Sept. 7, 2010
MADISON, Wis. -- Every day this week leading up to the induction ceremony, one of the seven members of the University of Wisconsin Athletics Hall of Fame class of 2010 will be celebrated. The Hall of Fame induction is Friday, Sept. 10 outside the Camp Randall Memorial Sports Center. The 6 p.m. ceremony is open to the public. Today's celebrant is women’s track and field athlete Dick Houden.
Though he competed just one season for the Wisconsin men’s track and field team, two-time All-American Dick Houden was undoubtedly one of the greatest athletes to come through the Badgers’ storied program.
Houden came to UW after serving in the Navy in World War II and already had three seasons of collegiate competition at Cornell College (Iowa) under his belt. He also competed for the Badgers’ junior varsity football team in the fall before taking to the track for the 1947 season.
His career began by tying the UW Field House record of 6.2 seconds in the 60-yard dash in a meet with Iowa and Northwestern. From there, he went on to match the American record of 7.0 seconds in the indoor 70-yard dash in a meet at the University of Chicago – becoming just the third U.S. athlete to run 7.0 since the record had originally been set 21 years earlier.
Houden finished third in the 60-yard dash at the 1947 Big Nine Conference Championships and was the Badgers’ team leader in the 40-, 50-, 60- and 70-yard races, but it wasn’t until the outdoor season rolled around that he really stretched his legs.
Outdoors, he set a Big Nine record in the 100-yard dash in a dual against Iowa – despite not changing out of his sweat clothes – and went on to finish second in the event at the conference championships. He also was third in the 200-yard dash at the Big Nine meet.
When competition moved on to the NCAA championships, Houden finished fifth in the 100-yard dash and sixth in the 220-yard dash to earn a pair of All-America citations. However, his best performance came in the preliminaries of the 100, when he raced second to USC’s Mel Patton, whose winning time matched the world record at 9.4 seconds.
Once the collegiate season came to an end, Houden went on to set the AAU Central Region record in the 100-yard dash at 9.6 seconds.
Remarkably, he also matched the then-Olympic and American junior record of 10.4 seconds in the 100-meter dash at the 1947 AAU Outdoor Championships. He then finished fourth in the 100-meter dash and fifth in the 200-meter dash at the U.S. championships that summer.
When 1948 rolled around, Houden was ready to make a run at qualifying for the U.S. team for the upcoming Olympics in London. Because of World War II, those Games would mark the first Olympics held in 12 years.
Houden came agonizingly close to joining the American delegation with his performance at the 1948 U.S. Olympic Trials. He finished fourth in the 200 meters, a race won by fellow former Badger Lloyd LaBeach. He then was denied a spot in the 100-meter dash final after judges ruled he finished fourth in his preliminary heat despite photographic evidence that clearly shows him placing second.
Houden was selected, however, as part of a nine-man American delegation that toured Europe in advance of the Olympics. He went on to set the fastest 200 meters times ever recorded in both Turkey and Czechoslovakia.
Houden, who also is a member of the Cornell College Athletics Hall of Fame, resides in Madison.
The members of the class of 2010 include football coach Barry Alvarez (1990-2005), football and men's track and field athlete Dan Lanphear (1957-59), football player Don Davey (1987-91), wrestler Donny Pritzlaff (1997-2001), women's swimmer Ellen Stonebraker (1997-2001) and Houden (1947).