Another of our early Olympians started as a student-athlete on the Bluff, excelling in football, basketball, and track. As a member of Columbia’s track team, John Murphy was a star high jumper who broke school and meet records.
From the track season recap (Columbiad, June 1915), “Johnny did the aeronaut stunt in great shape for us this year. The high-jump bar usually slipped up to an unsteady notch when this spry young Irishman was to take his trial at it. It has been rumored that Prof. Callicrate (coach) has been dieting his high jumper on Indian rubber and bed-springs.”
Graduating from Columbia University Preparatory School in June 1917, Johnny Murphy represented the Multnomah Athletic Club in September 1919 at a senior national track and field championships of the Amateur Athletic Union. In the high jump competition Murphy cleared the bar with a record-breaking 6 feet 3 3/16 inches – 3/16 of an inch over the previous record.
In 1920, at the age of 25, Johnny Murphy was a member of the U.S. Team at the Summer Olympic Games in Antwerp, Belgium. Murphy finished 5th in the high jump competition with a jump of 1.850 metres (6 feet 1/16 inches). Two members of the U.S. team finished ahead of him earning gold and silver medals.
High Jump is one of the ancient Olympic sports from 1896. The women’s high jump was added to the Olympic games in 1928.