Friday, December 9, 2011

Vol. 1 No. 81 Ernie Cunliffe adds color to April, 1960

Once again, Ernie puts us trackside at a big race. Does anybody have an address for Dyrol Burleson, that we might get his comments?


"Ernie on the Angell Field Track , Just Back from Rome Olympics"
(From Ernie)
To: georgebrose@yahoo.com George I seem to remember a 61 lst lap a 2:01 and the 3:00 but unfortunately the results as listed are correct. Other recollections: the track was heavy ( it was Oregon after all) and just as we sat down to be introduced as is the custom in Eugene, Dyrol broke his
shoe laces or his shoe on his Bowerman custom made shoes. (no Adidas with the 3 stripes so I guess Cliff hadn't made it up to Oregon to compete with the Bowerman Tigers, later the new Nike line) I figured aha I have this in the bag as he is nervous. I had prepared well for this particular race and had told Coach Jordan after the Pan Am Games in Chicago, that I could beat Dyrol with a fast pace and run his kickout since I of course had no kick. Early in the week I had a final test workout and dipped under 2:54, again with a running start, and just for good luck, dipped under 1:16 in a 660, also with a running start. I was ready!

But in spite of my intentions of a quick pace, ie maybe 58/59s for a couple of laps it all went downhill with the 61 or maybe Roy's 62. Still it was encouraging to come home with a sub 3:00 last 3 laps. After Bowden and Dyrol I became the #3 US miler, just ahead of Wes Santee's 4:00.5. I figured sub 4 was just around the corner at the next meet or two, but I rarely ran the mile again as I concentrated on the 800. I did not improve in the mile but did run a 3:42.1 and some 3:43s 1500 meters but since I finished so slow you can't really add the "normal" 17 seconds to a 1500 meter time and claim a sub 4 mile. Obviously one of my biggest disappointments in track and sort of qualifies as a failure on my part. One last bit about the Eugene Mile. Just at the head of the straight where the 100s start there is a hot dog stand and I can honestly say that of all the things I remember about the race other than being beaten was the odor from that snack bar as we passed it 4 times. Coach Jordan got a real kick out of that statement.

On to the last 880 mentioned by Roy. At Fresno, Coaches Flint Haner and Jordan had cooked up a special surprise for me as I guess Jordan had told Flint that a big race was coming. I had been doing my usual 1:16/1:17 660s and a couple of sub 2:55 1320s for strength. I had tied the Stanford record the year before with a 1:49.2 set by Norman Lloyd in 1958. Lloyd (since deceased so I can elaborate) and I never hit it off well as he was older, English, married and nothing similar to myself. He had cut me off in the Pac 10 880 final at Berkeley coming off the last turn and I almost came to a halt. I realized this was European running style but it killed my momentum and I always held a grudge. This I should point out was not my usual behavior or normal attitude.

Anyway, the 880 was set up to run on 3 turns with the long straight. Lloyd of course was in the race and I took off flying. For once in a race I was relaxed and held my form right through the tape. The 1:47.3 yards was #3 all time in the world behind the World Record of Tom Courtney 1:46.8 and Don Bowden's 1:47.2 It also was a tie with some Aussie named Herb who was primarily a miler. The official 800 meter time was 1:46.6 which was #9 on the World List behind alot of talent led by my "buddy" from 1959 Roger Moens with a 1:45.7 World Record. I was on cloud nine and attributed alot of the result by the fact that my sister, my parents and my niece and nephew were at the meet and of courseLloyd was running against me that day. An almost 2 second improvement was so encouraging that Jordan and I started planning for the bigger breakthrough.

But as most of you know, just as in the mile, I never improved but consistently ran alot of 1:47 + meter races, a few 1:48 880s and had one
high 1:47 880 and one 1:46.9 meter in Europe but never got closer to the Courtneys or Moens of the world.

But Roy will "save" my reputation a little in future issues as I still had a few good efforts ahead of me as well as some disappointments, but those that defeated me sure got some fast times!

(From Roy Mason)
Wonderful stuff. This is the sort of thing that otherwise would have died with Ernie Cunliffe. I love the fact that history is being fleshed out. Dyrol Burleson broke his shoelace? Bet that wasn't covered anywhere else.

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