Poise bred from the maturity of experience was worth a ticket to Moscow in the National AAU Track and Field championships in Bakers-field, Calif, last weekend. Harold Connolly, the record holder in the hammer throw, pointed the way early when he broke his own world record in the first event of the meet; in the 440-yard hurdles Glenn Davis added a third world record to his collection.
The youngsters came close in some events, but the veterans of nerve-twanging competition on a hundred tracks in a hundred meets won out. Bobby Morrow, the imperturbable Olympic sprint champion from Abilene Christian College, coasted through trial heats in second or third place, then turned up his competitive overdrive a notch and won the 100- and 220-yard dashes. Eddie Southern, an Olympic veteran who can beat any quarter-miler in the world except Glenn Davis, was a 10th of a second off Davis' week-old world record in winning the 440-yard dash, and Tom Courtney, the Olympic 800-meter champion, running only his third race of the dying track season, won the 880-yard run.
Herb Elliott, old in competition despite his 20 years, won the mile from fellow Australian Merv Lincoln; Olympic champion Parry O'Brien won the shot, Rink Babka the discus, Bud Held the javelin, Bob Backus the weight throw, Ron Morris the pole vault and Charley Dumas the high jump. All in all, it was a bleak time for the youngsters.
Southern, who spent a long week fighting off a deep depression after his loss to Davis in the NCAA, was relaxed for this race.
June 29, 1958
"I feel like a tiger," he said before the 440-yard final. "A baby tiger, maybe, but baby tigers can bite." He led all the way, from the gun to the tape, fighting off a late surge by Olympic 400-meter champion Charlie Jenkins. "I ran with my head as well as my legs this time," he said later. Jenkins, who ran on the pole (Southern was next to him in lane two), was .6 of a second under his best time in 46.1 behind Southern's 45.8.
"I surprised myself," Jenkins said. "I haven't worked much lately. I had reached a plateau and I actually thought I was beginning to slack off. But now I am on a new plane and I believe I will improve. I figure running the pole costs you three yards in a two-turn 440 where you run in lanes all the way. Watch."
Jenkins trotted out on the track.
"Now look how close to the line I can run out here in lane two," he said, running a tightrope an inch inside the white line marking the inner boundary of the lane. "Now I'm running the pole," he said, trotting back up the track. He came back, running a foot away from the cement curb. "You can't snuggle up so close to that curb," he said. "You're taking a chance on stepping on it and breaking stride. So you're giving away maybe three yards."
Jenkins had finished about three yards behind Southern.
In the mile, Australia's Herb Elliott won a bristling race from Merv Lincoln, who had the unpleasant distinction of having run the fastest nonwinning mile in track history. Lincoln turned in the best mile of his life (3:58.5), only to trail Elliott's 3:57.9. Don Bowden, who tried to run Ron Delany into the ground in the NCAA last week, made the same mistake against Elliott this time. He and Gail Hodgson, the South African who runs for the University of Oklahoma, hurtled to a 57.8 quarter and a 1:59.6 half, then died as the two Australians took over the lead on the last lap.
"I was in the worst mental and physical condition of my career," Elliott said afterward. "I'm tired and homesick. I just ran this one to win. I didn't run this 4-minute mile; the other chaps ran it and I just finished it."
Although the two Australians finished first and second, America's hopes in the mile were boosted by the fine showing of Ed Moran, a junior at Penn State who competed for the New York Athletic Club, and Jim Grelle of Oregon. Moran finished third in 4:01.7 and Grelle, who finished fourth, was given the same time. Jerome Walters ran 4:02.2 in fifth and Bowden, a tired sixth, was around 4:04, although no official time was kept on him.
American domination of the field events against Russia—and the rest of Europe—is nearly certain. Beginning with Connolly's tremendous 225 feet 4 inches in the hammer throw, Americans won all the field trials. Connolly, who appears small among the behemoths who inhabit the hammer circle, got off his record throw despite a separated collarbone. Doing dead-weight lifts with bar bells three weeks ago, Connolly pulled his collarbone away from his breastbone and was unable to work out for two weeks. The injury was still painful in warmups here, and 20 minutes before the competition began Connolly had an injection of two cubic centimeters of blockain directly into the joint by Dr. Harry A. Tyerman. His first throw was 217 feet 6 inches, but Al Hall hit 217-5 and Connolly reacted to the competition briskly. "Hall's throw sent the adrenalin jumping through me like a bee sting," he said later. "I didn't feel any pain from the injury and the throw was smooth all the way around." Connolly did not use his final attempt.
Rink Babka and Al Oerter finished first and second in the discus, Babka winning at 187 feet 10 inches. Possibly Babka had a stronger motivation in this meet; he was anxious to make the plane for Russia because the American track team will probably also compete in Czechoslovakia, where his parents were born.
Parry O'Brien, who has dominated the shot for six years, must have felt a twinge of foreboding in winning his specialty. He is an extraordinarily self-confident young man and his 61-foot 11-inch put was good for an AAU record, but an 18-year-old youngster who came to this meet fresh from graduation exercises at North Phoenix High School was close at 60 feet 5 inches. Dallas Long, nervous as a fox in a forest fire, forgot his technique for his preliminary throws and barely qualified for the finals. With only one throw left, he was well back in the field, but his final put, again made with only a minimum of technique but a maximum of brute strength, put him in second place.
America will be represented by another high school athlete in the Russian meet in July. Paul Stuber, a junior at Bellflower High School of California, finished second in the high jump to Olympic champion and world record holder Charley Dumas. Dumas, jumping almost casually, cleared 6-9¾; Stuber, who surveyed each jump very carefully, did 6-9, the best jump of his life, while experimenting with his style.
"I used a six-step approach before this meet," he said. "Then I saw Charley using eight steps and I tried that and jumped an inch higher than I ever have before."
Injuries cost the U.S. the services of some top competitors. Bob Gutowski, the world-record holder in the pole vault, suffered a bruised ankle in a regional meet a week ago and did not compete at Bakersfield. Elias Gilbert, the brilliant hurdler from Winston-Salem, was under par with a pulled leg muscle and finished third to Hayes Jones (13.8) and Ancel Robinson (14 flat) in the 120-yard high hurdles. Greg Bell, the 26-foot broad jumper from Indiana, missed this meet with a pulled muscle, but Ernie Shelby of Kansas, who won at 25 feet 10¼ inches, has little to fear from European competition.
Only in the distance races, as usual, does the American team appear well below world standards.
We may never break the European monopoly on the distance races, since these have little appeal to American athletes. On the other hand, with youngsters like Long and Stuber coming up, Europe and Russia may never win anything else.
MISSION TO MOSCOW
At the conclusion of the national championships the following team was chosen to compete in the dual meet with Russia July 27-28
George Eastment, Manhattan
Payton Jordan, Stanford
Larry Snyder, Ohio State
Ira Murchison, Willie White
Jim Segrist, Glenn Davis
Eddie Southern, Charlie Jenkins
Tom Courtney, Mike Peake
Ed Moran, Jim Grelle
Bill Dellinger, Max Truex
Gordon McKenzie, Jerry Smartt
110-METER HIGH HURDLES
Hayes Jones, Ancel Robinson
Glenn Davis, Josh Culbreath
Charlie Jones, Phil Coleman
Ronald Laird, James Hewson
Harold Connolly, Al Hall
Ron Morris, Jim Brewer
Charley Dumas, Paul Stuber
Ernie Shelby, Bill Jackson
HOP, STEP &, JUMP
Ira Davis, Kent Floerke
Bud Held, Al Cantello
Parry O'Brien, Dallas Long
Rink Babka, Al Oerter
Ed Collymore, Jim Segrist
Ira Murchison, Willie White
Eddie Southern, Glenn Davis
Charlie Jenkins, Jack Yerman
Following the national decathlon championships at Palmyra, N.J. July 4-5, two additional athletes will be named to the above team, which will also make three other European stops after Moscow. After the women's track and field championships at Morristown, N.J. July 5, a team of 20 will be selected to accompany the men to Moscow for competition with, the Russian women.