At a few minutes past 4 o'clock last Saturday afternoon a young man from Asbury Park, N.J. ran 100 yards faster than anyone had ever run it before. With the noise of traffic on the Tri-borough Bridge threatening to dissolve his eardrums, and the indelicate stench of the East River, at low tide, wafting in gently from the rear to hurry him on his way, Francis Joseph Budd raced down the black cinder straightaway of Downing Stadium on Randalls Island in New York City in 9.2 seconds to bury the oldest of world records.
The occasion was the 73rd edition of America's largest and often most confusing track meet, the annual national championships of the AAU. The place was alive with more than 500 of the best athletes that the U.S. could produce. To such a gathering the revision of records is all part of the day's work, like getting sunburned or trying to remember where you left your sweat pants. But no one—ordinarily—goes around revising records in the 100-yard dash. Thirty years ago it was 9.4 seconds. In 1948 Mel Pat-ton lowered it to 9.3. In the next 13 years 12 runners equaled Patton's time. No one, however, improved it without a hurricane at his back. Not until Budd.
Hardly anyone would pick Frank Budd to run 100 yards so fast. A mysterious childhood disease left his right calf noticeably smaller than its mate. Budd's coach at Villanova, Jumbo Jim Elliott, and various doctors who have examined him believe the cause to have been polio; Frank and his mother say no. Patton himself always said that the first man to run 9.2 would be tall and strong and quick, a young giant with the reflexes of a cat. Budd is completely middle-size—5 feet 10 inches, 172 pounds—and he never seems to be in a hurry until he runs. He lacks the effortless grace of a Patton or a Bobby Morrow. He does not have the catapult start of Jim Golliday or Ira Murchison. He has none of the incredible finishing power of Ralph Metcalfe or Dave Sime He just hustles along.
But Frank Budd has no weaknesses, either. His start, if unspectacular, is still very good; he is never caught languishing in the blocks. Since curing an old habit of straightening up toward the end of a race, his finish has improved. And his acceleration in that vital pickup area 10, 20 yards down the track, where big races are often won, is as good as that of anyone. At the age of 21, he is a sensible, well-balanced young man who prefers to let others worry about the races he is going to run.
July 2, 1961
One reason others were worrying last Saturday was that Budd, after running fifth in the Olympic 100 meters at Rome, had won 21 straight races, indoors and out. Twice this season he ran 9.3, tying the old record, and he accomplished the feat on the notoriously slow eastern tracks where no one had run such times before. Jumbo Elliott was among those who felt that on the right day, with the right competition, there was no reason why Budd could not run 9.2.
Budd ran three races on Saturday. He ran 9.4 in his qualifying heat and 9.4 in his semifinal, breezing. Then he crouched in his blocks for the finals. The fact that he had drawn the spike-chopped inside lane did not worry him, nor did the fact that two of his opponents—Murchison and Cook—had once run 9.3s themselves. He looked up the track at the finish line, 100 yards away, and waited for the starting gun.
At 10 yards Budd was clearly in the lead. "It was a very good start," he said later. At 40 yards he was almost a stride ahead. At 70 yards James moved up on his shoulder. James's real name is Salawatha Nejawachacomondidite and he is half Chiricahua Apache. He is a very intelligent fellow, educated at UCLA and Cal Tech and on his way to studying medicine at the University of Geneva, and he is also Frank Budd's friend but, like anyone with an Apache at his heels, Budd fled. He crossed the finish line a good yard ahead. Drayton, his Villanova teammate who always comes charging at the end—and who beat a very tired Budd the next day in the 220—passed James to finish second.
One of the three first-place stop watches caught Budd in 9.4, but this was patently in error; the other two watches read 9.2, sufficient to certify the faster time as correct, and the three watches on second place all stopped at 9.3. The wind gauge registered .5 meter per second, or just over one mile an hour, quite a bit under the International Amateur Athletic Federation's maximum allowance for a following wind of about 4½ miles an hour. And the track itself later measured 100 yards 1 lA inches. Everything checked out. Frank Budd had run history's first official 9.2.
It was well that the 100 produced fireworks since the mile, which was supposed to be fabulous, turned out to be a dud. The only person who was happy about the result was Dyrol Burleson. He won and he beat Jim Beatty for the first time in four attempts.
Burleson and Beatty are America's two fastest milers. Burleson, a slender, blond 21-year-old from the University of Oregon, set an American record of 3:57.6 last May. Beatty, a small, dark, 26-year-old who once ran for North Carolina and now runs for the famed Hungarian expatriate, Mihaly Igloi, at Santa Clara Youth Center, has done 3:58.
Both runners arrived in New York in glistening condition. Burleson, who ran at 158 pounds as a freshman and 155 last year, was down to 148. "Lean and mean," he said. Even so, Burleson denied that he was as ready as Beatty. "I think Jim can do 3:54 right now," said Burleson. "He's got age over me, and that's important. But I'm faster than he is, and he can't afford to loaf around. There isn't anyone in the world I can't outsprint over that last quarter."
"He's trying to psych me," said Beatty, who like most milers these days often seems more fascinated with the mental stimuli of the race than with its sheer physical demands.
During the week when anyone mentioned Beatty's name in Burleson's presence, the Oregon boy's head would drop, and he would glare at the speaker like a dog getting ready to fight. Then he would grin sheepishly. "I really don't know him very well. I understand he's a nice person. We just never pal around."
Of Burleson, Beatty said: "He's all right, but there are other people whose company I prefer. Burleson is interested in only one thing. Burleson."
"I think," said Igloi in his ruptured English, "that we have a new American mile record by Sunday night."
Instead, 20,000 New Yorkers at Randalls Island were treated to the thudding disappointment of a 4:04.9 mile. "Ron Delany," said one of them, "could do that standing on his head."
The trouble with the mile was that no one really wanted to lead through that first agonizing quarter mile. By the time the quarter was over, in 67.2 seconds, all hope for a record was gone. Later both Beatty and Burleson explained their tactical plans. "I was going to stay right behind Burleson's shoulder," said Beatty. "I was going to stay right behind Beatty's shoulder," said Burleson. This proved difficult, but for a while they both seemed to be succeeding.
Keith Forman, another Oregon runner, led through the second lap when Burleson began to push him along. The time was 2:09.2. Then, midway of the third lap, Burleson took over, with another ex-Oregon runner, defending AAU champion Jim Grelle, and Beatty close behind. As the runners heard the gun for the final quarter mile, Burleson took off. But Beatty, who had been waiting all this time for just such a move, found himself trapped behind Grelle. By the time he got disentangled, Burleson was flying down the backstretch, 20 yards in the lead, and Beatty had no chance of making up any such margin as that. Burleson won laughing, looking back over his shoulder.
"Of course I'm happy," he said. "I would rather win a mile in six minutes than finish second in 3:48."
"It was the dumbest race I ever ran," said Beatty. "The race wasn't lost by a slow first quarter, it was lost by bad tactics."
"I think," said Igloi, "that he did a big mistake."
"We had three plans," said Oregon Coach Bill Bowerman. "This one was Plan B."
Winners to Europe
Both Burleson and Beatty, like all other U.S. citizens who finished one-two in the AAU, are eligible to join the touring track team that goes to Europe in July for a series of dual meets with Russia, West Germany, England and Poland. "I imagine we'll run a little faster over there," said Beatty. "I knew I'd beat him sooner or later," said Burleson, "and I've still got Plan A and Plan C."
If the mile was disappointing, there were other events that were not (see page 56), chief among them the high jump which John Thomas lost—his first loss in the high jump to a fellow American in three years.
Actually, Thomas tied at 7 feet with Bob Avant, a blond southern Californian who goes over the bar like a frightened frog leaving a lily pad. But Avant was awarded the first-place medal because he had no misses at lower heights, while Thomas missed once at 6 feet 10. Because his back was hurting—anybody's back would hurt, the way Avant lands—the winner passed up his third chance at 7 feet 2 inches. "I was lucky," he said. "John is still the best. I've got to do more work with my secret machine." Avant's secret machine is really an exercise involving a table, on which he lies, and a cable, on which he pulls. "I call it the principle of static contraction," he said. Thomas, who has no machine, looked rather static himself. Maybe he was trying to knock down the odds in Moscow on Valeri Brumel.
The two most entrancing performances in the meet—except for Budd's 100—were produced by a great Olympic champion, who entered almost as an afterthought, and a marine biologist so little known that he would hardly have been missed had he spent the weekend digging clams. The first was Otis Davis, the second John Gutknecht. Gutknecht won the six-mile run in 28 minutes 52.6 seconds or about the length of time needed to reach the moon. Still, he cut 30 full seconds off the AAU record—and he had never run six miles before.
A very mild, modest fellow of 24 with a blond crew cut and a dirty borrowed jersey, Gutknecht trained for the race by running uphill. "It's a new theory I have," he said. "I've been running for 12 years and I tried everything else and never seemed to get anywhere." Gutknecht graduated from Ohio Wesleyan and is now working toward his doctorate; his winters are spent at the University of North Carolina, and his summers at Woods Hole on Cape Cod.
But Gutknecht likes to run, and last fall he ran himself into third place at the National AAU cross-country championships. "I almost never run on a track," he says.
On Sunday, without any real knowledge of how fast he should run six miles around a track, Gutknecht solved his problem by latching on to the two most experienced men he could find. For 3½ miles he followed Peter McArdle, the 31-year-old fireman from Ireland, and Doug Kyle, the 38-year-old defending champion and record holder from Canada. Then Kyle dropped out, and it was the bald-headed McArdle, chugging along with his resolute stride, and Gutknecht, flowing along with his economical one. You could see that Gutknecht was enjoying himself.
At 4¾ miles he decided it was time to take the lead; at the finish he was in front by 150 yards. Later he admitted modestly that he could have run much faster if he had just known what the race was all about. If he runs faster against the Russians in Moscow, U.S. distance runners may not seem such a soft touch anymore.
No one ever classified Otis Davis as a soft touch; his trouble was that he seemed to have disappeared. After winning a gold medal at the age of 28 in Rome and setting an almost unbelievable world record of 44.9 seconds for 400 meters, Davis went back to Oregon and got a job teaching school. This spring there were reports that he was training, occasionally, and that someday, on the eve of a big track meet, he might materialize. But no one really believed them. Until last weekend he had not run a quarter mile all year.
Then he read an article about Earl Young, his Olympic teammate, in this magazine and it made him very angry. Young, he pointed out, had never really won anything. "After I read in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED about that other guy being such a good runner," Davis said, "I decided to come to New York and see for myself. Maybe if I can beat him you'll write an article about me."
Davis beat Young, although this was not his main problem; the big Abilene Christian sprinter, never able to reach peak condition all year because of illness and injury, was slowed again on Sunday by a stiff muscle and couldn't come within a second of his best time. Nor was Davis' problem Adolph Plummer, the NCAA champion from the University of New Mexico, who had shaded Young in a 46.2 race just the week before. Davis' problem was Ulis Williams.
Everyone in the East thought Ulis Williams was a myth, a high school myth from Compton, Calif., who was supposed to have run 440 yards in 46.1 seconds. Instead, Ulis proved to be a 19-year-old Reggie Pearman, complete with horn-rimmed glasses and long legs and an uncanny turn of speed. Running against one of the finest fields of quarter-milers in AAU history, he was about as nervous as an elephant taking a bath. "It looks like another high school track meet to me," he said.
On Saturday, Williams won his heat with a nonchalant 47.6, then won his semifinal in 46.4, hardly working up a wheeze. Davis, meanwhile, seemed badly in need of a few practice spins. In the semifinals he ran much too slowly for 330 yards and had to sprint like a madman to reach the finals, sneaking in just behind Williams and Young in 47 flat.
But on Sunday, with two races under his bright green shorts, old Otis turned into the fox of Rome. Around the first turn, down the backstretch and into the final turn, it was a race. But then, while others were making plans for the dash to the tape, Otis left them. He sprinted the last 120 yards. "I heard that Ulis coming up behind me," he laughed later, delighted with himself, "so I decided I'd better get out of there." Williams made a valiant effort to catch him but Davis won the race by three yards. The time, despite Sunday's stiffening wind and a track that was beginning to soften and break up under the two-day assault of spikes, was 46.1. Williams ran 46.3, Plummer 46.8 and Young 47.2.
Williams, not even breathing hard, admitted that he had made a mistake. "Otis was like a car shifting fast into gear. I didn't shift fast enough with him. I ought to beat him from now on."
Said Plummer: "If that cat had played the game fair and broken on the straightaway like he was supposed to, it would have been different."
Otis Davis danced happily around the track, waving to New Yorkers as he had waved to Romans last September, and New York, like Rome, took him to its heart. At first he said no, he wouldn't make the trip to Europe. "I'm nearly 29," he said. "I'm an old man." Then he decided that maybe he would like to see Moscow, after all. "But I've sure got to get home after that. In this country, amateur runners have to work to earn a living." Someone suggested he might like another race against Germany's Carl Kaufmann, who finished second to Davis in the Olympics in a photo finish. "Well, maybe I'll see if I can still beat that Carl," he said. All the time Otis Davis was probably making plans for Tokyo and '64.