National Swimming Championships Changing Lives For Athletes, Young Kids

Academics were never a strong suit for Leroy Neal, whose grade-point average was just high enough to remain eligible for cross-country and track at Fullerton High, Fullerton College and Occidental College from 1955-63.

Even with an extra year at Occidental after his athletic eligibility expired, Neal was two classes shy of a degree in the spring of 1964. One week into summer school, he dropped out.

“I decided I’d rather go work for my dad as a carpenter, or in the car wash, or as a dishwasher — it didn’t matter, I had it with this academic stuff,” said Neal, a standout miler and 800-meter runner.

“I rented a tiny room behind a garage in Eagle Rock, and for 16 hours a day I’d lay on my bed, staring at the ceiling. One day I was pouting, feeling sorry for myself, and there was a knock at the door.”

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