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Friday, June 4, 1999

 In Dad’s footsteps

Former ACU all-American rebuilding Central St. track program father built

By KENNETH MARSHALL

Special Writer

WILBERFORCE, Ohio — Central State University’s men’s and women’s track coach is following in the footsteps of his famous father, and he is enjoying every step of the journey.

Some sons whose fathers achieve greatness can’t handle the legacy, but Jahan Culbreath said having Josh Culbreath for his dad has never been a problem.

“He has always been my best friend and an idol I could emulate,” Jahan said. “He taught me everything I know about track.”

Josh Culbreath was an all-American national hurdling champion at Morgan State University in Baltimore. He won the bronze medal in the 400-meter hurdles at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956 as the United States finished 1-2-3 in the event.

Later, he beat his Russian competitors in the heralded first U.S.-USSR Games. In 1956 and 1957, he set the world record in the 400-meter hurdles.

In 1988, he came to Central State to coach, and in eight years his men and women Marauders won a total of 10 NAIA national track and field championships. He placed four runners in the 1996 Altanta Olympics, and Deon Hemmings won the 400-meter Gold Medal.

For Jahan, it was like father, like son, for track power Abilene Christian University, the school that produced Olympic gold medal 100-meter winner Bobby Morrow.

Jahan was an all-American 400-meter hurdler who set the school and conference records while competing in such prestigious meets as the Penn Relays outdoors in Philadelphia and indoors at the Melrose Games in Madison Square Garden in New York City.

“I got a big thrill running the Penn Relays where my father’s name is on the Wall of Fame,” he said.

Josh Culbreath left Central State and later served as athletic director at Morehouse College in Atlanta.

The Marauders’ track program fell victim to reduced budgets, but new president John Garland and new athletics director Theresa Check at the Ohio school made restoring the men’s and women’s track and field programs a priority.

And who better to hire as coach than Jahan Culbreath, a 35-year-old champion runner who had been his father’s assistant at Central State? Jahan had gone from Central State to be an assistant women’s track coach at the University of Minnesota.

Already, he has trained Kemal Thompson, a 100-meter runner who competed in the Penn Relays in April.

Jahan is recruiting by calling high school coaches, sending questionnaires to athletes, making visits to prospects and seeing as many top high school track meets as his modest budgets allows.

He won’t have to look far for talent.

“Ohio has had great track athletes, especially sprinters,” he said.

His former athletes now coaching in Ohio and elsewhere will be asked to send the best to Central State.

If some of Jahan’s athletes think his training regimen is to tough, he can tell them “been there, done that.”

Beginning his sophomore year in high school, Josh Culbreath got his sons up each morning at 4 a.m. to train on an indoor track made of dirt mixed with oil to hold down the dust.

“When you finished, you either had to put your sweats in a garbage bag or wash them right away because the smell was so bad,” said Jahan.

“My dad loved 600-meter hurdle runs, and he’d always beat me the first 300 meters. At the end of 400 meters, the regular race distance, you are totally exhausted.

“But he’d tack on 200 more meters with five hurdles to get over. I’d get a short rest and then do repeats of the whole 600 meters.

“Dad always told me it takes three things to succeed in track and in life — focus, hard work and sacrifice. And these will be the cornerstones of our program.”

So the journey continues for Jahan Culbreath, with his father’s wisdom as his guide.

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