A Champion On and Off the Track

Quentin Brelsford ’48 Shares Memories with OWU Community

Student-athlete Sara Johnson ’17 shares a story and a smile with OWU’s first-ever NCAA cross country national champion, Quentin Brelsford ’48, who spoke on campus Sept. 8. (Photo by Paul Vernon)

Student-athlete Sara Johnson ’17 shares a story and a smile with OWU’s first-ever NCAA cross country national champion, Quentin Brelsford ’48, who spoke on campus Sept. 8. (Photo by Paul Vernon)

As he introduced 1948 Ohio Wesleyan University alumnus Quentin Brelsford to the lunchtime crowd, President Rock Jones asked the audience to contemplate, “What are the measures of a life well-lived?”

Pondering the same question, Brelsford, the first Battling Bishop to win an NCAA cross country national championship, was off and running – sharing a lifetime of experiences with those gathered Sept. 8 in the Benes Rooms to hear his reflections.

In 1941, Brelsford attended Ohio Wesleyan for one year before leaving to join the U.S. Air Force during World War II. During his time in the military, Brelsford attended aircraft engine school in Illinois and worked on British and American aircrafts in Casablanca for five months. He then lived in Sicily and Rome.

In 1945, Brelsford re-enrolled at Ohio Wesleyan and began running cross country and track & field. One student asked Brelsford about the transition from serving in the military to training for a college sport. Brelsford replied that in Rome, he had participated in an 800-meter race between Allies, running a time of 2:03. Because activities like this helped to keep him fit, there was little transition.

In 1948, Brelsford’s last year as a Bishop, he missed the Olympic time trials by one place. It was a hot day, he recalled, and bottled water was thrown on the athletes as they ran past. Unfortunately, the liquid seeped into Brelsford’s shoes and formed blisters, making it difficult for him to run.

Another student asked Brelsford how he dealt with the disappointment of missing the Olympic time trials. “All I can say,” Brelsford said, “is it should have been spray instead of bottled water.”

Despite winning a national championship at OWU, Brelsford’s fondest campus memory is the day he met his wife, Betty, in the library. As a freshman, he had run out of notebook paper and borrowed a piece from a “young redhead.” The couple corresponded during the war and got married soon after he returned to campus, buying a home on Liberty Street.

After graduating, they lived in Venezuela, Bogota, Chile, and Panama for 20 years. Later, they lived in Italy. In South America, Brelsford worked with as a troubleshooter and service engineer for U.S. automakers.

After he shared memories of his well-lived life, the crowd loudly applauded Brelsford, a member of the OWU family for more than 70 years.

“Ohio Wesleyan,” he told the room, “was a great event in my life.”

(Photos by Paul Vernon, Roger Ingles, and courtesy of Quentin Brelsford ’48)

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