An air of urgency as palpable as the pesky north wind whipping across the track animated the athletes at the Texas Relays in Austin last week. This was the first of the big outdoor meets leading up to the Olympic trials in California in July and the Olympic Games in Rome in August. Even former Olympians like Bobby Morrow and Eddie Southern felt the tension, and a blocky, muscular youngster named Ted Woods, who looks like a shotputter and is a fine sprinter, felt it, too, though it apparently did not disturb him because he defeated both Morrow and Southern at 200 meters.
Neither did tension bother John Macy, the 30-year-old Polish refugee who runs for the University of Houston. Macy set a meet record Friday night in the 5,000 meters, running a creditable 14:25.4, but he is in a peculiar never-never land as an Olympic prospect. He cannot, of course, compete for Poland; on the other hand, he is not eligible for U.S. citizenship until March.
Eddie Southern, who placed second to Glenn Davis in the 400-meter hurdles in the Melbourne Olympics, ran that event for the first time in three and a half years Friday night. He had worked on the hurdles for only two days, but he ran beautifully in the long, satin-smooth stride which marks him and, surprisingly, he hurdled very cleanly. His 51 flat at this time of the year was exceptional.
Saturday afternoon, Southern proved he is not much of a factor in the 200-meter field. Running against Morrow, Jim Weaver, Bill Woodhouse, Orlando Hazley and the surprising Woods, he finished fourth.
Friday night, Morrow, looking a little like the Morrow of 1956, won the 100-meter race, lunging into the finish a deep breath ahead of Jimmy Weaver, former North Texas State star. The time (10.6) was slow but the race was run into that pesky wind. Bobby is an assistant vice-president of a bank in Abilene, Texas, and he has had a hard time getting into condition. "I felt good for the first time," he said with satisfaction. "I had him about halfway and eased up and got him again at the finish."
Jimmy Weaver, who works for Convair in Fort Worth and practices after work with his wife as starter and critic, didn't think Morrow had won. "No hard feelings," he said. "I just don't think he beat me. Once I said I didn't mind losing as long as it was to Morrow. But I don't want to lose to anyone this year. I want to go to the Olympics."
Ted Woods, who beat the headliners on Saturday, had never run 200 meters before. "I didn't even run it in high school," he said. "I been running the short sprints indoors and the 440 on relay teams. I just figured to get out as fast as I could and I was sure they'd get me coming out of the curve. But they didn't." He beat the field by a good four yards and his performance might have been the best of the meet—except for the presence of a massive blond shotputter from Kansas.
Bill Nieder, who came to the relays to conduct a shotput and discus clinic, broke the world record in this event by a foot and a half inch early Saturday afternoon. On his first attempt, in a special event put into the program for his benefit, he pushed the iron ball out 65 feet 7 inches, breaking Dallas Long's week-old unofficial record of 64 feet 6½ inches.
"I felt very strong," he said later. "I knew I could do it. I woke up about 4:45 this morning and I couldn't get back to sleep, and I read that story in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED about Bowden and Delany training together. Then I had breakfast and brunch and I came out here pretty early."
Nieder had gone over the Texas stock of shots carefully, looking for one which had the proper balance, texture and size.
"Shots are all different," he said seriously. "Some aren't perfectly round, some are bigger, some are rough on the outside. I like a smooth, perfectly round shot. I have my own, but I left it in California to be balanced and brought up to weight. I used it so much it was a half ounce light. But this one did all right."
Nieder set his record on his first attempt. One of his warmup tosses had sailed 64 feet 10½ inches, and he was putting the shot over 62 feet standing at the front of the ring without a glide.
"Frank Medina gave me a wonderful massage just before I came out," he said. Medina is the Texas trainer who went with the American team to Russia two years ago and who trained the American Olympic team in 1948. "He made my arm feel real good. I never have warmed up so fast before. Frank worked on Alley's arm last year before Bill broke the javelin record here, too."
65 WAS A HOPE
"Anyway, when I got ready for the first one, I thought I could do it," Nieder said. "I was hoping for 65. That little fence looked like it was only 60 feet away. That's good psychological edge, you know." The little fence was 66 feet away; it is there to prevent the shot from rolling out on the track. Nieder's prodigious toss hit only inches away from it.
"I did everything just right," Nieder said. "I've been telling these kids all week to wait for the shot, to get a good, long pull on it, to turn their hips. I guess subconsciously I remembered all that myself. I did it anyway. Last year I used to throw line drives because I was in too big a hurry. I waited for it this time."
Nieder had set his personal goal at 65 feet this year, but he revised it to 66 after this performance. He is not optimistic about keeping the record, though.
"I guess Long will get it eventually," he said. "He's bigger than me or Parry O'Brien or Dave Davis, who has been over 63 feet. He's had the advantage of working from the O'Brien stance all the time. And he started working out with weights when he was 14. I didn't use the O'Brien stance until 1955 and I didn't start using weights until I was 20."
Nieder tossed up the shot he had used for the record and caught it. The gray steel sphere looked like a dirty ping-pong ball in his hand. "I don't mind about the record," he said. "As long as I make the Olympic team. That's the big thing. To make the team and to get a gold medal in Rome."