Until 10:30 p.m. last Saturday night the Massachusetts Knights of Columbus indoor track meet at Boston Garden had been nothing more than the routine opening of the eastern indoor season. Then, suddenly, a 17-year-old Toronto high school senior named Bruce Kidd put on a display in the two-mile run that brought the spectators out of their seats screaming. The indoor season discovered its first real hero when Kidd won the 22-lap race in the remarkable time of 8:49.2. Never in track history, indoors or out, has anyone so young run so far so fast. He reached the finish line five yards ahead of Peter McArdle, a balding, 31-year-old Irishman from New York, and 35 yards ahead of Fred Norris, the cadaverous looking 39-year-old Englishman who is now a freshman at McNeese State in Louisiana (see page 28).
The time was fast and the race was close, but it was the Toronto schoolboy's exuberant, extravagant and unmistakably youthful running style that drew the crowd's excited attention almost immediately. He runs up on the tips of his toes and carries his shoulders high. His feet reach out almost like a pair of hands to clutch the track ahead, and he pumps his arms awkwardly, far out in front of him like a telephone operator at a busy plug-in switchboard. His face (high cheekbones, narrow eyes), topped by a blond crew-cut, expresses the friendly cockiness of youth.
While Norris, running indoors for the first time, and McArdle exchanged the lead through a 4:24 mile and a 6:40 mile and a half, Kidd shuttled back and forth behind them in the five-man field, first sprinting wildly up into third place, then peeking back over his shoulder and dropping behind once again. It seemed a certainty that this erratic, uneven pace would leave the youngster exhausted and rubber-legged long before the finish. But with half a mile to go, just when by all logic he should have been falling back for the final time, Kidd spurted ahead. He shot by Norris with just under five laps remaining in the race and opened up a quick 15-yard lead on the startled McArdle, who sprinted past Norris after him. McArdle, a very strong cross-country runner, narrowed the margin to five yards once or twice, but each time he did so, Kidd, after a quick look over his shoulder, produced another burst of speed and pulled away again, holding his lead to the end.
His youth is only one of the remarkable things about Bruce Kidd, who will not be 18 until July 26. He is a strong and muscular runner for his age, 5 feet 8½ inches, 135 pounds, but his competitive career goes back only two and a half years. Distance running is considered so strenuous for high school age athletes that many states in the U.S. do not allow any distance over one mile on their high school programs. In fact, Boston K. of C. meet director Ding Dussault wanted to enter Kidd in the mile.
"I figured the boy was so young," he said, "that an indoor two-mile race would be too hard on him." But Kidd, who is an honor student at Malvern Collegiate High School and who had come down from Toronto primarily to take his entrance examinations for Harvard (which may have trouble keeping him now), talked his way into the two-mile. He was well prepared for the distance. He trains up to 20 miles a day and had posted two-mile times of 9:18 (in competition) and 9:09 (in practice) before coming to Boston. His school has no track team so Kidd competes for the East York Track Club and is just about the best distance runner in Canada.
"We figured he had to start somewhere," said his coach, Fred Foot, "and it had to be a soft spot. Off past times, Boston had to be it. I just didn't realize how fast the other runners would be. Bruce's job was to stay close to the pace and then push hard with something between seven and nine laps to go. I've made a study of it and I've figured that all distance runners tend to weaken about then. They had a lull there tonight so we went out after them."
After the race, which was Kidd's first indoors, though he trains on boards, the Toronto youngster jogged three more times around the track while the crowd cheered loudly. He then climbed quickly into his emerald-green warmup suit, trotted off into the crowded infield, out across the track and into the musty gray corridors of the Garden itself. "I've got to warm down," he explained. When cornered later, still jogging restlessly, he added: "I don't think running indoors is too much different from anything else except that there are more laps and my feet are blistered. I didn't even notice the crowd until they started yelling at the end."
Compared to Kidd's performance, everything else seemed an anticlimax. Villanova's Frank Budd, fifth in the Olympic 100-meter final at Rome, won the 50-yard dash. Joe Mullins, a Nebraska senior who graduates in two weeks, took the 600; Deacon Jones, a two-time Olympic steeplechaser, upset favored Ed Moran in a 4:07.8 mile; and Ernie Cunliffe, another Olympian, indicated that he would be a man to watch indoors with a smart 2:10.2 win in the 1,000.
But this year's K. of C. games will be remembered for the excitement and promise shown by young Bruce Kidd. Still a half year away from turning 18, Kidd has now become the fifth-fastest two-miler ever to run indoors. His showing at Boston has set up the possibility of some spectacular David vs. Goliath duels with the talented veterans of U.S. distance running—Laszlo Tabori, Allan Lawrence, Bill Dellinger, Jim Beatty and Max Truex. In fact, the once drab two-mile run may take its place as the glamour event of the winter track season.