High jump great Vanover honored by ACU

December 5, 2012

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The program for the Abilene Christian University Hall of Fame ceremonies listed Les Vanover as the first great high jumper in the history of the storied track program.

Of course, it was performances like his that helped make the track program at ACU one of the most fabled in college circles.

Vanover’s greatness was very recently noted yet again as he was honored by the school by being placed in its Hall of Fame.

For nearly two decades there was none better than Vanover when it came to clearing the high jump bar, and this was before the “Fosbury Flop” became the standard for clearing. Before American Dick Fosbury made his style famous in the 1968 Olympics, high jumpers such as Vanover often had to land on their feet due to the landing pits often being sand or very little padding.

Vanover, who lives in Granbury, held the ACU record of 6 feet, 8 inches cleared for nearly 20 years. He set it in 1954 at the West Texas Relays.

The Hall of Fame ceremonies were held Nov. 12 in Abilene. It was a major highlight for Vanover, who is still recovering from a back injury and complications following surgery.

“It’s been a challenge, but this was really nice,” said Vanover. “Really nice.”

Vanover was a member of the 1952 and 1954 NAIA national championship teams. In 1954 he was ranked sixth in the world and third in the United States among collegiate performers.

Vanover won four consecutive Texas Conference championships in the high jump (1951-54) and was an NAIA All-American in 1954.

After his ACU career ended, Vanover competed in Europe while serving in the Army. At the European Track and Field Championships in 1957, Vanover won the high jump and the 110-meter hurdles and was second in the 200 hurdles and triple jump. He was named Athlete of the Year in 1957 for the U.S. Army European Track and Field.

Vanover holds the U.S. Army record of 6-9, cleared in 1956. His career-best jump was 6-10.

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Category: Sports Archived