February 6, 1932: Gene Venzke Sets World Record, Looks to Olympic Games


By Margaret Leidy Harner from her book One Day at a Time: A Social History of Boyertown, PA.

February 6, 1932: Gene Venzke, the fleet former Boyertown High School long distance runner, has set a world record for a mile race at 4 minutes, 10 seconds in the Baxter Race at Madison Square Garden in New York City to a thundering ovation from a crowd of 10,000 spectators, finishing 40 yards ahead of his closest competitor.

Venzke’s first training came from dashes to and from school; but after he won his first formal race against some of Berks County’s best runners, he started taking the sport seriously and trained “to the point of perfection.”

He was advised to run in the heaviest shoes he could find, and that was a sturdy pair of hobbed nail Army brogans. It was joked that their imprint could be seen on the pavements of Boyertown.

He ran the mile for Boyertown High School for two years before quitting school in his junior year to go to work. His training continued as he ran the five miles to and from the factory in Pottstown, rain or shine. This long-legged, 6’1” youth became a familiar sight, loping over the country roads and fields.

He later transferred to Pottstown High School, where he graduated in 1932, at the age of 24. Throughout his scholastic career, he attracted national attention with his brilliant performances in long distance runs. Gene’s goal is to run the 10,000-meter race in the Olympics.

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