Alan B. Helffrich was an Olympic Champion in track and field (1924, Paris), a three time national champion and a 1985 NYAC Hall of Fame Inductee.
Alan Helffrich was born August 24th, 1900 in Yonkers, NY.
In the early 1920s, as a student athlete at Penn State, Helffrich dominated 880 yards and 800m. Helffrich won the AAU national championship in the 880 yards in 1921, 1922 and 1925, and added NCAA championships in 1922 and 1923 as well. More importantly, Helffrich was a member of the US 4x400m relay team at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris. Helffrich and his teammates set a world record (3:16) in the final and won the gold medal.
Helffrich’s greatest achievement, or his most well known one, came in a half mile race in Yankee Stadium in 1925. The race had no bearing on the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, nor any implications on that years national championship. Nevertheless, it was the greatest moment of Helffrich’s career.
In 1925 distance-running legend Paavo Nurmi came to the United States and competed in 52 race “tour.” Going into his half mile race against Helffrich at Yankee Stadium, Nurmi had won 121 consecutive races, a streak that had begun in 1921. This would be the nine time Olympic Champion’s final race in the US, and the most significant of Helffrich’s career.
Nurmi and Helffrich were even for much of the race, but Helffrich pulled away in the final stretch and won by several yards. It was Nurmi’s first defeat in five years, and his only loss during his American tour.
After his retirement, Helffrich still kept a close affiliation with US track and field, and from 1930-1955, he served as an official in track meets around New York City.
Alan Helffrich passed away February 3rd, 1994.