Nov. 17, 2009
USA Track & Field has announced that Bruin alum Andre Phillips is one of five inductees into the 2009 USATF Hall of Fame. Phillips becomes the ninth UCLA man to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and the 13th Bruin overall.
In winning the gold medal in the men's 400m hurdles at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Andre Phillips picked the best possible time to notch his only career win over his idol and fellow National Track & Field Hall of Famer Edwin Moses. Phillips, who won the 1985 World Cup, the 1985 USA Outdoor title and was the 1981 NCAA 400m hurdles champion, was ranked nine times in the top ten in the world by Track & Field News, and ranked #1 globally in 1985, 1986 and 1988. He was world ranked #3 in the 110m hurdles in 1985.
Phillips joins track & field legends Joetta Clark Diggs, Randy Williams and Willie Steele, and coach Dr. Ken Foreman as the 2009 inductees into the National Track & Field Hall of Fame. The Class of 2009 was announced Tuesday by USA Track & Field.
The Class of 2009 will be inducted Saturday evening, December 5, at the Jesse Owens Awards and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, held in conjunction with USATF's 2009 Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Ind.
"All of us at USA Track & Field congratulate these five talented individuals on their election to the National Track & Field Hall of Fame," said USATF Chairman and President Stephanie Hightower. "Their contributions have added tremendously to the legacy of USA Track & Field, and we all look forward to their induction ceremony next month in Indianapolis."
*quotes and bio information courtesy of USA Track & Field
Below is a Q&A with Phillips about his induction, courtesy of USATF
Q: What's it like to be a Hall of Famer?
A: For me it's humbling and I'm very honored to be in the company of all the 400m hurdlers and all the people that have been inducted prior to me getting in there. Also for me, I knew since about 1976 when Edwin Moses won in Montreal that I really wanted to be a hurdler. So that in itself is awesome. It's great.
Q: How did you first get involved in track and field?
A: I was in eighth grade and I watched my older brother run in high school as a sophomore. I think he ran the 400 meters and that's when I became interested in track and field. Also at that time growing up I was one of ten kids, so there wasn't a lot of money to play organized sports, whether it be PAL football, baseball or any of those other sports. In track and field all I needed to do was just run - have tennis shoes and just run, so it was an easy sport for me to get in to without having to pay.
Q: What do you remember most about your high school career?
A: It worked out well. I started out as a high jumper and then I started running the hurdles, pretty much after seeing Edwin. I ended up winning the high school state meet my senior year and becoming an all-American, so I thought it went well. My junior and senior years were two great years. Q: Why did you choose to attend UCLA? A: I knew when I was 11 that I wanted to go to UCLA. I didn't know why or how. I remember Kareem Abdul-Jabbar playing in a game, and at that time he was Lew Alcindor, and I knew back then that I wanted to go to UCLA. When the opportunity arose I jumped on it. I went to a community college for two years, and then I went to UCLA my junior and senior years. My junior year wasn't as satisfying as I would've liked, but my senior year I won the NCAAs and broke the UCLA school record a couple times, and that was a good year for me. Q: What was it about Edwin Moses that inspired you? A: The fact that he won with class. I never heard him gloat or brag or turn around and look at us or put his hands up. I remember many times he was way ahead of the field and I always thought that was very classy. The other thing is that he revolutionized that event with his stride pattern, his long legs and the way he ran. He made that event more glamorous and exciting to get in to and I think that's the reason why it is the way it is today.
Q: At the 1988 Olympic Games you beat Moses for the only time in his career. What was that like for you?
A: When I came across the line and realized that I'd won, I automatically didn't think that I won the gold, it was I finally won one against Edwin. That was my initial thought. Winning the gold was the secondary thought. To me he's one of the greatest athletes - period - of all time.
Q: You held the Olympic record until four years later when Kevin Young set the world record at the 1992 Games in Barcelona. Was it disappointing to lose the Olympic record?
A: He's a former Bruin, and I remember when he first started out I did my best to help him out as much as I could with the hurdles. So if anybody was going to break it, I was glad that he did it.
Q: What do you think of first when you look back at your career in track and field?
A: I think for me it's the camaraderie between the athletes. It's also knowing that at that given point in time I did my best. Whether I was injured, sick or had a bad race, I know that I did my best. But first and foremost it's all the guys. When you first stop traveling and running you think about all the people that you traveled with and all the camaraderie.
Q: What is your life like these days for you after track and field?
A: I started off teaching special education, and then I went on to get my masters in education and became an assistant principal at a big comprehensive high school, and I enjoyed it. I knew at some point that I was going to work with kids. I didn't know if it would be in coaching at a university or teaching or doing what I'm doing now.
Q: Earlier in your life you had assistance from family, teachers and coaches, and here you are many years later helping youngsters. Does it feel like your life has come full circle? A: Absolutely. I heard this great line not so long ago that "service to others is the rent you pay for living," and that's so true. I feel blessed and rewarded every time I can turn a kid around. Even those days when I have to discipline or suspend a kid, I always let them know that I still like them, but I don't like their behavior. I do whatever I can to make that kid turn around.
A: Absolutely. I heard this great line not so long ago that "service to others is the rent you pay for living," and that's so true. I feel blessed and rewarded every time I can turn a kid around. Even those days when I have to discipline or suspend a kid, I always let them know that I still like them, but I don't like their behavior. I do whatever I can to make that kid turn around.