In midwinter, twoweeks before the national championships, before all the great performers havehit a peak, the indoor track season comes to a climax at the Millrose Games.The climax is more emotional than rational. Perhaps there is no more reason forit than that the Millrose has been running as a good show now for 50 years.From the first gun crack, sending a helter-skelter relay of moppets around thetrack, until the last, forlorn thud of a high jumper on the landing mat, manygreat performers—indeed Olympians—may be lost in the colorful swirl of lessermen. The first moppet off a mark at this year's Millrose was Ernest Cardone,age 13, of The Bronx, who may never know such fame again unless he improvesprogressively with age. The final thud was made by High Jumper Charlie Stead,an utterly relaxed Villanova sophomore, who just switched from the quarter milethis year and barely missed clearing 6 feet 8¾ inches after tying Olympian PhilReavis for first at 6 feet 8.
In the four hoursbetween young Cardone's debut and unknown Charlie Stead's final thud some grandchampions came through and some stayed lost in the swirl. A week before theMillrose, several records were in prospect because some men found courage tosay they felt fit enough for such a try. Feeling fit after beating Olympic400-meter Champion Charlie Jenkins and tying the 600-yard record in Boston theweek before, Olympic 800-meter Champion Tom Courtney declared that he was outto beat both the indoor half-mile record and Arnold Sowell. "Last week Iwas full of running and tied the 600 record," Courtney contemplated."So, logically, I should run the 600 again, but I want the chance to beatSowell."
With Courtneyafter Sowell the half mile promised to be the duel of the Millrose, and any mancould argue either that Courtney would or that he would not beat Sowell. Thepsychological edge lay perhaps with Sowell, who somehow was not seized by thesense of drama of a duel and quite frankly was training through the Mill-rosemeet, aiming for a good showing in the national 1,000-yard run two weeks later."While it may not be nice to say to meet directors who invite you,"Sowell observed on Millrose eve, "I'm not ready to run my best yet. To betruthful, I'm a little tired of all the talk about a rivalry. Sometimes it canhelp you win, but it can also beat you. Courtney's not the one to take thelead, but if the pace is slow I'll have to. If I'm out front and thinking toomuch about Tom behind me, I'll be running his race, not mine. Tonight,"Sowell concluded, "I'll see a shoot-'em-up movie, sleep late, read in theafternoon, and in the race, if the pace is slow, I'll take it."
On the bigMillrose night, with three laps to go, Arnie Sowell found the pace slow, andswept into a three-yard lead past Courtney and veteran Harry Bright, who hadstarted the race rolling. Courtney, catching a shinful of spikes in thejockeying, took out after Sowell, but could only pull up a yard at the tape asSowell went across first with a new world indoor record of 1:50.3.
February 18, 1957
Another who washoping for a record was the miler Fred Dwyer. Twice a winner of two-mile eventsearlier this year, he decided on the two-mile again at the Millrose. Dwyer'shopes for a good two-mile time were dashed by gut rumblings which forced himout of the race on the 14th lap, leaving the race and record with thetraditional owner, 34-year-old Horace Ashenfelter.
Other recordsfell elsewhere, among men who had less hope for them. Ira Murchison was caughtby the newfangled Cinetimer (SI, Feb. 11) equaling the 60-yard-dash record inthe Mill-rose semifinals. After sniffling with a head cold early in the week)Olympic Decathlon Champion Milt Campbell took his semifinal of the Millrose60-yard hurdles, and with amazement heard the officials announce a new worldrecord of seven seconds flat. "I don't feel that good," Campbellprotested, then in the finals took a sliver-thin lead over Olympic High HurdleChampion Lee Calhoun and held it to the tape, again in a record seven secondsflat. "I still don't feel that good," Campbell insisted.
The 16,000 whopack the Millrose meetings at the Garden are always record-hungry. Still in theshadow of the Olympics, it would seem the crowd might be too jaded for anythingexcept record breaking. It is a wholesome note that this Millrose audience wasappreciative of performances in general and not obsessed with the entries inthe record book.
The recordbreakers were properly applauded, but the crowd's biggest whoops went to twovaulters, Richards and Gutowski, who came close but missed. The pole-vaultingfields at the meets this winter have been the toughest ever. Snatching a fewhours of weight lifting and jogging in the Norfolk YMCA in the past week whiletouring the East, the Rev. Bob Richards made the last plane to New York in timeto meet the strongest field of pretenders ever lined up to try and knock theMillrose crown from his head. Fifteen-footer Jerry Welbourn is back in actionthis year, and Don Bragg is back, his form cleaner and the leg injury thatknocked him out of the Olympics now mended well enough to let him get over 15feet three times already this year. Olympic runner-up Bob Gutowski ofOccidental, east for his first indoor vaulting season, had taken to the boardrunways well, sneaking up 3 inches a meet until he cleared 15 feet in theBoston AA Games. "I have discovered, when you get used to it," Gutowskisaid, "you can get quite a drive off the boards. There is no wind andnothing can tear up the runway. I started in carefully, feeling my way, andI've been stalling out at the top. In the Millrose I'm going to slam the polein harder and drive with my leg straight up the pole. I'm going with everythingI've got. I don't know who'll get there first," Gutowski speculated."Maybe Richards, maybe Bragg. Maybe I'll do it. Sixteen feet is gettingcloser."
In the Millrose,Bragg put three bad vaults together and went out at 14 feet 4. At 15 feetRichards and Gutowski both cleared on their last try. At 15 feet 3 both clearedon their first vault. At 15 feet 6 Richards made one of the best jumps of hislong vaulting life, clearing with what looked like 4 inches to spare. The crowdwas still rustling about it when Gutowski came down the runway and went over 15feet 6 with absolutely nothing to spare. On his second try at 15 feet 9Richards seemed well on the way to the impossible, buoyed up by a great roarfrom the crowd. The roar turned into what is probably a record groan for theGarden. Richards' snap off the pole wasn't smart enough to take him clear. Onhis second try at 15 feet 9, Gutowski sneaked over again with nothing to sparebut came down on the crossbar. None of the challengers has yet found a way toknock the vaulting crown off Richards' head, but some night someone may wellchase him over Cornelius Warmerdam's 14-year-old record of 15 feet 8½inches.
Before the seasonis done, several newcomers to the eastern boards may well turn the mile runinto the wide-open "classic" that it once was before Ron Delany claimedit last year. As he learns English slowly, the comments of Hungarian runnerLaszlo Tabori must still be strained through an interpreter, but through theinterpreter Tabori now indicates that he considers the alarming curves of atight board track an interesting part of his running career. Both Tabori andBobby Seaman are improving the class of this season's mile races, but at theMillrose, on the 10th lap, in his usual way, Ron Delany burst past both of themand run away like a scurrying turkey. Delany is the sharpest proof of thehealthy effect the Olympics have had on this indoor season. The record-hungrycrowds last year used to scatter boos when Delany seemed to win without anall-out push. Now he is Olympic champion, proved winner of the hardest race ofall, and there are no boos. Considering this while seated against a high hurdleafter his Millrose win, Ron said, "They really never boo, really. Last yearI did win once or twice and loafed a little when the crowd wanted a fast race.You know, my sympathies really were with the crowd."
In the nationalchampionships a week hence Tabori and Bobby Seaman, both smarter on the boards,will probably be back in the mile. Fred Dwyer may also come down into the mile.Does this worry Delany? At the prospect, Delany's Irish smile spread into hiseyes. "Freddie Dwyer is one of my best friends," Delany replied."If he enters the mile, I say that would be Freddie's worry. I've been herein the mile all along. It's Freddie who's coming into my lion's den."