Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Vol. 1 No. 63 Mr. Cunliffe's Recollections of August, 1959

Once again, Ernie Cunliffe was gracious enough to give us a follow up to the August 1959 accounts from T&FN. It's great to have the (insider, from the horse's mouth, as I recall, personal point of view) to go with Roy's reporting. It reminds me a bit of Dustin Hoffman's character in Little Big Man, recalling the battle of the Little Big Horn (Greazy Grass) many years later. The little personal bits like getting cinders in his eyes during a race bring back many memories. I remember visiting my aunt and uncle in Chicago prior to the Pan Am Games that were to be held at Soldier Field and going to the stadium to see where they would be. Picked up some pre games brochures that the city was using to promote the Games. I was probably just finished with my second year of hs track. What follows is from Ernie. GB

A week following the AAU in Boulder, I was enroute to Europe with 5 other Track and Field guys, PV Mel Schwartz, Hurdles Willie May,
400 Chuck Carlson, Sprints Bill Woodhouse, & Discus Rink Babka. 3 of the 6 would make the 1960 Olympic team, Willie, Rink, and myself.
With a best 880 time of 1:49.2 I was eager to improve with some highly competitive races but little did I know that my lst race in Menden
would be my best mark, lst place in 1:49. 6 for 800 meters running virtually solo the entire race with little competition.

My competition showed up in Frankfurt with Moens and Schmidt the big names with many others with times similar to mine. I was in a
great position at 650 meters when I abruptly almost came to a halt. A chunk of the cinder track was kicked up and hit me in the face
right in the eye where my contact lens was dislodged. In pain, I dropped back, finished 6th with a 1:49.7, but later was able to retrieve
the lens that had gone off center into the corner of my eye. Didn't know what hurt the most, the 6th place or the eye, as I was surely on
pace for a good PR.

Helsinki Olympic stadium was the next competition. There was no 800 and they had entered me in the 1500 but I decided to work on
my speed and entered the 400 instead. I remember very little about that race as it was my lst time to run in lanes the whole way but
I did get a PR of 49.4. But of course this was my lst ever flat 400. I was normally the 2nd leg on the mile relay and quickly learned that
even though I had split a 47.7 relay leg, I became a 420 yd man, taking the baton way up front in the relay lane and handing off way back
in the relay lane. 49.4 flat vs 47.7 relay leg? I obviously needed a running start as I never learned how to come out of the blocks fast enough.
I had always been told that you add a minute to your 400 time to get your 800 potential time but it didn't work for me.

The next meet was in northern Sweden in Bollnas on a grass track, again a lst for me but not my last as I ran on grass in New Zealand at
Wanganui in the Snell Mile in 1962, but again this will come later after Roy gets into T & F News issues of 1962. I ran the 800 at Bollnas
with little competition. I was so far ahead at the 600 that Babka told me to slow down, but I would have none of that as I had only
won 1 race, finished 6th in Frankfurt, and 5th in Helsinki, so I wanted another lst, which I got with a modest time of about 1:50+.

Stockholm was our next meet and Moens was present and attempted to be friendly in a pre race strategy talk. Roger was still the World
Record Holder and really had no fear that I would challenge him, but I still remembered my upset of Don Bowden and hoped for the best.
Just before the start, Roger said, carry the pace and when I go by you follow me to the finish. So much for his thoughts of any upset.
But the race developed as he had planned it out. He kicked by me with 150 to go and I tried to make use of my Helsinki 400 speed work
and began my kick, slowly losing ground to him down the straight. He won of course and I was a fairly good 2nd in 1:50.0

As the tour ended I was disappointed and knew that I had to improve alot to challenge the runners I met in Europe that summer of 1959.
I flew home barely in time to prepare for Air Force ROTC summer camp and then try to maintain conditioning for the Pan American Games
in Chicago where I was the 3rd USA entry in the 800 along with Murphy and Walters. I have referred previously to Cliff Cushman and how
our lives kept crossing paths. On one of the AF ROTC trips in Nevada to Section 51, I first actually met Cliff as I had only seen him run in
meets and never talked to him. On this day he was decked out in a pith helmet and knee socks and shorts. We compared notes as to
how we were trying to train for the Pan Am Games as he was in the 400 meter hurdles. Eventually I was excused from part of the 4
week ROTC summer camp and headed for Chicago to test my conditioning or lack thereof for 3 rounds of the 800. But that will be up to
Roy in his next summation of T & F News and the saga of Cliff Severn and his shoes.

No comments: