Max Truex: Olympic Runner
Editor’s note: This is part of a series about local historical figures. The following is information obtained from articles about Olympian Max Truex, a former resident of Warsaw. The articles are from the files of the Kosciusko County Historical Society.
WARSAW — Max Truex of Warsaw was a two-time Olympian who ran the 10,000 meters in the 1956 and 1960 Olympics.
Truex, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Russell Truex of North Bay Drive, Warsaw, attended Warsaw Community High School and in 1954, set the national high school record in the mile run at 4:20.4, a record previously held by Lois Zamperini for nearly 20 years.
He later attended the University of Southern California where he received the Southern California University Track and Field Alumni award as the most outstanding cross-country runner of the season his freshman year.
During his sophomore year in college, Truex turned in the fifth best performance ever by an American in the 5,000 metres run during the Southern Pacific AAU meet. His time was 14 minutes, 31 and four-tenths seconds. His time at 3 miles was 14:02.
It was also the sixth best time in American history including indoor performances for the 5,000m.
Only the following have run faster: Fred Wilt with 14:26.8; Curt Stone, 14:27.4; Charley Capozzoli, 14:27.4; Ralph Hill 14:30.0; and Don Lash with an indoor 14:30.9. Wilt and Lash are also Hoosiers, both being former Indiana University distance running stars.
To show the significance of Truex’s time, it would have placed him second, for instance, in the 1952 U. S. Olympic trials for the distance of 3 miles, plus 188 yards.
In the Olympic tryouts, Truex won the 10,000m event and placed third in the 5,000m run.
Sadly, Truex suffered a major setback when he strained a muscle in his right hip, casting doubts as to whether he would be able to compete in the 1956 Olympics.
Nevertheless, he decided to run in the 10,000. He was in constant pain and ended up dropping out in the 11th lap.
He continued to run as a member of the U. S. Air Force after graduation from USC. He was awarded a spot on the 1960 U. S. Olympic team and competed in the 10,000m at Rome. He was the only U. S. runner to qualify for the 10,000 finals and he raced against 19 of the world’s top runners in the event. He finished sixth with a time of 28:50.2 — an American record.
His sixth place in the 1960 Olympic 10,000 opened the door for American distance runners in the next Olympics, where they surprised the world by winning golds in both the 5,000 and 10,000 and also a bronze in the 5,000.
Before 1960, American distance runners had rarely been competitive on the international scene. Charlie Capozzoli, who won a major European Three Miles in 1952, and Curt Stone, who was sixth in the 1952 Olympic 5,000, were two exceptions, but it was Truex who made the real breakthrough when he became the first American since 1912 to place in the top six of the Olympic 10,000m.
At 5-foot-5, Truex was the smallest athlete to ever represent the United States in track and field in the Olympics. He was named Warsaw’s Man of the Year in 1960 at the age of 24. He remains the youngest individual to ever win the award.
After his running days were over, Truex settled in Los Angeles County, Calif., where he was a prominent trial lawyer, specializing in real estate litigation.
At the age of 40, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. The disease deteriorated his quality of life rapidly and Truex was forced to retire early. He died at the age of 55.
— Compiled by InkFreeNews reporter Lasca Randels