Blonde Gayle Dierks has never been able to compete in interscholastic track and field meets in her home state of Colorado because Colorado, like 47 other states, severely discourages such female frivolity. Nonetheless, 17-year-old Gayle recently made her own way to Ponca City, Okla. and the Girls' and Women's National AAU Track and Field Championships. In two days, just for experience, she ran an almost continuous succession of preliminary, semifinal and final heats in the 50-and 100-yard dashes of the girls' division, the 100-and 220-yard dashes in the women's division and, in her spare time, entered the broad jump. In addition to experience, Gayle took home three third-place medals and a burning desire to keep running and jumping.
Nor was Gayle the only ambitious novice on hand. For instance, 15-year-old Charity Alker journeyed 1,300 solitary miles in defiance of her gym teacher who called her participation in activities such as the baseball throw and shot-put "socially unacceptable in Greenwich, Conn." Yet all the 135 who showed up weren't there merely for experience or to establish their independence. Many were thinking ahead to 1956—and the Olympics.
As expected, the star of the show was 23-year-old Mae Faggs, a senior at Tennessee State University and veteran of two Olympic Games. The best woman sprinter since Stella Walsh, Mae Faggs ticked off a new American record of 10.7 seconds in the 100-yard dash, won the 220-yard dash and anchored the fastest 440-yard relay (49.1) ever run in this country by women.
Mae's supporting cast was loaded with youthful promise. There was Mildred McDaniel, 22, who missed a world's high-jump record by the margin of her flapping track shorts when she knocked off the bar at 5 feet 8 5/8 inches. Pamela Kurrell, 16, stuffed a first-, a second-and two third-place medals in her suitcase for baseball, shot-put and discus-throwing competition. Bertha Diaz Hernandez, an 18-year-old Cuban with a doll-like face and a lanky stride, set an American record in the 80-meter hurdles. But it was up to another Tennessee State sprinter, 17-year-old Isabel Daniels, to almost steal the show. An understudy to Mae Faggs, she won both the girls' 50 and 100 in a breeze, anchored the winning girls' 300-yard relay team, came back to win the women's 50-yard dash and ran a leg on the record-setting relay team.