The lean, short-haired youngster was still breathing deeply, but he had recovered very quickly. Although he had just set an American collegiate record in the two-mile run, he was not happy about it.
"It was a little cold," he said. "I had trouble warming up. I wanted to run 8 minutes 45 seconds."
He did run an 8:51.3, well under the 8:55 record set by Southern California's Max Truex in 1957.
"It's a case of mind over body," said Alex Henderson. "My body is capable of a world record in the two-mile [8:33.4]. I hope my mind is."
Henderson set his two-mile record at the Drake Relays in Des Moines, the last of three big outdoor meets which usher spring into the midlands of the U.S. At the other two—the Texas Relays and the Kansas Relays—other notable performances gave promise of a great outdoor season. The University of Texas mile relay team, anchored by Eddie Southern, a junior who may be the finest runner of his generation, broke the intercollegiate record (3:09.1); the University of California and Oklahoma University sprint medley relay teams, each anchored by great half-milers who double in the mile, took turns breaking the record in their event.
As the season turned into May and headed for its annual climax in the NCAA and AAU championships in California in June, it became increasingly apparent that the United States will field a stronger track team in the dual meet with Russia at Moscow in late July than the strong team which represented this country in the 1956 Olympics at Melbourne. Between now and June there are, of course, other meets of national importance in which new stars may crop up (see box page 47).
As usual in this country, the sprint field is crowded with exceptional talent. Duke's Dave Sime, who has given up baseball for good to concentrate on his medical studies and on track, beat Olympic Champion Bobby Morrow in a wind-lashed 100 at, of all obscure places, Big Spring, Texas; Morrow, handicapped by a pulled groin muscle, has not yet reached peak condition. Bill Woodhouse, a stocky, bespectacled Iowan who starts with the instant acceleration of a jet-assisted rabbit, is a bare half step behind Sime and has beaten Teammate Morrow consistently this year. Dee Givens of Oklahoma, a good sprinter who will get faster as the summer ages, is the prototype of several hopefuls who could upset the favorites. Eddie Southern has run 9.4 in the 100 and 20.6 in the 220 already and he might win either of these events, in addition to the 440-yard dash.
The development of Southern is probably the most remarkable aspect of the early outdoor season. It began with a 46.2 quarter in Fort Worth in middle March, but probably the turning point in Southern's career came at the Texas Relays in Austin. Running the anchor leg on the Texas mile relay team, Southern had a comfortable edge over an old nemesis of his, Ohio State's Glenn Davis, who beat him consistently in the 400-meter hurdles in 1956. Davis, who will probably be one of Southern's strongest rivals in the 440, set a blistering pace in the first 220 yards of his anchor leg, but he gained nothing on Southern. In the last 220, Southern pulled away easily, running his lap in 45.3 seconds, which is one-half second under the world's standing start record. More important, he gained a strong measure of confidence; since that race, he has improved steadily, running a 44.6 quarter in Texas' 3:09.1 record-setting mile relay, which is faster than anyone has ever run a quarter mile since the invention of the stop watch. Last week Southern set a new collegiate record with a 46.1 in Austin.
In the half mile, Don Bowden of the University of California and Ron Delany, Villanova's brilliant Irish miler, may have unexpectedly strong competition from rapidly improving Norm Lloyd of Stanford. Since both Bowden and Delany are primarily milers, Lloyd, should he continue to improve, may be the best bet in the half for both the NCAA and AAU meets. Tom Murphy, the powerful Manhattan runner, Dave Scurlock of North Carolina and a pair of USC stars, Wayne Lemons and Tom Anderson, are strong dark horses. Tom Courtney, who has been catching up on his studies at Harvard Business School, and Arnie Sowell, now in service, may have time to reach peak condition by late June. Sowell and Courtney dueled magnificently last year.
The mile boils down to Bowden and Delany, the only two sub-four-minute performers now running in this country. Delany, tuning up for the outdoor season with a long string of victories indoors, set a world indoor record at Chicago. The race between Bowden and Delany matches a runner and a racer; Bowden runs with a stop watch in his mind while Delany runs to beat the competition.
"Delany has a better kick and he can rely on it more than I can," Bowden says. "It's easier for me to set a fast pace, then finish as strong as I can. I'm sure to get beat in a slow race. I have to try to do what Landy and Elliott do—set a fast enough pace to take the kick out of the opposition."
In common with most distance runners, Bowden is fascinated with the mental aspects of running.
"It's a problem of prorating yourself over a distance," he says. "When you're running all out—say a 1:50 half or a 3:58 mile—your body mechanism tells you you're tired just when you have to run fastest. That's when your psychological preparation takes over. I guess the physical preparation is pretty much the same for all distance runners now. It's pretty cut and dried. I'm excitable to start with, so with me it's a matter of containing myself. Most important to me is my religion. It has had a profound effect on how I prepare myself. God has given me this gift of running, and I use prayer to attain a peace of mind. It's not a crutch or an aid, but it is a calming influence, and I need that before I run."
While it seems likely that Bowden and Delany will make the national mile championships a personal duel, there are other milers who could improve enough to challenge them. Alex Henderson, the Australian import mentioned above, has run a 4:04.5 mile, and Lloyd of Stanford has done 4:06. Gail Hodgson, a South African who runs for Oklahoma, has run 4:08.2 and less than that on mile legs for the Oklahoma distance medley relay team.
Henderson and Max Truex, the tiny USC runner, appear to be yards ahead of the rest of the field in the two-mile. Deacon Jones of Iowa is their closest rival on the basis of recent performances, but both Henderson and Truex have easily beaten the existing intercollegiate record of 8:55 set last year by Truex. The little Californian was set back in his training by a severe case of carbon monoxide poisoning, suffered as he followed a motorcycle escort through the streets of S√£o Paulo during a four-mile race early this year. He has since recovered from that illness and only recently finished an 8:54.8 two-mile with considerable running left. He and Henderson share an indefatigable appetite for hard work, as, indeed, all good distance runners must. Henderson, before setting his intercollegiate record at Des Moines, hobbled on a sore ankle, then tested it with an eight-mile jaunt on the Wednesday before his record-setting race of Friday. He works out twice a day—at 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.—and logs from 15 to 17 miles per practice day.
Keith Gardner of Nebraska, a Jamaican, is a strong contender in the 120-yard high hurdles and is an excellent quarter-miler, too. He faces tremendous competition in both his events, though; Southern, of course, is an overwhelming favorite in the quarter, and the high hurdle field includes several sub-14-second performers in Hayes Jones of Eastern Michigan, Glenn Davis of Ohio State, Elias Gilbert of Winston-Salem and Chuck Cobb of Stanford.
In the field events, a titanic duel is shaping up between a pair of discus throwers who have both been over 200 feet this year. Rink Babka of USC threw the discus into a ditch on his effort; Al Oerter of Kansas sailed the discus 202 feet 6 inches only to find that the field upon which he performed slanted too much. Neither throw can be recognized for record purposes, although each is well over the world record of 194 feet 6 inches. Both Oerter and Babka are nearly sure bets to break the world record this year. Oerter and Dave Davis of USC top the college shotput field; Bill Neider and Dave Owen are the AAU favorites.
In the javelin throw, John Fromm, the husky NCAA champion from Pacific Lutheran, is far ahead of his competition. Fromm, whose throws are made, oddly enough, almost entirely from arm motion, hit 252 feet 10½ inches at the Texas Relays, to break his own intercollegiate record of 248 feet 1. A back injury kept him out of the Drake Relays, won by Texas' Bruce Parker, who has been over 230 feet this year. Buster Quist of New Mexico, Dick Hollis and Jon Jamison of Occidental and UCLA's Rafer Johnson are all around the 230-foot mark. Dr. Steve Seymour and Bud Held beef up the AAU field, although neither is eligible for college competition.
One of the oldest records in the book may fall this season with Kansas' Ernie Shelby and Indiana's Greg Bell shooting at the 26-foot 8-inch broad jump record established by Jesse Owens in 1935. Both Shelby and Bell have been over 26 feet in their careers, and Shelby, at the Texas Relays, put together a great series of jumps. In seven efforts, he was over 26 feet six times, winning at 26 feet 3½. On one attempt he made 26 feet 9, stepping over the edge of the board an eighth of an inch to invalidate the mark.
Don Stewart of SMU, who tied for the NCAA high jump championship last year, has had trouble beating Teammate Bertil Holmgren this season. Holmgren, a tall, lean Swedish import, has cleared 6 feet 9½ neither he nor Stewart has approached this year's 6-foot-11½ mark of USC Olympic Champion Charlie Dumas. Dumas, Phil Reavis of Villanova and the SMU pair are the class of the high jump field.
Bob Gutowski of Occidental, who holds the world record in the pole vault, has competition from another foreign student in UCLA's George Roubanis, a Greek student who is the first non-American ever to clear 15 feet.
The strong infiltration of foreign students on American college track teams points up a growing tendency which has worried a few coaches. More and more colleges are scouting farther and farther afield for talent: this season, for example, Henderson, Lloyd, Delany, Hodgson, Holmgren, Roubanis, Gardner, Jack Smyth of Houston and Ramon Sandoval of Lamar Tech, to name the strongest contenders, all hail from foreign lands. It is due partly to a student exchange program, but some of it is simply out-and-out recruiting for better track teams. One college even went so far as to advertise in a London paper for track talent; they got a good runner and a $1,000 fine.
But the richest hunting grounds for American college teams are still in the United States.
THE OUTDOOR MEETS TO WATCH
Fresno Relays, Fresno, Calif.
Coliseum Relays, Los Angeles
AAU Marathon, Yonkers, N.Y.
IC4A Championships, Villanova, Pa.
NAIA Championships, San Diego, Calif.
NCAA Championships, Berkeley, Calif.
National AAU Championships, Bakersfield, Calif.
U.S. Decathlon, Palmyra, N.J.
United States-Russia, Moscow, U.S.S.R.