This is the sixth in a series of feature stories on the 2015 inductees into the Lawrence County Historical Society Sports Hall of Fame.
Forrest McMunn didn’t need to beat his opponents in the first 50 meters of a race.
Given time and a long distance meet, McMunn would bide his time and strike when other competitors were running on empty.
“It started out in junior high, they’d leave me in the dust and then they tired out fast,” McMunn said. “I just got better at it, most people didn’t run. For football, you ran a few yards and then lined back up. Most people thought you were an idiot if you ran more than you had to. I was kind of a geeky kid, I started running at night on the streets. I worked at it off hours. It was good for me.”
“Distance running doesn’t take much talent, it just takes working at it.”
McMunn’s fascination with track and field and cross country came at an early age. While playing outside, New Castle cross country runners would race past his house on their practice route. That fascination helped his decision to join the George Washington junior high team in seventh grade, despite many of his classmates trying out for football.
“The cross country team used to run across there, we’d be playing in the yard and these big guys in sweatsuits came running by,” McMunn said. I went out for track when I was in seventh grade. You see whose fastest over 50, 75 yards. They gave me longer and longer things to run and I could the half mile. I did better, so I could outlast them. I didn’t continue with football, but I kept with track. They had a city championship so, when I was in ninth grade, I was the city champion in the half-mile.”
As McMunn continued to work on his craft, the results and accolades started to come in. The 1969 New Castle High graduate set records in the now-retired 880-meter race with a 1:56.9 finish, eclipsing the District 1 record by a second. He still holds the ’Canes top mark in the 880 race.
McMunn would continue to set WPIAL records during his junior and senior seasons, beat his own mark in the 880 with a 1:55.4 in the WPIAL championship meet, topping Clairton’s Ray Arrington’s WPIAL-best 1:56.1.
McMunn’s accomplishments on the track have earned him a spot in the 2015 class of the Lawrence County Historical Society Sports Hall of Fame.
The banquet will be held April 26 at the New Englander banquet facility. The social hour starts at 1:30 p.m., with dinner at 3. Tickets are available at the historical society annex from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays or online at www.lawrencehs.com.
The stiffest competition that McMunn faced was in the state meet, where he fell behind early and tried to make up ground.
“By the time I was running the half-mile, I was pretty good and nobody came close to me,” McMunn said. “This was my downfall, usually I would take the lead after that first bend. Then I would gradually extend it and I’d keep running as fast as I could and would win by quite a bit. I never had people in front of me, but when I got to the state meet my senior year, there were a couple of guys that started out ahead of me. I tried to catch them and I tired out. I wasn’t used to having anyone ahead of me.
“I had to kick myself. I think I had the fastest time going into the meet, I think I should’ve won. I still had another lap to go, but I died in that second lap. It was poor judgment on my part.”
McMunn, hampered by knee problems while running track at Carleton (Minn.) College, decided to study middle eastern languages. He transferred to Wisconsin University before earning his degree from Indiana University.
His position in the United States foreign services placed him in the Middle East and Washington, D.C.
“I still limp a little bit,” McMunn said. “After two years, I got tired of it and dropped out. So I worked in a foundry in New Castle, got interested in the middle eastern languages and went to Wisconsin. The program was awful there so I transferred to Indiana.”
McMunn, now 64 and retired, currently resides in Bloomington, Ind. with his wife Elaine and two daughters, Sine and Fiona.
MONDAY: Rick Flora