Folsom field in Boulder, Colo. is bounded on one side by the sudden, spectacular upthrust of the Flatiron mountains and on the other by plains stretching away into the heart of the U.S. Last weekend it was populated by an extraordinarily strong, fleet and dexterous group of athletes who had come across the plains or over the mountains to decide the National AAU track and field championships of the United States.
They were bedeviled by heat one day and a steady, drizzly rain the next, but, spurred by the lure of berths on the U.S. team which will meet Russia next month (first two Americans in each event would qualify, see picture gallery below) and the U.S. team which will compete in the Pan American Games later this summer, the athletes performed mightily.
By the time they wearily packed spiked shoes and damp sweat suits for the trip back across the plains or over the mountains, they had shown rather clearly that 1) the U.S. is not becoming a second-class track power, and 2) the U.S. men will wax the Russians in Philadelphia July 18 and 19.
True, some of the mighty had fallen but their places were filled with young, very competent replacements. Bobby Morrow, the Olympic champion, finished last for the first time in his adult career in the 100-meter dash ("I can't understand it," he said sadly), but Ray Norton, the tall, panther-muscled sprinter from San Jose State, exhibited a new-found poise and an unbeatable floating stretch run in winning both the 100- and 200-meter races. Glenn Davis, who holds the world record in both the 440-yard run and the 400-meter hurdles, placed second in the hurdle event, but Dick Howard, who beat him, appears to have mastered the tricky timing of his steps between hurdles and will probably be a threat to Davis' record in the near future.
June 28, 1959
Bud Held, who designed the javelin that most of the competitors used and who set the official American record they were aiming for, failed to qualify for the finals in his event. But Al Cantello, a short, very muscular Marine officer with an expressionless face, won the event with a good throw on a javelin range made slippery and slow by a steady rain which soaked the field most of the day.
But the drama of the meet was in performances by the youngsters coming up and by some of the veterans who have never grown old.
A slender, blond 19-year-old freshman from the University of Oregon, running with the smooth, effortless efficiency of a loping horse, won the 1,500 meters and set a new AAU record doing it. Dyrol Burleson, who has trained steadily with Veteran Jim Grelle of Oregon, stayed on Grelle's heels through most of the race. He ran placidly and easily a few steps behind Grelle while Gail Hodgson sailed away to a long lead through three laps. When Hodgson began to flag and come back, Grelle, with his shadow close behind, moved into the lead, passing Ed Moran on the way. Coming out of the last turn, Grelle kicked strongly and Burleson, moving out to get running room, kicked, too. His long, still-steady and controlled stride carried him by Grelle easily, and he was 10 yards in front and pulling away at the finish.
"I just wanted to stay with Jim," he said later. "I was real surprised when I went by him in the stretch." Grelle, utterly exhausted, wasn't. "I knew he was ready to go under 4:04," he said. "I feel bad. I know I've been in a race."
Max Truex, the jaunty little distance runner from USC, won a handsome victory in the 10,000 meters, then came back for third in the 5,000 meters. In the longer race, he pit-patted along happily behind Al Lawrence for some 31 minutes, sometimes pulling up on Lawrence's shoulder, then dropping a step or two back, but always close enough so that he could hear Lawrence breathing. Then, as the gun sounded for the final lap, he pulled around Lawrence on the curve, fled away from him on the back-stretch and won by 50 or 60 yards. The next day, in the 5,000 meters, he stayed well back in the pack through the early part of the race, slipping by an occasional runner on the pole and apparently marking his time. Then, as the race drew near its close, and Bill Dellinger, the eventual winner, began to draw away, Truex was slowed momentarily as Miles Eisenman, running in front of him, began to falter. By the time Max had maneuvered around Eisenman, he had lost precious yards to Dellinger and Lew Steiglitz, the tall, strong Navy entry. By now the leaders were bending into the first turn of the last lap.
"I couldn't make up my mind to start my kick then," the cocky little Truex said later. "If I had, I might have caught them." He didn't begin to kick until the back straightaway, however, and by then Dellinger, a picture runner with a fluid stride and immense assurance, was kicking himself, pulling away from Steiglitz and Truex. Max made the effort anyway, but he could only close the gap a little and finished well back in third. It was an extraordinarily courageous race by Truex, who was sapped by the long run of the day before.
A handsome young Irishman from Manhattan parlayed courage and a fine tactical sense to victory in the 800-meter run, one of the finest races of the meet. Tom Murphy is a thick-legged, heavy-chested runner whose build precludes any hint of grace in his running style: watching him, you get a feeling of immense power but none of the silky smoothness of a runner like, say, Dellinger. In the 800 meters, Murphy was worried about Jerome Walters, a slender, feathery-light runner from California.
"Off the trials, I knew he was the only one who had a real lift at the end," Murphy said. "I decided to stay with him and try to outkick him."
Murphy followed his plan perfectly. He and Walters ran well off the whistling early pace set by Stanford's Ernie Cunliffe which resulted in a 50.8 first quarter. ("Ernie has to try to run the kick out of the others," Payton Jordan, his coach, explained. "He doesn't have the essential speed to win kicking himself.") Murphy, pounding along relentlessly, moved by Cunliffe at the beginning of the last turn, with Walters dogging his steps. Walters, who has a strong finishing burst, made his run at Murphy as they hit the turn, and Murphy stood him off. Then Walters tried again as they straightened into the home stretch and the big Irishman met that challenge, too, and turned it back as he pulled away in the final, agonizing sprint for the finish line. He was sick for half an hour after the race.
"I knew it was now or never when he came at me the second time," Murphy said, when he had recovered. "I just thought about keeping my head down and running. I've got a tendency to throw my head back and it slows me down so I just thought about that. I can hold on longer with my head down."
Murphy's victory and his very good time—1:47.9—are significant because the 800-meter run, since the retirement of Tom Courtney and Arnie Sowell, appeared to be one of the weakest spots on the U.S. team. Now, with Murphy and Walters, it looks strong.
A combination of youth and experience makes the 400-meter run one of the strongest events for the U.S. Eddie Southern, the stylish, introspective runner from Texas, won this event easily, looking better than he has at any time this year. He judged his pace perfectly, making up ground on the field on both of the very tight turns on the Folsom Field track and coming down the home stretch under control and running easily. He runs the curves as well as anyone ever has. Dave Mills, the youngster from Ohio who has made the mistake most inexperienced runners make of flying through the first half of the race, held back too far this time. His wonderful last burst brought him up to second but left him well behind Southern. When he adjusts his tempo, Mills should be among the world's finest quarter-milers.
Hayes Jones, Eastern Michigan's superb hurdler, had trouble with tempo, too. He spent too much time in the air over the hurdles. Jones lost by an eyelash to Lee Calhoun in the 110-meter high hurdles, then lost by the same margin to Charley Tidwell in the 200-meter lows. Tidwell, a master at the difficult art of taking hurdles while running a curve, picked up considerable ground on Jones on the tight curve of this track and held off his rival down the long straight. Warren Cawley, a high school boy from Michigan, performed a nearly incredible feat which was overlooked in the general excitement. Cawley, a black-haired, loose-limbed youngster, competing against the world's best hurdlers, placed among the point scores in all three hurdle events, with third in the 200-meter lows, fifth in the 110-meter highs and sixth in the demanding 400-meter hurdles.
The field events followed form almost monotonously. Parry O'Brien, who can invest the shotput with all the drama of a western serial, posed, fidgeted, concentrated flamboyantly and then won his event. Al Oerter, the Olympic champion in the discus throw, won that. Mel Schwarz, who had never officially cleared 15 feet in the pole vault, did so in this meet and then went on to make 15 feet 3 inches, too, but he was only one of four men who did it. The winner, on the basis of fewer misses at 15 feet, was Don Bragg.
As everyone expected, Harold Connolly won the hammer throw; as anyone who thought about it expected, Bob Backus won the 56-pound weight throw. Charles Dumas, the American record holder, took the high jump almost casually, and Greg Bell the broad jump. Ernie Shelby, who competed in three events in the NCAA meet a week earlier, was off form for this event.
The steeplechase, a diabolical event which includes a water jump, was won handily by Phil Coleman, the American record holder, but the excitement in it was provided by the unfortunate Ike Matza. Attempting the first water jump, he tripped over the hurdle, somersaulted through the air to land on his back in the water. He lost his glasses in the foot-deep, murky water and spent a frantic minute scrabbling for them while the field wheeled around the track and approached the jump a second time. He retrieved the glasses just in time to avoid being trampled. The decathlon competitors (the injured Rafer Johnson has been invited to join the Philadelphia squad without the need to qualify) will be added to the 37 men already qualified.
All in all, by the time the meet was over, the American athletes had proved again that they are the best in the world. Of the 35 men chosen for the Russian meet, 15 were recruited from the surprisingly strong West Coast entries. The others hailed from the rest of the country. They will be back together again in July, when they meet the Russians. Last year the U.S. men won the first meet; they should, more easily, win the second.
Ray Norton, winner: new poise, great finish make him world's best. BOBBY POYNTER: very relaxed, strong sprinter.
Ray Norton, winner: even better at 200 because of kick. VANCE ROBINSON: fast from blocks, holds speed well.
Eddie Southern, winner: sprint speed, fine curve runner. DAVE MILLS: great speed, has trouble pacing race.
Tom Murphy, winner: smart runner, can hold early speed, fast finish. JEROME WALTERS: good kick, endurance.
Dyrol Burleson, winner: America's best mile prospect—strong, smooth. JIM GRELLE: fine kick, heady tactician.
Bill Dellinger, winner: likes to hang back, win on killing last lap. LEWIS STEIGLITZ: improving, powerful runner.
Max Truex, winner: wonderfully conditioned, tireless competitor. BOB SOTH: very even, controlled, lacks hard kick.
110 METER HURDLES
Lee Calhoun, winner: beautiful hurdler, clean technique. HAYES JONES: unusual speed makes up for lack of height.
400 METER HURDLES
Dick Howard, winner: growing skill over hurdles implements power. GLENN DAVIS: off form—world record holder.
Phil Coleman, winner: courageous runner, long on conditioning. GEORGE YOUNG: good finishing drive, good pace.
Greg Bell, winner: at best under pressure, won after only one tuneup meet. JOEL WILEY: consistent around 26 feet.
Charles Dumas, winner: steady, unruffled jumper always capable of 7 feet if needed. ERROL WILLIAMS: fine stylist, improving.
Don Bragg, winner: ideal vaulter in size, strength, speed, form, consistency. RON MORRIS: smaller, but a dogged competitor.
HOP, STEP AND JUMP
Ira Davis, winner: sprinter's spring, getaway, needs work on form. HERMAN STOKES: recent better technique shows.
Parry O'Brien, winner: originator and best practitioner of modern style. DAVE DAVIS: reliable 60-footer, getting better.
Al Oerter, winner: whiplash speed, perfect form complement his power. PARRY O'BRIEN: quick and controlled.
Harold Connolly, winner: magnificently controlled spin makes him unbeatable. BOB BACKUS: consistent 190-footer.
Al Cantello, winner: world's best, converts fine speed perfectly. BUSTER QUIST: should reach 250-to-260-foot class soon.
Rudolph Haluza, winner: uses a quick, fast stride to develop good speed; FRED TIMCOE: has long, smooth, easy pace.
Ray Norton, Bobby Poynter, Vance Robinson are certain members, HAYES JONES a probable fourth in a sprint-relay team which should win much as it pleases against the Russian quartet.
Eddie Southern, Dave Mills team With GLENN DAVIS, JACK YERMAN to make the U.S. overwhelming favorite in this relay. The team has not been officially designated but this is likely choice.