Celebrating 150 Years: Rudy Arechigo captures three state titles

by Brian Cole

Rudy Arechigo, MHS class of 1954, was a three-time Minnesota State High School League state champion during his career as a member of the Spuds’ cross country and track teams in 1953 and 1954.

Rudy knew he was fast when he was in elementary school on the northside of Moorhead. As a resident of the Point Neighborhood near the now-demolished First Avenue bridge, young Arechigo attended the first Hopkins elementary school that was located approximately one block southeast of today’s Hjemkomst Museum. Rudy recently sat down with us and recalled how he knew that he had the gift of speed, “I was always the last one left when we played pump, pump, pull away during gym class”. 

Even though there was a track team at Moorhead Junior High School, it wasn’t until Rudy’s 11th grade year that he went out for track. Rudy reminisced, “The reason I went out for track was because of Jim Van Raden. The coaches needed Jim to throw shot put and disc but Jim told them he would only go out for track if I ran. Coach Shocky Strand asked me what I could run and I told him I thought I could run fast for two miles.”  Strand smiled and told Rudy that there was not a two mile race in Minnesota track so Arechigo instead signed up to run the one mile. 

It became apparent to the Spud coaches early on that Rudy had a special talent. During Rudy’s first track meet he beat the field by almost 220 yards—half a lap. He went on to capture first at both the district track meet, held in Frazee, and the region track meet, held in Glenwood. Those victories earned him the right to run at the 1953 state track meet that was held at the cinder track at Memorial Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota. Rudy placed first at the state meet in the mile with a time of 4:32.9.

The following fall, coach Shocky Strand convinced Rudy to go out for cross country. During this era the cross country race was a 1.8 mile event. Rudy and fellow Spud runner Duane Eide each competed at the 1953 state cross country meet that was held at Lake Nokomis Park in Minneapolis. Rudy recalled that, “Shocky told me that Jerry McNeal of Minneapolis Southwest was considered the favorite and that I should keep him in my sight.”  For the first mile Rudy kept McNeal—a future All-American runner at the University of Kansas—in his sights. With about 200 yards to go, Rudy took off and beat McNeal easily, winning the state cross country meet with a time of 9:09.2. Rudy’s time was just seven seconds shy of the state record. 

Rudy’s senior track season was his best yet. He continued to improve throughout the season and set personal records. Prior to the district track meet Moorhead High School held their annual Awards Day at school where the entire student body gathered in the MHS auditorium. When Rudy was honored for his track accomplishments he received a three minute standing ovation; something he never forgot. 

At the 1954 state track meet Rudy repeated as state champion in the mile and in doing so also set a new state meet record with a time of 4:26.9. Jerry McNeal finished a distant second. On the way home from the state meet Shocky Strand took the boys out for a celebratory meal in St. Cloud. Moorhead Daily News sportswriter Jim Peterson reported that “Rudy buried himself in southern fried chicken.”

Rudy enlisted in the United States Army and ran track during his years in the service. He placed 3rd at the Armed Services track meet held at West Point in 1955. Rudy also excelled at boxing and ping pong. 

Rudy currently resides in Fargo and was a joy to interview for this article. Rudy’s photo appears in the “Once a Spud . . . Always a Spud” mural that was recently installed in the new MHS gymnasium. Additional information for this article was taken from the Minnesota State High School League Archives, the Minneapolis Tribune Archives, and back issues of the Red River Scene.