Not since Roger Bannister collared John Landy in the stretch at Vancouver three years ago has a mile race so clearly matched the world's best runners. When Herb Elliott, the brilliant young Australian, faces Ireland and Villanova's Ron Delany (not to mention a couple of slowpokes named Laszlo Tabori and Don Bowden) on the starting line in Compton, Calif. Friday night, track lovers are promised a classic contest of the runner (racing against the clock) and the racer (racing against the competition). Delany, the lean, shoulder-hunching Irishman who hasn't lost a mile race since last July, has no more concern for time than Rip Van Winkle; Elliott, on the other hand, is a rare miler who can either pace himself well (as he often does) or fight off the opposition with a tremendous finishing splurge through the final quarter. If Elliott can pull Delany through a too-fast first three quarters, then retain his long kick through the anchor lap, he has a good chance to beat the Olympic champ, possibly set a record.
RON DELANY: 3:58.8
He depends on his driving finish to win, but his best time was in London in July 1957, behind Ibbotson. He has an odd running style, head bobbing, shoulders jerking, but his stride is silken smooth and he is a brilliant, resourceful strategist.
HERB ELLIOTT: 3:57.8
Youngest of the great milers, he may be the greatest of all before he is through running. Although his 3:57.8 mile at Los Angeles three weeks ago was tainted by the use of a pacer, he has already been under four minutes four times, will be again.
LASZLO TABORI: 3:59
Now training with fellow ex-Hungarian Mihaly Igloi in adopted state of California, is reaching his peak form of 1955.
DON BOWDEN: 3:58.7
Combines tremendous speed, timing as precise as a metronome with power. Ran his best mile at Stockton, Calif. in 1957.
VANCOUVER CHAPTER MEETING
At Vancouver, on the site—and almost on the fourth anniversary—of the history-making Bannister-Landy mile, it is very likely that one of four runners will better the winning time of 3:58.8 for that race. Derek Ibbotson has rounded into condition slowly this season; he finished fifth in 4:10 in a meet in England last week, but he has, to a remarkable degree, the faculty to force himself to meet an occasion. He faces another of Australia's great milers in Merv Lincoln, who has made a career recently of pushing Elliott to sub-4-minute miles. Ibbotson, who won what is, up to now, probably the greatest mile of all time, can hang on through a fast early pace and have enough kick left for a whistling finish. That greatest mile was on July 19 in London, when he led the pack home in 3:57.2 in a race in which the fifth-place finisher, Poland's Stefan Lewandoski, ran 4:00.6. Lewandoski, with Alex Henderson, an Australian now attending Arizona State, completes a quartet of milers, all of whom are capable of bettering four minutes. Since Lincoln is fond of holding off the pace and kicking through the last 330 yards, and Ibbotson is no pace setter, the responsibility for a record-permitting half and three-quarter time may rest with Henderson, a good racer who recently set a new American mark in the two-mile.
DEREK IBBOTSON: 3:57.2
Off form since his great mile last year, he will be testing himself in this race after rather leisurely early-season conditioning.
MERV LINCOLN: 3:58.9
A Delany-type runner who depends on late splurge, he is vulnerable to bristling early speed which takes away his kick.
STEFAN LEWANDOSKI: 4:00.6
May be in over his head in this competition; he finished tired in Ibbotson's record mile at London, fading at the end.
ALEX HENDERSON: 4:03.1
A tremendous two-miler who ran his best mile this season, has improved rapidly, is likely new nominee for 4-minute club.