The weather was warm but the wind was blowing last Saturday night in Modesto, and Dave Patrick (see cover), anchor man on Villanova's two-mile relay team, was pessimistic about breaking the world record of 7:16 set by the Soviet Union. "I know we can run a world record," Patrick said, "but everything has to be just right." Despite the wind, Villanova came close. Charlie Messenger started for the Wildcats and, after trailing in the first lap, passed the baton to Ian Hamilton with a five-yard lead. Hamilton gave Frank Murphy a 10-yard lead, and Patrick got a 20-yard head start on Tom Von Ruden, anchor for the strong Army team from Fort MacArthur. Patrick just about disappeared into the night on Von Ruden, winning by 50 yards. The time was 7:17.7, better than Villanova had ever run the distance before and the third best two-mile relay ever run. "I didn't think we were going that fast," Patrick said. "It's very hard to run a race like that after you have traveled across the country."
For Dave Patrick, a lot more traveling may be in order this Olympic year. One of several excellent middle-distance runners bunched behind Jim Ryun, Patrick is a possible competitor for the gold medal in the 1,500 meters, the so-called metric mile, this October in Mexico City. And while Patrick, or anyone, for that matter, is a long shot at the moment, anything can happen in the next five months.
This became dramatically evident last week when it was disclosed that Ryun had come down with mononucleosis. Ryun's physician ordered him to drop all training and prescribed a complete two-week rest. But he cautioned: "Mononucleosis is one of those things you are never certain about. You must wait and see. And hope." Ian Hamilton, Patrick's teammate, was even more pessimistic. He said, "I had it last year and I couldn't get rid of it. If you start to run again too soon, it takes longer to get over it. I couldn't do better than two minutes for the half mile."
At best, Ryun will come into the Olympic trials subpar. At worst, he will not be ready for the Olympics. In either case, it presents both opportunity and responsibility for Patrick, because of all the runners chasing Ryun—sick or well—he is the only man in the world to have beaten him in a serious race since August of 1965.
June 2, 1968
They have met three times. A year ago last winter Patrick beat Ryun in the half mile in Detroit, setting the world indoor record of 1:48.9. (Ryun had run the mile earlier in the evening.) This February, in Madison Square Garden. Ryun whipped Patrick in the mile. (Patrick was hindered by a hairline fracture in his right foot.) A few weeks ago in Fresno, Patrick anchored Villanova to victory over Kansas and Ryun in the two-mile relay. (Ryun made up 15 yards on Patrick, but the latter, who had been handed a 50-yard lead, was not pressed into going all out.)
Now 21—he will be 22 this August 14—Patrick was born in Baltimore and raised in Essex, a suburb. Because of his name and because he runs for Villanova. a Catholic college, Patrick is usually assumed to be an Irish Catholic. In actuality, he is a Protestant of English descent. His father is from North Carolina, and for the past 37 years has worked in a Bethlehem steel mill in Baltimore, where he is now a foreman.
As a youngster Patrick played baseball, football and basketball. When he was 15 and a sophomore at Kenwood High School he began running cross-country and then the mile upon the urging of his older brother. Leonard, then a half-miler at the University of Maryland. "My brother always told me that half-milers are a dime a dozen, but good milers are hard to find." Patrick says. In his senior year Patrick stepped on a horseshoe peg and rammed it into his left leg. The wound required 12 stitches and then became infected. "I didn't think I would run again," he says. "When I got over it, I favored the leg and then threw my hip out three times."
Three colleges, Maryland, Tennessee and Villanova, were after Patrick, and although he at first found the idea of a Catholic school somewhat strange, he selected Villanova because it was only 90 miles from home and, more importantly, because Jumbo Jim Elliott, the track coach, is "miles ahead of any other coach."
Villanova is run by the Augustinians, of whom the most famous or notorious, depending upon one's point of view, is Martin Luther. "Luther," says Jim Murray, the puckish sports publicity director, "dropped out to start the AFL. Now, after 400 years, we're working on a merger." Elliott, who is fast to agree with Patrick or anyone else that he is miles ahead of any other coach, is a peppery, voluble Irish-American. "Any damn boat I'm in is always rocking!" he exclaims, bursting into a loud laugh. Under his stern but beneficent hand, Villanova has compiled an impressive record in track; indeed, the college does not have room to display all the trophies the team has won. "Terrible!" complains Elliott. "Print that! I'm taken for granted!" Despite such talk, Elliott would never leave his alma mater, and he watches over his boys like a shrewd monsignor. He has a high regard for Patrick. "As good as Dave is as a runner," Elliott says, "he's going to be even more of a success in his life."
Unfortunately, Patrick's running career has, until recently, been hampered by injuries or illness. First he hurt a tendon in his ankle, then his tonsils became infected and then last winter he suffered the fracture in his foot. In between ailments he has shown flashes of genuine brilliance, such as his record half mile against Ryun. This year, his senior year, he was appointed captain of the track team. When Negro members talked of boycotting the important New York Athletic Club indoor meet, Elliott let Patrick and the team members decide what course to take. The team voted 16-0 by secret ballot not to go. "I know because I counted the votes," Patrick says. "There were two reasons. We thought the New York AC was doing itself an injustice by not letting Negroes in the organization. We also thought that we have such a great team feeling that we didn't want to take a chance and try to split any views. We function as a team, and we should go or not go as a team. We decided not to go. Although some athletes may excel more than others, the team feeling is what we strive for."
Patrick takes his beliefs very seriously. Although he was not formally raised in any denomination he became very much involved with the nationwide Campus Crusade for Christ in his junior year, when representatives of the Athletes in Action branch called upon him. "It seemed like it came right out of the blue, because I wasn't attending church or wasn't even thinking about Christ," he says. "Then these people came to me. It was a great event in my life. I feel that after I asked Christ in my life, I can feel more love. Not just between me and all the fellows on the Villanova track team, but for anybody I meet, even if they don't want to love me." Since joining the Campus Crusade for Christ, Patrick has spoken and given his testimony before other athletes, and last summer he worked as a supervisor in a reform school, where he held a track meet and gave away his own gold, silver and bronze medals to the winners. "I'd like to go back there," he says. "I'd like a chance to try to change the lives of those boys. They're mostly from broken homes, and they don't know where they are or where they're going."
Patrick received a B.S. degree in business administration this May, but he will continue to train at Villanova for the Olympic trials June 29 and 30. He loves the Main Line area, and in the mornings he runs various training loops of from four to 10 miles. His favorite is the 10-mile loop, nicknamed the frolic loop. "I named it the frolic loop," Patrick says, "because every time I run it I run it to enjoy myself and to have a good time. If I feel like walking, I'll stop and walk. I'll stop by the duck pond and look at the ducks for a while. Once we were running along, and I saw this big log on the side of the road. I picked it up over my head and dropped it. About 15 white mice came running out! I thought they were rats attacking me. Sometimes on this big loop, Frank Murphy [a miler from Ireland] and I stop to feed the goats, just to have a good time. There's this one house with this big backyard, and they have two goats. This is up a gigantic hill, over half a mile up, and a lot of guys in cross-country run it for hill work. We stop at apple trees and eat the apples. It's great. We love it. That's what makes it really fun, you know. When you can run and have fun, that's it. There are two golf courses around here, too, and we run by the golfers hollering 'Fore!' but they don't care, we have permission. At a lot of places, if people see a guy running, they'll say ha, ha, make wisecracks. Around here they know we're on Villanova's track team, and they just look at you wondering who you are. We go by a cow pasture, through the country, by gigantic trees, big estates on the left and right. You just enjoy yourself. It's nice running through the country up and down hills."
If anything, Patrick is realistic about evaluating his own abilities as a runner. "To be a good miler," he says, "you need endurance, speed and strength. You can be a great half-miler with just speed. You can also be a great half-miler with a lot of endurance and just a little speed. But to become a good miler you've got to have endurance and the speed, and you've got to have that kick coming off the last turn. I haven't had a season where I've been able to train properly, especially in the field of speed work. I feel that I am strong enough and have enough endurance for the mile, and I do have a fair amount of speed. But speed can be enhanced by doing a lot of speed work, a lot of repeat 100-yard dashes, 150-yard dashes. This is where Mr. Elliott and I think that if I get a lot of this down, I'll be able to improve myself and really get my time down to, well, where to I hope it will go. And I don't know where it's going to go to. I don't know how good I can be because I haven't been able to run a season well, where I haven't been troubled by an injury or sickness. One of the indications that good things are coming is that when I ran 3:58 at Quantico a few weeks ago I was just thinking about running for the team and winning, not running a spectacular time. I hadn't been working out that much. I hope now that when I really start buckling down, running six miles in the morning and running my intervals in the afternoon, that I can bring my time down. I hope to hit some kind of a peak at the Olympic trials, and after that taper down and start doing longer stuff and building up my strength again a little bit because I'll have 3½ months before the Olympics in October."
Patrick and Jumbo Elliott are fairly certain that Patrick will go for the 1,500 meters instead of the 800 meters in the Olympic trials. Patrick himself is optimistic about his chances in the 1,500 meters, because it is almost 120 yards shorter than the mile. "I think the shorter distance helps me, because I can start my kick a little earlier," he says. "I consider myself more or less a half-miler and miler, so the 1,500 meters is in between. I like the 1,500 meters better than the mile because I feel that I have a lot more speed and endurance. Anything over a mile I wouldn't like to run because I don't consider myself a miler-two miler."
As Elliott sees it, Patrick is about "90% ready" for the trials. A couple of weeks ago Patrick and Frank Murphy wanted to run a sub-four-minute mile in a triangular meet so that Murphy could get a qualifying time for the Irish team. The day before the meet Elliott told both boys to ease off, and Patrick breezed to a win in 4:02.2. Elliott says, "I don't want him to extend himself, because he's got a lot of good miles to go."
If wishing could make it so, Elliott would give the Olympic gold medal to Patrick, but things are not that easy. "Jim Ryun is the greatest middle-distance runner we've ever seen," says Jumbo. "Dave can be very good, but it would be putting a monkey on the boy's back right now to say he's going to win the gold medal. It's a tough haul, but conceivably he can do it. Anything can happen in five months time. I can visualize Dave winning the 1,500 meters in Mexico." Jumbo Elliott is not a man to toss words around lightly. Before Patrick beat Ryun in the half mile, Jumbo predicted that he would. "I knew that Dave was going to win because I knew that he was a better runner than Ryun indoors," Jumbo says. "Dave gets more out of indoor board running than Jim Ryun does."
Patrick recognizes the task before him. "Ryun has speed, he has endurance, he has everything," he says. "To say that he's devoid of strength or speed would be ironic. That's like saying the sun's not shining right. But I hope and pray, I'm praying now, that in the months to come I can just turn into something more than what I am now." And then Patrick adds, "When you're a youngster in high school, you dream of running in college. When you're in college you dream of setting records. But then there's the Olympics. You always dream of winning in the Olympics."