In the lonely world of exhaustion, where track records are set, the determining factor is usually psychological. This was again amply demonstrated when the best college track and field performers in the United States decided the 37th annual National Collegiate Track and Field Championships in sun-splashed Berkeley, Calif. last week.
Glenn Davis, a rubber-faced, cheerful young man who already holds the world record in the 400-meter hurdles, set another world record in the 440-yard dash; Eddie Southern, a truly brilliant quarter-miler from Texas, might have outrun Davis had he run more and worried less. Charlie Tidwell of Kansas ran the fastest 220-yard low hurdle race around a curve in the recorded history of mankind because he neither saw his opposition nor bothered about it. And Don Bow-den, the cranelike Californian who is the only American to run a sub-four-minute mile, lost a tactical battle to imperturbable Ron Delany, of Villa-nova and Ireland, in the mile.
Delany, who won the mile in 4:03.5, then returned to the iron-hard track an hour later to win the half mile in 1:48.6, analyzed his victory over Bow-den simply.
"Don has been thinking about this race for a year," the bony-faced Irishman said. "He's been planning to run the half under two minutes and the three-quarters in three flat, and he worried about it so much he couldn't run for worrying when the time came. I run every week. I'm used to taking each race as it comes. This was just another race to me."
June 22, 1958
Bowden, who must have taken heart from the Delany-Elliott race a week before this meet (SI, June 16), tried to match Elliott's tactics without Elliott's amazing stamina. Elliott had set a tremendous pace for three-quarters with Delany hanging doggedly in his shadow, then tacked a whistling anchor lap to the first three to leave Ron staggering far behind at the finish. Bowden, too, set a tremendous pace for three laps. His half and three-quarter times (two minutes flat and just over three minutes), were nearly precisely the same as Elliott's, but Delany, who learned a valuable lesson against Elliott, stayed well off the pace in this race. He was 35 yards behind Bowden going into the anchor lap, but the tremendous Delany kick was intact, and as the field hit the backstretch, Bowden faltered and Delany, the odd, turkey-trot running style still strong and smooth, closed the gap quickly. He assumed the lead around the final turn and then just walked away.
Bowden, his mouth dry and tacky from his effort, said, "Something went wrong with my gas machine. The only way you can beat Delany is to run a real fast three-quarters. But when I got through with the three-quarters I didn't have any poop left. It was a 4:06 day for me and that was that. I'm going to run the mile again at the AAU meet in Bakersfield next week. I know I can run a good mile. This just wasn't the day."
It wasn't Eddie Southern's day, either. He faced an old bugaboo in Ohio State's Glenn Davis and, although it is very unlikely that anyone could have beaten Davis' world record 45.7 in the quarter, Southern's effort was far off his best of the season.
This race may have been won two years ago on a plane bound for the Melbourne Olympics, when Southern and Davis, both competitors in the 400-meter hurdles, were seat mates. Davis, a happy soul who seldom worries about a race, had beaten Southern in the AAU championships and final Olympic trials, and he didn't let Southern forget it on the long plane ride. By the time he had beaten Southern again for the Olympic championship, the Texan had developed a strong inferiority complex about Davis.
In the NCAA finals last Saturday, Davis drew the outside lane, with the whole field behind him in the staggered start of the two-turn quarter mile. Southern, running in lane four, had a clear view of his nemesis, ahead of him and to his right.
Southern came out of his blocks in a scrambling rush and set out after Davis with a blazing pace for the first 220 yards. As the field turned into the backstretch, where their relative speeds could be judged for the first time, he moved up steadily on Davis. But by the time they hit the second turn Southern had begun to tire and Davis, who had run with beautiful and relaxed smoothness all the way, kicked and pulled away quickly on the wide curve and down the straightaway to the tape.
"All I was thinking about when I was waiting for the starter's gun was getting a good start, then run smooth and level off and kick at the end," Davis said later. He was lying on a rubbing table in the dressing room with Southern not far away. "I wanted to stay relaxed and move out when I saw someone coming. I didn't see Southern until the second curve, then I saw him coming out of the corner of my eye and I moved out. I felt tight down the stretch, but I surprised myself. I had a lot left at the finish. Did I look tight?"
"No," someone said, and Southern broke in.
"I guess I'll never be the competitor you are, Glenn," he said sadly. Davis embarrassedly mumbled, "Thanks."
"When he moved I just couldn't," Southern confessed. "It makes you stop and wonder, not being able to beat him. That might have had an effect on the outcome."
The second world record of the meet was set by Charlie Tidwell, who, like Davis, followed the outside lane to the tape. Tidwell ran the 220-yard low hurdles around one curve in 22.7 seconds; this is not a recognized world record since the event is usually run on a straightaway, but the fastest previous time recorded in track annals was a 22.8 run by Elias Gilbert last year. Gilbert, who won the high hurdles here, dropped out of the lows because of a pulled leg muscle.
"I was afraid of that outside lane at first," Tidwell said. "Turned out to be a good thing. I got a bad habit of looking at the other guys in a hurdle race when I ought to be looking at the hurdles. Do that and one of the hurdles is liable to jump up and bite you. I couldn't see anybody else this time, so I watched the hurdles."
The majority of the athletes who competed in the NCAA headed for Bakersfield and the national AAU championships this weekend, with a trip to Russia and a U.S.-U.S.S.R. dual meet awaiting the first- and second-place winners there.
Bowden and Southern should be back in form at Bakersfield. Delany, who has finished his college career and who would not be eligible for the Russian trip since he is not an American citizen, will return to Ireland to run in a meet there, so that Bowden's competition, although it includes Australia's great Herb Elliott and his running mate, Merv Lincoln, should not have quite so fearsome a psychological effect on him. Davis, content with his world record and his continuing mastery over Southern, has decided to forego the 440-yard run to return to the 440-yard hurdles, and Southern won't have the muscular, sunburned Ohioan to look for in his race.
Some of the winners in the NCAA will find the competition at Bakersfield a good deal tougher. John Fromm, who broke his own collegiate record in the javelin with a towering 257-foot one-inch throw, must contend with veterans Steve Seymour and Bud Held, both of whom have, at one time or another, bettered that distance. And the winning sprinters in the NCAA—Ira Murchison of Western Michigan in the 100 and Villanova's surprising Ed Collymore in the 220—will now have a special psychological problem to match the ones which slowed Southern and Bowden: Bobby Morrow, the Olympic champion from Abilene Christian College, will be competing at Bakersfield.
THE AAU: PROVING GROUND FOR THE MARCH ON MOSCOW
Bobby Morrow, the Olympic champion who has used up his NCAA eligibility, tuned up for the AAU with a 9.4 100 and a 20.9 220 around a curve in a regional meet last week. Although Ed Collymore, Ira Murchison and young Ray Norton of San Jose State all looked impressive in the NCAA, none of them, so far, can be rated with Morrow. After a slow start, Bobby is running with all the effortless power of his Olympic period. Dave Sime, who might have offered Morrow strongest competition, is again out with a leg injury at a critical time.
THE 440-YARD DASH
With nemesis Glenn Davis retiring gracefully to the 440-yard hurdles, Eddie Southern should win the quarter mile in a canter. Jack Yerman, a very promising sophomore from California, was closing fast on Southern at the end of the NCAA 440 and ran a creditable 46.6, but Southern, seeing himself well beaten by Davis, had pulled up. Without Davis to worry about, Southern can run his own race and that is good enough to beat anyone in the country—or the world—but Davis. Should Charlie Jenkins enter, he would be a strong darkhorse.
THE MILE RUN
Although Don Bowden finished a badly beaten fourth in the NCAA mile, he is still the fastest American miler, and he has been working carefully toward a peak for the AAU meet. Jim Grelle of Oregon and Gail Hodgson of Oklahoma beat him in the NCAA, when he was concentrating too much on licking Ron Delany, but although Australians Herb Elliott and Merv Lincoln should finish one-two, Bowden is a good bet to finish third ahead of Grelle. The Oregon runner has improved mightily this season, though, and may be ready by now.
THE THREE-MILE RUN
America has always been well below world standards in distances from the mile on; this year is no exception. Alex Henderson, who won the NCAA two-mile as he pleased, is an Australian under an Arizona State shirt. Deacon Jones of Iowa, who finished second to him—albeit a distant second—is apparently back in form after a midseason lapse, and little Max Truex of USC may find the three-mile better fitted to his measured pace. Jerry Smartt, the long-legged Houston runner, is improving, but not enough to cope with this company.
THE HIGH HURDLES
Elias Gilbert of Winston-Salem and Teammate Francis Washington, who has pushed Gilbert to tremendous times this season, could finish one-two in this event, especially since Keith Gardner, the Jamaican who competes for Nebraska and finished second in the NCAA, will not be at the AAU. Willie May of Indiana and Bob Lawson of USC finished strong at the NCAA, both of them a half step ahead of Washington, who was off balance over two hurdles. Gilbert ran with a taped leg to relieve a muscle strain, but on form should win easily.
THE LOW HURDLES
Gilbert set a new world's record of 22.1 seconds in this event in May at the Carolinas AAU meet and beat Washington by less than a step. Washington and Gilbert were even over the last hurdle, which Washington tip-flicked with a knee. Kansas' Charlie Tidwell must be rated even with the two Winston-Salem hurdlers off his great performance in the NCAA. If Gilbert's leg is ready, any one of the three could again lower his American record of 22.8 seconds around a turn, particularly with the trip to Russia as a reward. Best bet: Tidwell on an outside lane.
Parry O'Brien and Bill Nieder, until the last three weeks the only shotputters in the world who had been over the magic 60-foot mark, will struggle with a high school boy for the two places open on the U.S. track team which will be chosen from the AAU winners. Dallas Long, who turned 18 last week, a 250-pound junior whale from North Phoenix High School, hit 61 feet½ inch to place second to O'Brien's 62 feet 4¾ at the Compton Invitational June 6. His coach says he'll reach 70 feet—but not at the AAU. So powerful O'Brien is again the choice.
The flying saucer brigade is headed by two young men who have sailed the discus 200 feet. Unfortunately, Rink Babka of USC overshot the range and dropped his discus into a drainage ditch and Al Oerter of Kansas was throwing downhill, so neither throw can be recognized as a record. Oerter and Babka wound up in a rare tie at the NCAA, both marking 186 feet 2 inches, well shy of their best. There is strong likelihood of a new world record in this event, and it should stand up this time. On consistent performance, Al Oerter should win again.
THE BROAD JUMP
Greg Bell of Indiana and Kansas' Ernie Shelby have both been over 26 feet this year; Shelby, in a tremendous exhibition of consistent length and consistent fouling, was over 26 feet on five of seven jumps at the Texas Relays. Once he soared 26 feet 9 inches, three-quarters of an inch over the world record held by Jesse Owens—but he stepped a quarter inch over the edge of the take-off board. Bell failed to qualify for the finals at the NCAA, favoring an injured leg; with a week's rest he may be better at the AAU, but the erratic Mr. Shelby is the favorite.
THE HIGH JUMP
Charlie Dumas, who has jumped higher than any man in recorded track history with flat shoes, may have to match his world record of 7 feet½ inch to beat SMU's Don Stewart and Phil Reavis of Villanova. All three have been over 6 feet 10 this year; Dumas cleared 6 feet 11½ in a USC-Occidental dual meet in April. Stewart started slowly enough but hit 6 feet 10½ and barely missed 7 feet½ inch in the Houston Meet of Champions. Reavis, at 5 feet 9½, is probably the strongest jumper for his height in the world and he is consistent. Olympian Dumas is the pick.
THE POLE VAULT
In the continuing assault on the 16-foot ceiling in the pole vault, Bob Gutowski is rated by men who know vaulting best as the most likely to succeed. He holds the world record at 15 feet 9¾ inches and is probably the most consistent 15-plus vaulter since Cornelius Warmerdam. His competition will essentially come from other vaulters who were not eligible for the NCAA—Ron Morris, ex-USC, and Don Bragg, ex-Villanova. Jim Brewer, who set a high school record of 15 feet, is a few inches short of the leaders, but coming up and is big hope of future.