Ralph Boston, a tall, slender advanced senior in biochemistry at Tennessee State College, is the best all-round runner and jumper in history. Last Saturday, before an overflow crowd of 11,103 in the small stadium in Modesto, Calif., Boston broad-jumped 27 feet and one-half inch to become the first man ever to accomplish this equivalent of the seven-foot high jump or the four-minute mile—track and field marks that have acquired a peculiar magic.
Boston cleared 27 feet on his fourth jump in an amazing series of six, all over 26 feet, and in so doing stole the spotlight from the lavishly publicized 100-yard dash in which San Jose State's Dennis Johnson, who has tied the world record of 9.3 seconds four times this spring, defeated Oregon's Harry Jerome, who has done it once. Perhaps overly cautious because of the criticism he has had with his fast starts (SI, May 22), Johnson waited stoically in his blocks in this race, and Jerome, a smaller sprinter who starts like a frightened fox, was away two yards in front. But Johnson, running with beautifully relaxed power, caught Jerome about 25 yards from the finish line and passed him cleanly, winning by a full step. Both men were timed in 9.4.
While the year's two most heralded sprinters were running their 9.4s under ideal conditions in Modesto, a steady 24-hour rainfall was flooding the track on New York City's Randalls Island, washing out Friday's trials at the IC4A meet for the first time in 85 years and with them the chance for Villanova University's Frank Budd to prove that he was in a class with his West Coast contemporaries.
The remarkably serene Budd was unperturbed by the possibility of running six races on Saturday. He told SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's Arlie Schardt: "It's the same for everybody." Somehow, Saturday managed to be worse. The rain continued, and with it came a 42° temperature and a blustery wind to create a day that would balk a football fan in late December. Still Budd churned up the heavy track against 10-mile-an-hour gusts to win the 100 in 9.6 seconds and the 220 in 21.4. Each time he led so decisively that he was looking over his shoulder at the finish.
Budd, who had never won a major race when he edged onto the U.S. track team last summer and finished fifth in the 100 meters in Rome, has also run the 100 in 9.3 and the 220 in 20.2, the fastest this year for any college sprinter. His coach, Jim Elliott, believes he is now a better 100 man because "he's done more distance work than he believed he could take." Elliott minimizes the importance of Johnson's fast start. "There is no such thing," he says. "Take Armin Hary. He has faster reactions than most people, but he won the Olympic 100 for Germany because he could carry it in stronger. Whoever can drive at the end can win."
Just who can drive best will not be determined until late this month, when Budd, Johnson and Jerome line up together for the first time in the NCAA and AAU championships. The latter meet will also be used to select the team that will tour Europe in July for matches with Russia, Germany, Poland and England.
There are, of course, no doubts about Boston, who accomplished his record broad jump against a field that included Olympians Anthony Watson and Bo Roberson and Oregon State's Darrell Horn, favorite to win the NCAA title.
"I saw Bo do 26 feet 2 inches," Boston said. "I went like this, man." He nibbled at his fingernails. "Then I knew Darrell Horn did 26-3 on a foul jump last week, and Bo's been running all those 9.5 100s lately, so I knew he must be really moving down that runway. I knew I had to jump good."
Boston began jumping good on his first attempt, which carried 26 feet 5¾ inches. On his second he reached 26 feet 9¾ inches. Oddly enough, probably his best jump in actual distance cleared was his third, which is recorded as 26-5¾. On this one he took off some three inches behind the eight-inch-wide take-off board so that the actual carry may have been 27 feet 3 or 4 inches.
Then came the world-record jump. "I didn't think that was it when I came out of the pit," Boston said. "Then Darrell Horn jumped up and hollered 'That's it. That's it.' But it didn't feel that good. The last one felt better." The last one, following a 26-foot 1¾-inch attempt, carried 26 feet 10¼ inches, giving Boston in one series the first-, third-and fourth-longest jumps in track history. The second longest was his own world record set last year, which, of course, he broke.
Boston does not look the part of the truly great athlete he is. He is a lanky man, sleekly but not heavily muscled, even in the legs, which carry him farther, nearly as fast and almost as high as any legs have ever carried any man.
"I'm going to compete through the Olympics in 1964," he said. "If I can't make it in the broad jump, maybe I can in the decathlon. I've done 9.7 in the hundred and 13.7 in the high hurdles and six feet nine inches in the high jump. I just fool around with the pole vault to win points in meets, and I've made 13-6. Then I threw the javelin 185-3 not long ago. I never put the shot, and the best I ever did with the discus was 125 feet with a high school discus. I'd have to work out with weights if I wanted to enter the decathlon, I guess."
In almost every other event at Modesto the performances were up to expectations. The one glaring failure came in the pole vault. After setting a world record of 15 feet 10¼ inches a week earlier 20-year-old George Davies, a sophomore at Oklahoma State who uses a fiber-glass pole, could do no better than 14 feet 6 inches. This seemed to satisfy Don Bragg vastly. He won the event at 15 feet.
Other bright performances
But to more than balance the pole vault, there was Jim Beatty, the tiny distance runner from the Santa Clara Youth Village, who won the mile in 3:58.8, although he was handicapped in his bid to regain his American mile record when his teammate and pace setter, Laszlo Tabori, was forced out after the second lap by a week-old hip injury. And there was a 17-year-old high school boy from Andrews, Texas—Ted Nelson, who upset seasoned opposition to win the 440 in 47 even. Finally, there was a relay team from little Texas Southern, a Negro college, which surprised everybody by winning two races.
"I had invited the Houston team," said Meet Director Tom Moore, "but their coach, Johnny Morris, said he had too many injuries. He told me about Texas Southern. Their coach called and asked if I would bring his boys up, but I could only give him $700 for expenses, although the trip costs $1,200."
Texas Southern came anyway and won both the 440-and 880-yard relays over first-class Abilene Christian and San Jose State.