Lloyd La Beach and Life at UCLA

The Great, Immortal Jesse Owens in
the 1936 Berlin Olympics

Barney Ewell (left) with teammates Mel Patton (centre)
and Harrison Dillard (right) during a practice
session before the 1948 Olympic Games in London.

For the immortal Lloyd La Beach the sight of the City of Angels was the greatest thing he had ever seen in his young life. He was yet to envision the plan that God had in store for him, however, as he humbly took his place among the other “angels” in the mission of compelling the little country of Panama to recognize her West Indian children. Even before Lloyd arrived at the campus dormitory that night he began feeling that secret and welcomed energy so natural for his young body.

After his arrival in Los Angeles that night he immediately began feeling like any normal college student and the athletes soon started challenging his academic abilities as well as his athletic prowess. They soon discovered that Lloyd would prove to be everything that they had heard he was. The training sessions would bring back the old alacrity of his youth in Panama. He happily welcomed the warm days of the southern California climate while he prepared for the first exciting meets for serious runners who wanted to make their mark amongst the coaching staff at UCLA.

Young La Beach finally found the real challenge he needed as nervous fellow Black U.S. born sprinters arrived at the Track and Field meets to meet the unrecognized youngster from the country of Panama. Warming up and jumping with the same anticipation of a youthful African gazelle Lloyd joined the group of runners who were summoned to the familiar starting blocks for the start of the first race. They were all sprinters mostly of African descent and they displayed the customary youthful competitive custom of intimidating their opponents.

Soon they were off for one of the shorter clocked races running around the track to cool their excited muscles as the crowd in the stands roared. The excitement of the crowd was not immediately recognized by the young Panamanian when he jogged back after he finished to don his warm up sweats which would keep his whole body warm for the day. Impressed by the finish line performance the crowd at UCLA stadium applauded the young La Beach and the coaching staff that had worked with him to perfect his running form rushed up to congratulate him on a perfect race. “The winner is Lloyd La Beach,” said the voice over the loud speaker as the couching staff urged Lloyd to acknowledge the appreciative crowd still applauding.

On that day alone the new runner from Panama amazed the Los Angeles crowd race after race. Some who had come out to see their favorite champions like Mel Patton (Pell Mell), the 100 yard dash man of the time, were surprised by the unrecognised Panama kid who virtually gave him a lesson in championship sprinting. In fact, the La Beach kid even amazed the unbelieving UCLA coaching staff as he made a name for himself not only that day, at his first meet, but raked up record breaking marks on subsequent athletic meets. Lloyd La Beach even equalled the famous Jesse Owens as the only two Track and Field athletes to have equaled and broken their own world records within less than 24 hours.

Lloyd remained in very high spirits while at UCLA training and passing all of his classes with excellent grades, looking forward to graduation in the summer of 1948. However, the intensive training he was undergoing would serve him well and keep him shoulder to shoulder with the worldwide runners he would soon face in the upcoming Summer Olympics in London, England, topping off a brilliant career.

This story continues.

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