Born: January 9, 1909 – Sedgwick, KS
Died: January 26, 2003
Graduated: Sedgwick High School, 1927; University of Wichita (Wichita State University), 1931
Harold Manning, known as a “wiry” and “skinny kid” who barely tipped over the one hundred pound mark in high school, grew up in the small-town of Sedgwick, Kansas. Yet, despite his modest upbringing, that same skinny kid brought home Wichita University’s, now known as Wichita State University, its first national championship in track and field and went on to compete in the Olympics.
High School Career
Growing up, Manning wasn’t the least bit concerned with the sport that would make him a legend. Actually, it was an entry into a track meet in Wichita, at the urging of a high school coach, just weeks before he graduated from high school in 1927 that launched Manning’s stellar career.
Manning finished first in the mile at the Wichita meet and went on to win the mile in the state high school meet the following week. Sedgwick businessmen raised funds to send Manning to the national high school meet in Chicago where Manning once again proved victorious.
Wichita's First National Champion
His exploits weeks before graduation were good enough to earn him a scholarship to Wichita University where he set the standard for distance runners. Manning brought home the 1930 national championship in the two-mile with a then-record time of 9:18.1.
Manning’s victory made him not only the University’s first national champion, but also the University’s first All-American in track and field.
Manning in the Olympics
Upon his graduation from Wichita, Manning continued to run and train on his own, often carrying his own stop watch on his runs, for a chance at the Olympics. He narrowly missed participating in the 1932 Los Angeles games alongside fellow Kansas Sports Hall of Famer Jim Bausch, but continued to work hard and earned a spot on the team for the 1936 games.
That year, Manning made history in his attempt to make the U.S. Olympic team that included Jesse Owens and Kansas Sports Hall of Fame inductees Archie San Romani and Glenn Cunningham. Participating in the relatively new event, the 3000 meter steeplechase, Manning set the world record at the U.S. Olympic trials with a time of 9:08.2 using his unique style of hurdling of the barrier and jumping right in the middle of the water pit.
Manning competed and placed fifth at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany.