Sport: Track & Field
Born: April 26, 1924
Died: April 27, 1998
Harris Browning Ross was born April 26, 1924 in Woodbury. As a boy, “Brownie” demonstrated great strength and stamina and dreamed of being a baseball player. But after he was cut from the Woodbury High baseball team, he joined the track squad and became a polevaulter. Soon he gravitated toward the longer running events. In the early 1940s. running for the Bisons, Browning became one of the top prep runners in the state. As a senior in 1943, he was the state champion in the mile, and National Interscholastic indoor champion.
With World War II raging, Browning enlisted in the Navy shortly after graduation. In 1944, while serving in Italy, he competed in the “Allied Olympics.” He resumed his running career after the war, and showed no sign of rust in winning a two-mile race at Madison Square Garden. Villanova track coach Jumbo Elliott offered Browning a scholarship and he quickly became the star of the Wildcats. In 1948, Browning won the NCAA Steeplechase and qualified for the team going to the Olympics that summer. He finished 7th in the Steeplechase. Before returning to Villanova, Browning stopped in Ireland, where he discovered a deep well of distance running talent. Thus began a pipeline of Irish runners to the Philadelphia school.
At the 1951 Pan American Games, Browning won gold in the 1500 meters and silver in the steeplechase, and finished fourth in the 5,000 meters. He made the Olympic squad again in 1952 but did not medal after spraining his ankle while training in Helsinki. During his career, Browning won 8 AAU cross-country titles, more than a dozen marathons,
Starting in the mid-1950s, Browning devoted himself to promoting and popularizing distance running in the United States. He published the Long Distance Log for many years and founded the Philadelphia Road Runners Club of America in 1958. The club held weekly races.
Browning coached high school and college runners (including Rutgers) and was a successful race organizer and official. In 1968, he coached the first U.S. Cross-Country team. Browning ran three miles a day every day and coached runners through the 1990s before passing away from a heart attack in 1998 at the age of 74.