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Still a Contender

Photo: Gerd Ludwig

HOT SHOT: Whittemore, 104, keeps setting Masters' track records.

By A. Spencer Porter

"He'll be right in; he’s out fixing the plumbing,” was the response when Stanford called to inquire about John Whittemore, the eldest of a party of centenarians mentioned in a Santa Barbara, Calif., newspaper article. Whittemore was more “supervising” than installing the new pipes, but at 104 years of age, who could fault him?

Whittemore, who lives with his daughter, Joan, ’48, has a bad knee and some hearing loss. However, these disabilities don’t keep him from competing in local Masters’ track and field meets. “As far as we know, he is the oldest registered athlete in the world,” says Beverly Lewis, vice-chairman of United States Track and Field in Southern California. “I bring my steel tape to every competition, because he breaks or sets a world record every time.”

The competition, whom Whittemore jokingly calls “old men with potbellies,” is not fierce. Within his age group, he is usually the only participant. In March, he established the world record for 104-year-olds in the shot put, launching the 4-kilogram sphere just a shade under 6 feet. At a meet scheduled for October at UC-Santa Barbara, he intended to compete in four events and add to his eight world records. “He is amazing,” Lewis says, “truly amazing.”

The former Stanford baseball player, who will turn 105 on November 20, recalls his Stanford days fondly and claims his athletic endeavors at the Farm contributed to his longevity. Cardinal athletics ran in the family: his father, John Reboul Whittemore Sr., Class of 1892, captained the football squad in the very first Big Game. Whittemore Sr., the only member of Stanford’s first team who had played football prior to college, led the squad to a 14-10 victory.


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