win Gold for the United States.  Owens was the first American to win four Olympic gold medals in track and field.

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.