It was, as any track and field man might have said, a time to put aside wild facts and get down to speculation. There had been, after all, no less of a fact-finding muddle in the steaming pit at Randalls Island in New York where the U.S. Olympic trials were held last weekend than there had been at the cottage of the Connecticut housewife who had watched the trials on television in hopes of catching a glimpse of her husband in the stands. Her attention was not always riveted, she explained, but her amazement was genuine as she subsequently told her husband about "the men out on the field who were positively immense. That one fellow, from Dallas, I believe, who throws the big rock. Huge. Is he going to be on our Olympic team?"
Dallas Long of Pasadena, Calif. is, of course, going to be on our Olympic team because he can throw the big rock—put the shot—farther than anybody and did so again last weekend. He is very close to being a 260-pound sure thing. Otherwise, the developments at Downing Stadium, hard by New York's East River, impossibly situated beneath the thundering Queens arm of the Triborough Bridge, were developments not always so packageable. Encouraging for Tokyo? Discouraging? Either, neither and both. But altogether intriguing, as:
Three remarkable teen-agers—Randy Matson, 19, of Texas A&M, who puts the shot; Jim Ryun, 17, of Wichita East High School, who runs 1,500 meters (the metric mile); and Gerry Lindgren, 18, of Spokane, who runs (thrusts and parries, rather) through 5,000 meters—proved good enough or near good enough to make the American team.
A Yale man—that's Y-a-l-e, Yale—made it.
July 12, 1964
Jim Beatty did not.
The laureate candidates for the 1,500 meters—Dyrol Burleson, Tom O'Hara, Jim Grelle et al.—ran like coy old women. Coy old women in rocking chairs vying for a view of the shuffleboard. Their times were embarrassing, though not for Burleson, because he ran as fast as he needed to win.
There was more:
The winner of the 5,000 meters, a straightforward Ohio shuffler with an extraordinarily swift finish named Bob Schul, volunteered to run the old women right out of their chairs if the U.S. Olympic Committee would allow him to join the crowd in the 1,500 meters in the final trials at Los Angeles on September 12 and 13. (The winner of each event at Randalls Island qualified for the Olympic team; the first six qualified for the final trials, which will determine two more Olympians in each event.)
Fastest human Bob Hayes, his left thigh slightly injured, did not run in the sprints.
Pole Vaulter Fred Hansen did not vault 17 feet, as has become his custom. He did not quite vault 16½ feet either, which was what was required of John Pennel to win the event.
A couple of veterans with big, confident smiles and heroic records were uncharacteristically skittish. "Eve never been this nervous," said Al Oerter, 27, the grandest discus thrower in two Olympics (he won gold medals in 1956 and 1960). "Nervous? I'm scared to death," said Hayes Jones, 25, the best American hurdler. Both then won in figures that would antiquate Olympic records.
Broad Jumper Ralph Boston and High Jumper John Thomas, impressive winners on Friday, made their way up to the press box on Saturday to take to task an imaginative New York sportswriter who had placed a few printed words in their mouths. "I send my regards to the Ter," Boston was said to have said for the wind to carry to Igor Ter-Ovanesyan, the Russian world-record holder. "Tell Valeri I'll see him soon," Thomas was quoted for the benefit of Russian Valeri Brumel, world high-jump record holder. Neither said any such thing, Boston advised the offender in his gentlemanly manner, "And now is not the time to be stirring up the Russians. We don't want them picking up anything they can use against us."
Now is the time, of course, for America's track nuts—there were 31,000 for the two days at Randalls Island—and housewives everywhere to become concerned about the makeup of the U.S. team that will meet the Russians in Los Angeles in a preview meet on July 25-26 and then the Russians and everyone else in the world in Tokyo in October.
Before the meet Dan Ferris, secretary emeritus of the AAU, had contracted a case of enthusiasm and began to see sugar plums where others had seen lemons for the U.S. in 1964. Winning times kept getting better and distances and heights soared as spring ran, leaped, vaulted into summer, and it became apparent the team that would go to Tokyo would go well qualified. "This could be the strongest ever," said Ferris, who has seen 11 U.S. Olympic teams in 56 years with the AAU. "It's amazing, the progress. Amazing...." There were in the 217 qualifiers who got to New York the makings of a healthy team of eager old bones and hot, fearless young blood, of depth where depth had been lacking and power where power never before existed. Power in distance races, for example. Even teen-age power.
How did they do? Better than the Olympic records in seven events, and John Thomas equaled the high-jump record of 7 feet 1. Harold Connolly threw the hammer 225 feet 4 inches. Hayes Jones ran and hurdled 110 meters in 13.4 seconds, two-tenths of a second off the world record. Oerter threw the discus 201 feet 11 inches. Long put the shot 64 feet 9½ inches to beat young Matson by two feet. Boston broad-jumped 27 feet 5½ inches. Pennel pole-vaulted 16 feet 6 inches. Trenton Jackson, in Bob Hayes's place at the front of the herd, ran 100 meters in 10.1 seconds.
Greater than these statistics, however, was the awareness of the special requirements of an Olympic year. Boston took to running 50-yard sprints up a murderous 45-degree slope at Tennessee A&I, where he trains, studies biochemistry as a graduate student and gets to see his family on occasion. He has been eating lots of liver and putting on great, protein layers of confidence. "I'm jumping better than ever, definitely," he said after leaps of 27-4 and 27-5½. He was not disturbed by the tailwind that deprived him of a world record each time, realizing there would be other, stiller days.
Oerter's first throw carried almost 208 feet, out where no discus has ever reached, but it also landed a yard outside the pie-shaped sector the discus is supposed to land in and was disallowed. Oerter has had to wear a homemade horse collar—two towels rolled around a belt—to keep his neck from snapping back and aggravating a pinched nerve in his left shoulder, but he compensates by releasing from a forward position, "diving into the throw," and there has been no appreciable loss in effectiveness.
Oerter could go on setting discus records forever. "I think it is possible to win five gold medals," he says, looking forward to 1972. But Hurdler Jones and Sprinter Henry Carr, the Arizona State senior of the classic stride who won at 200 meters, want only to win at Tokyo to call it a career—Carr to try football ("football offers you a future") and Jones because "running has become too much of a job. I have to work up little hate campaigns for every race. I used to talk a lot; now I have to be a loner to concentrate."
Loner Jones was having no trouble concentrating when he stepped into the blocks Saturday, "scared to death" that Utah's Blaine Lindgren, 25, was going to somehow deprive him. As a result, Hayes did not run out of the blocks so much as he seemed to be detonated from them. By the first hurdle he had a full yard on Lindgren, who had collected fears of his own in Lane 8. Lindgren last drew that outside lane when he broke an ankle on the curb in Salt Lake City three years ago. "All I could think about was that curb," he said, "and that ankle." But Jones's shotgun start was traumatic enough for anybody in any other lane, and Lindgren's customary closing rush, which had beaten Jones twice before, this time was not enough. They would make a good pair at Tokyo.
The Yale man was Jay Luck, 23, a graduate student in physics who caught favored Rex Cawley of Pasadena on the seventh hurdle and won the 400 meters in 49.4 seconds. Only two men have ever done better, and one, Glenn Davis of Ohio State, won gold medals in 1956 and 1960.
There was also more to be said for the elderly. Ollan Cassell, 26, of New Jersey, upset Ulis Williams of Arizona State in 400 meters (45.9). Did you ask about depth? The first five finishers were separated by four-tenths of a second. Ira Davis, 27, of Philadelphia, won the triple jump (52 feet 10¾ inches); Santa Clara's Jeff Fishback the 3,000-meter steeple-chase (8:40.4); Jerry Siebert, 25, the physicist from Santa Clara who came out of retirement to try for the Olympics, beat Oregon State's Morgan Groth by a step in the 800, doubting every precious yard. "I didn't think I could win," he said. "I really didn't."
The match that best typified the trend, however, was the 5,000 meters, where the 18-year-old Lindgren challenged the 26-year-old Schul. Lindgren is even smaller than Tom O'Hara: 5 feet 6, 120 pounds; he runs with his head to one side, blinking like a man making progress through a dust storm, arms tight at his body. "Eclectic," his coach calls the style—a deliberate imitation that combines a little Snell, a little Elliott, maybe some Zatopek, some Cunningham, presumably some Lindgren somewhere. In his campaign to beat Schul, Lindgren ran the strange type of buck-and-go race that Zatopek stunned his opponents with 15 years ago and which Russia's Vladimir Kuts repeated with such effectiveness at Melbourne in 1956. At one point Lindgren swept ahead by 10 yards, trying to tempt followers; then he dropped all the way back to ninth place.
He was first, fourth, second, fourth, first, third as the mood struck him, but Schul would not have any. "An intelligent runner does not follow that stuff," said Schul. "It's not so bad if you're doing it, but it's impossible to follow." Schul, taught by Mihaly Igloi to run only his own race, is longer limbed, longer striding and more powerful. Finally, on the last turn, he sprinted past Lindgren, then past Bill Dellinger of Oregon—who had moved up strong to challenge—and won by four yards. Lindgren trotted in 15 yards behind Dellinger.
Beatty, once America's finest miler but now 29 and struggling to get back in shape, dropped out with two and a half laps to go. The heat and the pounding had aggravated the old injury on his right foot where 12 stitches were taken last November when he was cut fumbling in the dark for the garbage can. He has appealed to George Eastment of the Olympic Track and Field Committee for a chance to compete in the final trials in September.
Schul and Coach Igloi stood on a hill at the north end of the track the day after the 5,000 and watched the 1,500-meter race slowly, slowly take its course. O'Hara, troubled by a chest cold and a report that his father had had a heart attack the day before, was setting the pace and was extremely reluctant to do so. No one else would; certainly not the imperturbable Burleson, who knows to bide his time. Burleson sprinted—literally—the last lap in 52.5 seconds, passing first Ryun, the head-rolling 17-year-old who had taken the lead, and O'Hara, who was momentarily boxed in as Ryun faltered. Ryun finished fourth behind Grelle. Burleson's winning time was equivalent to a 4:02.4 mile—ordinary time, disappointing time. Too bad for the peace of mind of the poor strategists who accepted the slow pace and finished in the ruck; all of them were four-minute milers.
"That is not running, that is sprint," said Igloi from his vantage point on the hill. "Anybody can wait three quarter and then speed up. That is bad."
Schul said he would dearly love to be allowed to compete at 1,500 meters in Los Angeles. "I might not win," he said, "and it doesn't matter, because I'm already qualified for the 5,000 meters. But I'd sure make those guys run."
The 17 winners at Randalls Island need only "demonstrate their fitness" from now to September to remain U.S. Olympic team members. The other 86 who survived the cut are now eligible for Los Angeles in September. Bob Hayes has been allowed to join them for the final trials, and there will be rulings on others who have applied for special consideration. In any case, they will all run there, all the 86. Or they surely won't run in Tokyo.