HOUSTON – The Houston Cougar Track & Field program is saddened to announce the passing of Cougar great and Olympian Al Lawrence.
A Sydney, Australia, native, Lawrence joined the Cougars in 1958, two seasons after taking the bronze medal in the 10,000-meter run at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, and produced one of the most stellar careers of any Cougar distance runner.
Lawrence is the only Cougar to claim an individual title at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, winning gold in each of the 1959 and 1960 seasons. His efforts during the 1960 championship event, helped Houston to its first ever team title at the NCAA Cross Country Championships when they scored 54 points to claim the crown in East Lansing, Mich.
During his tenure at Houston, Lawrence earned NCAA All-American honors after winning the 5,000-meter run at the 1960 NCAA Championships and was a Missouri Valley Conference Champion in the 2-mile. Lawrence was inducted into the Houston Hall of Honor in 1977.
HEAD COACH Leroy Burrell ON AL LAWRENCE
“Al was one of the pillars of the University of Houston Track and Field program. He was an NCAA Champion, our first Olympic Medalist, and he broke several collegiate, national and world records. This program would not be where it is today had Al Lawrence not been a Cougar. What is remarkable is that he remained active in and supported UH Track and Field and Cross Country for over 50 years.
Al Lawrence was the runner that created the wake that every distance runner that attended UH after him flowed behind. Every Cougar distance runner knew Al Lawrence and aspired to reach the heights that Al reached. Whether that person was John Macy, Pat Clohessy, Eric Sigmont, Leonard Hilton, Howie Ryan, Sesar Figueroa, Steve Magness or current UH All-American Brian Barazza and the many I am unable to name, each and every one of them owe a debt to Al Lawrence for making a way.
Al's reach went beyond UH, as he is the foundation of the Houston running community. He coached hundreds of athletes throughout the city. He is a big part of the reason why Memorial Park is a mecca for Houston runners both competitive and casual. His importance to the community is so heartfelt that there is a bench in the park where Al regularly conducted his workouts, where his former athletes have left a memorial of flowers, shoes and other memorabilia since his passing on Monday.
Al is one who touched so many people and meant much to our program and this institution. I am honored to have known him. He will surely be missed.”
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