ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A high-profile athlete was unable to graduate with his classmates because of his skin color, his name is Owen Smaulding. He was known as one of the greatest athletes of Albuquerque High and accomplished great things even though he faced racism and oppression. “He’s one of the individuals that I like to bring up when we talk about tradition here at Albuquerque High School”, says Tim Johnson AHS Football Coach.
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Owen Smaulding lives on at Albuquerque High with a plaque of pictures hanging in his honor. Smaulding dominated in track, basketball, baseball, and football at 5-foot-11-inches and 170 pounds. His fullback talent helped defeat the University of New Mexico in 1917. Tim Johson explains how even as an athlete himself he is not sure if he could have played basket and football at the same time or even track and field and baseball without being exhausted, this tells you what type of athlete he was mentally and physically.
Smaulding set many records with seven touchdowns during an undefeated season, eight state records in track, and one that has lasted nearly 40 years is his 10-second 100-yard dash in 1918. In his three years, he collected 17 first-place finishes, scoring 107 points in three consecutive meets, and even outscoring entire teams. “I think the only two people who come to mind when I think of those kind of athletes that could do anything is Jim Brown and Bo Jackson”, says Johnson.
Smaulding accomplished all of this by his junior year but he was eligible to compete during his senior year due to late enrollment caused by being drafted and serving in the army for five months during his junior and senior year, this lead to his teammates not participating in the state meet because they all agreed this was unfair. “That would let you know about his character and what he meant to individuals around him”, explains Johnson.
Smaulding went on to college where he developed a love for baseball and made a connection to the Negro League Baseball, playing for three teams in five seasons during a time where he would be forbidden to play in the major leagues. This leaves anyone wondering what could have been if he got to play.
Owen Smaulding eventually retired from baseball and went to teach for five years in Jackson, Mississippi, and then ran a printing business in Chicago. In 1961 Smaulding died at the age of 65-years old and Albuquerque High honored him by naming him the “All-Time Athlete” from the class of 1919. They named their gymnasium “The Smaulding Center” in 1977. He was also inducted into the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame in 1989.