Steve Carson was a pillar of strength in the Iowa State track and field program in the 1960s, earning All-America honors three times and winning one national title for a program that was on the brink of greatness in the decade to follow.
The speedy Carson grew up racing on dirt and cinder surfaces in Red Oak, Iowa, while honing his craft. He led Red Oak High School to three conference and district titles from 1960-63. He set state records in the 220 (22.4), 440 (49.9), 180-low hurdles (20.1) and long jump (23’ 8.75). His long jump record stood for nearly 20 years.
Carson decided to run track at Iowa State, entering school in the fall of 1963. By his junior season, Carson was one of the best sprinters in the nation. He was at his best in indoor competition, finishing second in the 600-yard dash at the 1966 NCAA Indoor Championships to earn All-America honors. Carson’s clocking of 1:09.5 in the 600-yard dash still ranks fourth on the Cyclone indoor chart.
As a senior in 1967, Carson was nearly unbeatable. He claimed Big Eight Conference titles in the 600-yard indoor (1:10.5) and the 440-yard outdoor (46.2). He won his first national title by clocking a 1:10.2 at the 1967 NCAA Indoor Championships in the 600-yard dash. It was ISU’s first indoor NCAA individual title in school history. He gained All-America status for the third time by finishing runner-up in the 440-yard dash at the 1967 NCAA Outdoor Championships. Carson ran the sprint in 46.0, a school record that stood for 16 years until Olympian and Hall of Famer Sunday Uti eclipsed it in 1984.
Carson continued to compete after graduation. He won the 1967 U.S. Track & Field Federation National Championship in the 600, defeating Olympic champion Lee Evans. He also was the U.S. Federation champion in the 600 in 1965. Carson was inducted into the Iowa Association of Track Coaches Hall of Fame in 1987. His daughter, Kim, was an NCAA national champion in the 100-meter hurdles at the 1996 NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships while competing for LSU.