The Story of Creed Haymond


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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Elder L. Tom Perry

I particularly remember a Primary teacher reading a story to us from the Improvement Era. I had the Historical Department find it for me and found it was worth repeating. The story is taken from the October 1929 Improvement Era, and is about Creed Haymond, a young Mormon who applied for and was accepted at the University of Pennsylvania. He was an athlete who was known for his speed and, because of the way he acted and participated, he was chosen to be the captain of the track team.

The Annual Meet of the Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America was held at Harvard Stadium at the end of May of 1919. To Cambridge came the greatest college athletes — seventeen hundred in all. In tryouts, Penn had qualified seventeen men. Cornell, their most feared rival that year, had only qualified ten. The Penn team was in a position to be crowned the champions. The scores were made on the first five places—five for first, four for second, three for third, two for fourth, and one for fifth. Naturally, the team that qualified the most men had the greatest opportunity of winning the meet.

The Penn coach was in good spirits the night before the meet. He made the rounds of his team members before they retired. He came into Creed's room and said, ''Creed, if we do our best tomorrow, we will run away with it." Then the coach hesitated. ''Creed, I'm having the boys take a little sherry wine tonight. I want you to have some — just a little of course.'' ''I won't do it, Coach.'' ''But, Creed, I'm not going to get you drunk. I know what you 'Mormons' believe. I'm giving you this as a tonic, just to put you all on your metal.'' ''It won't do me any good, coach; I can't take it." The coach replied, ''Remember, Creed, you're the captain of the team and our best point winner. Fourteen thousand students are looking to you personally to win this meet. If you fail us we'll lose. I ought to know what is good for you."

Creed knew that other coaches felt that a little wine was useful for the men who have trained muscles and nerves almost to the snapping point. He knew also that what the coach was asking him to do was against all that he had been taught from his early childhood. He looked his coach in the eye and said, ''I won't take it."

The coach replied, ''You're a funny fellow, Creed. You won't take tea at the training table. You have ideas of your own. Well, I'm going to let you do as you please.''

The coach then left the captain of the team in a state of extreme anxiety. Suppose he made a poor showing tomorrow. What could he say to his coach? He was going up against the fastest men in the world. Nothing less than his best would do. His stubbornness might lose the meet for Penn. His teammates were told what to do and responded. They believed in their coach. What right did he have to disobey? There was only one reason. He had been taught all his life to obey the Word of Wisdom.

It was a critical hour in this young man's life. With all the spiritual forces of his nature pressing in on him, he knelt down and earnestly asked the Lord to give him a testimony as to what was the source of the revelation he had believed in and obeyed. Then he went to bed and slept in sound slumber.

Next morning the coach came into the room and asked, ''How are you feeling, Creed?''

''Fine,'' the captain answered cheerfully.

''All of the other fellows are ill. I don't know what's the matter with them,'' the coach said seriously.

''Maybe it's the tonic you gave them, Coach.''

"Maybe so," answered the coach.

Two o'clock found twenty thousand spectators in their seats waiting for the meet to begin. As the events got under way, it became plain that something was wrong with the wonderful Penn team. Event after event, the Penn team performed well below what was expected of them. Some members were even too ill to participate.

The hundred and two-hundred-twenty-yard dash were Creed's races. The Penn team desperately needed him to win for them. He was up against the five fastest men in the American colleges. As the men came to their marks for the hundred-yard dash and the pistol was shot, and every man sprang forward into the air and touched the earth at a run — that is, all except one — Creed Haymond. The one using the second lane in the trials — the one that Creed was running in at this particular event — had kicked a hole for his toe an inch or two behind the spot where Haymond had just chosen for his. They didn't use starting blocks in those days. With the tremendous thrust that Creed gave, the narrow wedge of earth broke through, and he came down on his knee behind the line.

He got up and tried to make up for the poor start. At sixty yards, he was last in the race. Then he seemed to fly past the fifth man, then the fourth, then the third, then the second. Close to the tape, heart bursting with strain, he swept into that climax with whirlwind swiftness, he ran past the final man to victory.

Through some mistake in arrangements, the semi-finals of the two-twenty were not completed until almost the close of the meet. With the same bad break that had followed the Penn team all day, Creed Haymond had been placed in the last qualifying heat for the two-hundred twenty yard dash. Then five minutes after winning it he was called to start in the final of the two-twenty, the last event of the day. One of the other men who had run in an earlier heat rushed up to him. ''Tell the starter you demand a rest before running again. You're entitled to it under the rules. I've hardly caught my breath yet and I ran in the heat before yours."

Creed went panting to the starter and begged for more time. The official said he would give him ten minutes. The crowd was clamoring for the final race to begin. Regretfully he called the men to their marks. Under ordinary conditions Creed would not have feared this race. He was probably the fastest man in the world at that distance, but yet he had already run three races that afternoon—one the heart-stopping hundred-yard dash.

The starter, ordering the breathless men to their marks, raised his pistol and with a puff of smoke, the race began. This time the Penn captain literally shot from his marks. Soon Creed emerged from the crowd and took the lead. He sprinted all the way up the field and with a burst of speed and eight yards ahead of the nearest man, he broke the tape, winning his second race — the 220 yard dash.

Penn had lost the meet but their captain had astounded the fans with his two excellent runs.

At the end of that strange day, as Creed Haymond was going to bed, there suddenly came to his memory his question of the night before regarding the divinity of the Word of Wisdom. The procession of that peculiar series of events then passed before his mind — his teammates had taken wine and had failed; his abstinence brought victories that even amazed himself. The sweet simple assurance of the Spirit came to him, the Word of Wisdom is from God.

Elder L. Tom Perry - Oct. 5, 1996 General Conference, Priesthood Session