Skip to main content

Blocks of Titan Tradition; 400m Record-Holders Unite for Memorable Performance

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - The Westminster College 440-yard/400-meter record had resided in Joe Stewart's family for a century. Stewart, a 1963 Westminster graduate, held the record for 50 years and his grandfather Linus, 1905 graduate, held it for nearly another half century.

When Stewart, a retired pastor living in Cody, Wyoming, heard that Adam Carswell ‘13 had broken his record in April, he wanted to shake the young man's hand. He had shaken the hand of only other two people to hold the record (his grandfather held the record from 1905-52 and Marlowe Tolbert '56 from 1953-61). After talking with former teammate and current part-time track & field coach Paul Sanders '61, Stewart made the 1,729-mile drive to New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, earlier this month and ended up playing a bigger role than anticipated in Westminster's fastest ever 400-meter dash.

At the 2012 Presidents' Athletic Conference (PAC) Track & Field Championships in May, Carswell asked Stewart to "hold his blocks" for the race. Teammates and coaches are typically asked to hold the blocks for a participant in a race using starting blocks. Stewart had tears in his eyes as Carswell crossed the finish line with a school-record time of 48.87.

"I was like, oh my, that really meant something to him," said head coach Tim McNeil, a 1996 Westminster graduate who led the men's and women's teams to conference championships. "I started getting emotional. That's amazing that Adam thought to ask Joe to hold the blocks. What 21-year old kid thinks to do that?"

"I remember waking up that day and something telling me, it had to be God, "Have Joe hold your blocks today," Carswell said. "When I saw him at the meet, I had to ask him. He said ‘He'd be honored.' For me, I was honored. And then to break the record, it was even more awesome."

"He came up and asked me to hold his blocks," Joe said. "Wow! That was probably the biggest honor of my life!"

Carswell originally broke Stewart's record of 49.3 in late April. At the PAC Championships, Carswell became the first Titan ever to run the 400 in under 49 seconds. 

"I figured if he won that event last year in the PAC Championships, he would sure want to win it again and I was hoping that he'd blast it so there would be no question," Joe said. "There wasn't."

"That's not just a causal fan," McNeil said of Stewart. "That's a true track & field Titan. Joe had to feel even more a part of the record because he held the blocks that pushed Adam all around to break it. When Adam really broke the record at the PAC Championships, Joe was still a part of it. The record was a part of the Stewart family for 100 years and, in a way, it still is."

"What I experienced when I was back there was the Westminster spirit," Stewart said. "And back there, in some ways, it was like reliving my track days. I just felt part of things with everybody."

Carswell, a broadcast communication major and standout on the Titan basketball team, is working on a video highlighting the Titan 2012 track season. The video is expected to debut in December. He is a son of Michael and Diane Carswell of Painesville, Ohio, and a graduate of Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin School.

by Nathan LaRiccia, Sports Information Director

About Westminster College...
Founded in 1852 and related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Westminster College ranks first in the nation as "Best College for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math," according to Westminster, a top-tier liberal arts college, ranks third in graduation rate performance, according to U.S. News Best Colleges guide. Westminster ranked 6th among liberal arts colleges in social mobility, according to the Washington Monthly College Guide, and is one of the most affordable national liberal arts colleges in Pennsylvania. Westminster is also honored as one of "The Best 376 Colleges" by The Princeton Review, and is named to the President's Honor Roll for excellence in service learning.

Nearly 1,600 undergraduate and graduate students benefit from individualized attention from dedicated faculty while choosing from 42 majors and nearly 100 organizations on the New Wilmington, Pa., campus. Visit to view "Advantage: Westminster" A Strategic Plan 2010-2020.

Related Sports

  Men's Track & Field


Click to enlarge.

Joe holding the blocks for Adam at the PAC Championships.

Click to enlarge.

Joe's grandfather, Linus, top row on the right.