Friday, December 26, 2014

v.4 N. 98 The year is still not over and bizarre story of Josef Odlozil

Roy reports to us about the December, 1964 issue of Track and Field News.


DECEMBER, 1964
Since the Olympics were held in October and covered in a combined October – November issue, the December issue is a sort of deep breath as Track and Field News recovers.
With the Tokyo Olympics taking precedence, the US cross country season has received short shrift, being packed into brief reports on five pages.
The AAU and the NCAA are at war. There will be no collegians competing in the AAU national championship this year. This takes nothing away from the NCAA nationals held Nov. 23 on the Michigan State golf course in East Lansing.
The Mid-American Conference has its day in the sun. Ohio University's Elmore Banton finished 44th last year, over a minute off the winning time.
Elmore Banton at left getting instructions from  coach
Stan Huntsman,  Robert Heller between Huntsman
and Banton,    Larry Smith, right.

Mo Banton today
This year he stuns everyone by taking an early lead which grows to eight seconds by the two mile mark and holds off Bill Clark of Notre Dame 20:07 to 20:14.  Complete results: 

 http://trackandfieldnews.com/images/stories/NCAA_XC_PDFs/1964-men.pdf


 "Mo" would move on to head coach of men and eventually women at his alma mater in 1980 for many years until OU gutted the men's program and his former Coach   Stan Huntsman , in protest renounced his Phd. that he had earned there.  After 'retiring'  Mo went on to helping with the cross country and eventually track program at John Carroll University near his home in Medina, Ohio.  

Today, this great conference, The Mid American has sold out to the football gods and ESPN.  Central Michigan of the MAC is playing Western Kentucky in the Popeye's Bahamas Bowl to a  grandstand more sparsely populated than the team members standing on the sidelines.   Two friends Bill Schnier and  Dick Trace summed it up,  " Thirty-two bowl games, 64 teams.  Some obviously don't deserve to be there.  but....  Late December, Bowling Green, Kentucky, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan,  the Bahamas....  take your choice."

The 142 pound junior is not the MAC's only surprise. Western Michigan scores a decisive victory over Oregon, 86 to 116. Further evidence of the MAC's dominance this day are the third and seventh place finishes of Ohio (120) and Miami. (No need to explain that there is no “State” associated with Ohio and the Miami we are talking about is the original one, the one that had a century under its belt by the time that pretender in the South started classes.)

The words “stuns” and “surprise” are not ill-chosen. Both Banton and Western Michigan had been beaten three weeks earlier in the MAC championship and only ten days ago in the Central Collegiates.

The field included some pretty good also rans.   Joe Lynch was 8th, Jack Batcheler 10th, Harry McCalla 12th, Barry Brown 14thKenny Moore 19th,
John Lawson, 24th, Bill Silverberg 26th, Darryl Beardall 29th, Ed Duchini 40th, Tom Sullivan 44th, Darnell Mitchell 45th and Bob Delany 47th. 180 finished.

This comment came from Bill Schnier, former U. of Cincinnati coach:
   What a fine article on Elmore Banton, OU and the MAC.  In recreating our records at UC, I found it necessary to look through the Regionals and Nationals as far back as possible.  I was very underwhemed by UC's involvement but absolutely astounded by the record of the MAC.  The individuals and teams from the MAC played a major role in both meets for a long time, outstripping many of the current BCS teams.  Much like visiting Dayton, it was a bittersweet experience as I juggled the glory of the past with the reality of the present. 
 
   It is hard to document exactly why all of this happened, but I suggest the following possibilities:
1.  The population and financial success of the Midwest was much better then, vastly superior to the Southeast.  It is the opposite today.
2.  National recruiting was scarce so the Midwest kids tended to attend Midwest schools.  They did not opt for warmer weather like today.
3.  Recruiting was not driven by internet identification, texting, inexpensive airplane flights, easy interstate highway access to far away schools, weather and the mindset of going to school far from home.
4.  The creation of the BCS, a "football-only concept", has also created a great-vs.-average mentality which permeates all sports.  Right now non-BCS schools are at a huge disadvantage in recruiting.
5.  Most "superpowers" had not yet embraced all sports, leaving a void as well as an opportunity in sports like cross country.  The same can be said for basketball in the 1950s-70s where some very small schools were national powers.  No more.
6.  Cross country and indoor T&F were to a great extent Midwest and Eastern sports, hence the balance of power.
7.  Many of the best up-and-coming young coaches started at MAC schools.  Often those schools had much better coaches than their now-BCS counterparts who sometimes were older coaches living in the past.  
8.  The MAC was a logical conference, similar in size and proximity.  This created a great atmosphere for recruiting and competing.  The results speak for themselves.
  
Bill

Bob Day
Although this was the national championship, sections of the country weren't represented. Aside from Oregon, no school from west of the Rockies competed, including defending champion San Jose State. Indeed the West Coast Championship, held at Stanford five days after the nationals, included only eight schools. Wait, you don't have five runners? Have you checked PE classes? Hmmm...tell you what, we'll just count the first four. Will that work for you? Apparently it did as seven schools, including Sacramento State and Whittier, are able to round up the required quartet and UCLA beats Stanford 20-24 with the Bruin's Bob Day taking the individual title.

Most of the world has taken a break from track and field. The Olympics were held late in the year. It has been a long season. Those who competed are relieved the pressure is off, and they can back their training down or just take a vacation.
Well, that is not entirely true. It is summer down under. Why waste beautiful weather and peak conditioning when there could be a couple meets that might provide record breaking opportunities?


Snell and Odlozil at another track, another date, unknown
The date is November 17. The place is Auckland, New Zealand. The occasion is Peter Snell's attempt to break his own world record in the mile. His competitors have a familiar look to them. Czechoslovakia's Josef Odlozil who won the Olympic silver medal four weeks ago and countryman John Davies, the bronze medalist, are on the starting line.
Today winning is not as important as running fast, world record fast. Snell has always subscribed to a follow and kick philosophy and it has served him well. Today is different. He is determined to find out what he can do if he runs, to paraphrase a locker room term, man parts out.
And that is exactly what he does. The Olympic champion follows pacers through a 56.4 opening lap and when they fade, leads at the half in 1:54.1. Odlozil and Davies are well back and of no help. It is Snell against the clock. The pace slows to 60.2 on the third lap, producing a 2:54.3 time with a lap to go. He only needs 60.1 to break his record.
But this final lap is like no other Snell has run. The patented Snell finish has been run out of him in the first half mile. His kick has been replaced by struggle and strain. In what the Olympic champion says is “one of the hardest laps of my life”, he goes through 1500 in 3:37.6 and finishes in 59.8 to better his record by a scant three tenths in 3:54.1. This strategy will not be used in future races. He says, “I wanted to see what it would be like to lead from the front, but never again.” Odlozil and Davies score personal bests of 3:56.4 and 3:56.8.
In what can only be thought of as an afterthought, Ron Clarke and Murray Halberg mix it up at 10,000 meters. No record is broken but Clarke is impressive in beating Halberg for the first time when the New Zealander is healthy, 28:29.6 to 28:33.0. Asked if he was glad he had finally beaten Halberg as his peak, the modest Clarke replies, “Murray is not at his peak because I don't think I could have beaten him at his peak. He is a fantastic runner”.

Two weeks pass. It is now December 3 and pretty much the same cast is holding forth in Melbourne, Australia, but this time the roles of star and supporting actor are reversed. Snell wins the mile in an Australian all comers record of 3:57.6, but it is Clarke who is the world record setter.




Once again it is Clarke and Halberg, this time at three miles, a distance in which Halberg holds the world record of 13:10.0. Though gusty winds hamper the runners, Clarke dominates Halberg and takes his world record in the doing. Clarke lowers the WR 2.4 seconds with a strong 13:07.6. Halberg has no answer. He is on the penultimate curve when Clarke hits the tape. He finishes in 13:31.0. Clarke now holds the world records at three miles, six miles and 10,000 meters. Had this race been run at 5000, likely Clarke would have taken down Vladimir Kuts 13:35.0. The new record holder sums up his racing strategy, “I ran as fast as I could for as long as I could.”

The Sad End of Life for Josef Odlozil I'm sure many of you remember Josef Odlozil not only for his silver medal in Tokyo but also for his marriage to Vera Caslavska, shortly after the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.  Caslavska was the winningest gymnast in Olympic history at the time and had made headlines by turning her head away from a flag ceremony when the Russian national anthem was played to denounce the recent Russian invasion of her country that summer.    She was forced into retirement when she returned home.   After the Russians left, she was resurrected and eventually became president of the Czech Olympic committee and a member of the IOC, but by then the marriage had ended in divorce.   The story turns bizarre and even more upsetting , in 1993 with Josef Odlozil's untimley death at the hands of his son Martin in a bar fight.  Martin would eventually be pardoned by Czech Republic leader Vaclav Havel. GB

See below from the English language Prague Post:

Death of Olympic Hero After Dancefloor Fight

Posted: September 22, 1993
By  Mark Fish


The Odlozils in happier times







More than a week after the attack on Josef Odlozil, authorities were still trying to piece together the circumstances that led to the death of the Olympic silver medalist runner.
Odlozil, whose marriage to gymnastics legend Vera Caslavska provided a fairy-tale ending to the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, died Sept. 10 as a result of head injuries sustained in a bar fight.
His 19-year-old son Martin has been charged with assault that resulted in death, but, details of the incident are far from clear. Authorities say the son will remain out of custody for the time being.
The official autopsy attributed Josef Odlozil's death to injuries suffered on the night of Aug. 6 at the disco-restaurant U Cimbury. Eyewitnesses agree that Martin hit his father on the head, knocking him to the floor. The circumstances leading up to the assault are disputed.
According to one account, Josef had come to talk to his son, who was with a group of friends. Martin is said to have promptly got up and left the hall, and then vandalized his father's car. When he returned, he requested that the DJ play the song "Green Brains" by the radical band Orlik. While dancing to this song, Josef accidentally hit a neighboring dancer, Jarek Leskov, who was allegedly drunk. Leskov retaliated by repeatedly hitting Josef in the face. As Josef was defending himself, Martin appeared from the side and hit his father, who crumpled to the floor.
According to police, many potential witnesses were very drunk at the time and could not provide clear accounts.
Odlozil won the silver medal in the 1500m at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and was the holder of many world records.
Josef and son Martin

For many, the 1968 marriage of Odlozil and Caslavska was a defining moment of the troubled era. Caslavska, who won Olympic stardom just days after the Warsaw Pact invasion crushed political reforms in her country, was a symbol of the small country's defiance. The couple was wed before a crowd of 1,500, including many fellow athletes, in Mexico City just after the close of the games. The marriage ended in 1987. Odlozil recently returned from Iraq, where he had been working for the United Nations to protect humanitarian convoys (as a member of the Czech Army ed.). He is survived by his second wife, Eva, and their two children.
-Compiled by Mark Fish

More research uncovered the some other  pieces of the story.   There were two very conflicting accounts of the incident in the pub.   However what is clear is Josef had run into Vera earlier in the evening, but they had not gotten along and he moved on to the pub where Martin was supposed to be hanging out.  Josef had been trying to help with some arrangements regarding Martin's pending graduation.   .   Josef who was in the Czech army at the time had just returned from duty in Iraq and son Martin who was estranged from his father asked the DJ to play the song Green Brains which was very derisive of the military. He had earlier vandalaized Josef's car outside the pub.  Everyone involved was very drunk causing conjecture in many of the witness stories.   Martin was involved in the fight that broke out and did strike his father who then fell hitting his head and died as a result of that fall.  Martin was charged with another youth Jaroslav Lieskovany.  See photo below.  Lieskovany was acquitted and Martin received a four year sentence but was pardoned by Czech president Haval.  It is not clear if this was a favor to Martin's mother Vera because of her close ties with the government or some other circumstances regarding the court process.  

Martin Odlozil and Jaroslav Lieskovany on trial.  Mom,
Vera Caslavska seen directly behind them.

Today Martin works in a low profile position as a forester.  Lieskovany would go on to join the army, as he was not convicted he could do this.   In 2013 he  died along with 4 other Czech soldiers at the hands of a suicide bomber in Afghanistan while serving as a sergeant with the Czech army. To date the Czech army has lost 25 soldiers in that conflict.    Apparently the death of Lieskovany opened old wounds between Josef and Vera's families.
Vera, Josef, and Sgt. Lieskovany


And finally .   Pete Brown sent this with the following note.

1939 AA team from the autobiography DEVIL AT MY HEELS, by Louis Zamperini, published by E.P. Dutton and Co., 1956. As expected, USC well represented. I have this book signed by Zamperini, purchased through Track and Field News in 1956.

Pete Brown

Sunday, December 21, 2014

v. 4 n. 97 End of Year Ramblings

It's been a good year for this not for profit blog,  as no one has sued us for using material from their vaults and counting houses.  Many thanks to all the resources that we have dug into and for showing a willingness and restraint for allowing us to show your work on this site.  A few original thoughts have come from these pages, and we are more than happy for others to use our material.  Our readership in this narrow little niche has expanded from a few hits a day to an average of about 300 per day and a total of 123,000 as of yesterday.  Thanks too for the  comments from Phil Scott, Steve Price, Bill Schnier, Dick Trace, Bruce Kritzler, Ernie Cunliffe, Sylvia Gleason, Geoff Williams, John Cobley, Bob Roncker, David Baskwill, Pete Brown, Mike Solomon, Bill Blewett, Bill Stone, Preston Holsinger, Darryl Taylor, John Lawson, Gary Wilson, J.D. Martin, Jim Metcalf, John Perry, David Perry, Ricardo Romo, Joe Swanson, Leif Bugge, Walt Mizell, Richard Mach, Bill Flint, Jerry McFadden, John Bork, Dennis Kavanaugh, Rick Lower, Thomas Coyne, Orville Atkins, Susan Asuaba, and a small lifeboat full of others unnamed who make this blog possible.  Knowing you are out there reading it and adding your histories makes the work more than worthwhile.

A number of comments and recent discoveries are sitting on my digital desk to share with you so here goes.  There are for instance a treasure trove of interesting pieces from Norway that we will cite or refer to in this posting and you just have to open them and right click on the piece and then click on the 'translate to english' box. The translation is stilted, but that's where cybertechnology is still facing challenges to imitating the human brain.

http://home.online.no/~hanswerp/hist_of_running/index.htm

The above site is a wealth of track and field info.  You just have to let your computer translate the articles.



Walt Mizell wrote to us:

Hey, George,  this is completely off-topic, but I just finished a good book that's pretty thought-provoking.  It's by Malcolm Gladwell, entitled Outliers.  The whole book is good, but the first two chapters are the most sports-related ones.

As far as sports are concerned, he points to a correlation between the month a person is born
in and the probability that that person will succeed in sports.  He uses hockey players, mostly from Canada, as his example,  but it makes for an interesting thesis.

The idea is that those born early in the period of time from whom their age-group is selected have a physical advantage, which is compounded by the favorable treatment they get from their coaches, who favor the better-developed players all along their developmental years.  Thus if a cohort is selected from Jan. 1, 19XX, until Dec. 31, 19XX, those born in January have a statistically-demonstrable advantage that stays with them throughout their sports careers.

I found it interesting because when I was of the age to start school, the cut-off date for first grade was Sept 1.  If you were born before Sept 1, you could start school  that year.  I was born on Sept 2, but my parents got a special dispensation from the school district (Fort Worth, Texas) to let me start school even though I was too young.  The result was that all the way through college, I was one of the youngest in my school class.  In fact, it wasn't until I was about a junior in high school that I didn't feel like I was kind of undersized, always competing against guys as much as a year older than I was.  

I thought it was something you might want to take a look at it and see if its something you might send out to your readers for their comments.





Thanks Walt.   I'll make some mention of that.   I have read somewhere that some parents are intentionally holding their kids back in school so they will be the biggest and best developed in their class for that very purpose of excelling in sports and having better odds of getting a scholarship.  .    Our daughter started in the right age group in school, but she was slow developing around 4 or 5 and we made several moves that year and just pulled her out of schools and started over the next year and it really help her because she caught up quickly.   
Take care,
George

Parents in Texas who hope for football glory for their sons have been holding them back for a long time.  I never really thought about the advantage that might accrue for someone just in oldest part of his true age group, though.  It makes sense--and Gladwell's statistics seem to support it.  

Fred Hansen?
the more technical the event , the more hours to develop?
10,000hrs.  no doubt
Ryun may be a good example of what he is talking about.  If the magic number is 10,000 hours (as he suggests) it might be interesting to find out how much time Ryun or others who excelled spent getting to the point that they became so much better than their peers. Walt












from George
Only a few guys survived Timmons' horrendous training.   Ryun,  San Romani Jr.,  and I think Billy Stone who ran for him in high school then went to OSU.   I don't know if hours made the difference.  It would have been extremely hard to do Timmons for 10,000 hours. Remember his question to athletes?  "Which level of hell do you want to train at?"    Igloi kept his guys out there pretty long doing 3 hour workouts too.  
Truex and Bolotnikov, both probably
10,000 hour men
Ryun 10,000 hours or the
right combination of all
factors?
It was a love it or leave it relationship with these training regimes.  You ask some guys about it and they swear by it, because they had great success, but others are almost in tears recalling those times.

If you spent 3 hours a day in training that would be 10,000/3  =   3,333 days approx.  9 years to develop.
Ryun was world class after only three years as a teenager.  That would be about 9.13 hours a day every day for 3 years with no time off.    Let's say the practice went to 4 hours a day, it would only take 6.8 years to hit that 10,000 hours.   Maybe you would have to add mental preparation time,  and you could reduce the number of years to reach 10,000 hours. He also had a paper route which could have added hours and mileage.   Then there are always the people who could train all their lives and never even be average performers whether it be running, jumping, painting, or singing.  This tells me 'natural selection' is also an important factor that has to meet just the right conditions of chemistry with the coach, the family, the peers, the girlfriends,  the psyche.  Not all those factors have to be positive, but they have to really fit well with the other factors, each influencing the other toward peak performance at a given time in the athlete's life.   Sometimes a terrible parent might be the key factor driving an athlete to perform as an escape or a means of proving themself to that negative  in their life.   It's all quite unpredictable in the beginning.  When you see 12 athletes going to the starting line in an Olympic final, the individual stories of what it took to get them there are just as fascinating as are the stories of the ones who  fell   short of toeing that line.   

Gladwell in his book  "David and Goliath" has a chapter on the Old Testament story.  He cites research that the odds may have been heavily in David's favor from the get go.  First, in those times. the rock slingers were the major weapon of the military.   So David was well armed.   The second factor is Goliath may have been suffering from a form  of gigantism (acromegaly)  caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland resulting in abnormal growth with the side effects of blurred vision and loss of balance.   It seems to support the multiple factor idea that great performance is a combination of many different things, not just training.  




ANDY HOLDEN   R.I.P.
We'd like to remember the passing of British international Andy Holden who died in January of this year.   In the 1970's Andy represented England in road racing, world cross country, indoor and outdoor track, and fell running.  He might have led the world in the beer mile today had it existed in his good years.  His obituary notes that he won an international marathon having consumed ten pints of beer the night before the race,  he could also consume a pint after a race while standing on his head, and had once consumed 100 pints in a week while covering 100 miles of training in the same week.  But of more important note was his coaching of many youngsters, and while working in his profession of dentistry having provided service to those who could not afford the fees.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/10572152/Andy-Holden-obituary.html

Jack Lane, Andy Holden , and Dave Bedford
representing England in World Cross Country


PD Scott
Jason (Phil's son) said that is the very point, cocaine whatever it does makes you get crazy to jump high. 
Not pun HIGH!

Testing for other cheaters! I had a track team friend at U.C. that got drunk picked up a girl at a bar and went to her apt. started messing with her found out not girl. He was back to dorm sober half naked barefoot. 
         George
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1BRxiCAAi0
There's a feature film made in Germany about the German high jumper Marie Ketteler.  
Found it in the library up here   'Berlin 36'  is the name. As much about
the Jewish girl Gretel Bergmann who was not allowed on the team and their friendship.



Earn money reading this blog.

If you are sitting in a bar some night in Lick Skillet, Ohio and looking


for money to leave to leave the state, you can win bar bets with the information found at the

link below.   It is all the Ohians who have been ranked in the world

of track and field.




From the Penn State Track and Field Alum and Golf blog this picture of Horace

Ashenfelter , Penn State alum, leading and eventually winning the Helsinki

Steeplechase.  The Russian second place finisher behind him Vladmir

Kazantzev.   Could these two men be twins, separated at birth?  Drange's

theory of the feet being more different than faces may well be true.
  



see the race at   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDYuHQlpNZM


The link above is a youtube clip of Ashenfelter's win at Helsinki.


A note from Bruce Kritzler:

Bruce's wife will appreciate my passing this on/

Just wanted to let everyone know that USATF Masters track 

champs are at UNF , Jacksonville this July 23-26.  nice Mondo track that 

hosts NCAA East Region.  We're 90 min. North of there on St. Simons

Island, and have an extra bedroom and 2 couches for Master athletes.

We guarantee cool weather!!  We have the Last Gasp 5k  xc race in

Jacksonville tomorrow.  My favorite race of the year.  An 'old school 

race ($15 entry) get a sweatshirt with no advertising on it, and free 

beer and pizza at sports bar after the race.

Even have a new pair of shoes from Ross Dress for Less, Nike victory

XC spikes with waffle bottom -  also $15!   Ross has some great deals

(especially if you are looking for size 15 javelin boots).  Always have some 

$100 plus field event shoes for $15-30.

Here's that translated norwegian article I mentioned earlier.
and the site it came from:

  http://home.online.no/~hanswerp/hist_of_running/index.htm


Englishman Gordon Pirie was one of those who swore to shoemaker Drange shoes. But no more than that he also spent Adidas. Here in a convention in 1955, and then it Drangesko apply. "The design" was distinctive, white and black leather.
14.12.09: Bergenser which made running shoes, Madsen
"People are more different in the feet than in the face. Therefore spikes be made to measure. And they must be lightweight and made of superior material."
This practiced Bergenser Vincent Drange 50 years. He was fascinated by early shoemaker profession and even before he had finished elementary school in 1917 made and he sold his first shoes. Interest spikes he received when he began to run on the track some years later.
Since it went snowballed. At home on the kitchen counter in Ibsensgate was conjured up one good model for the other. Eventually it became great demand. As shoes were made by hand, it was not weird production, tells Drange.Rumors must nevertheless have gone, because Gunder Haegg sets world at 1500 meters, it was with Drangesko. Later used the double Olympic champion at 800 meters, Mal Whitfield also shoes from Bergen.
Arne Hamarsland was also of those who swore to shoes from Drange bench. "Shoe obviously plays an important role for runners. It is important that it is firmly on the foot and that feels good in it. I have even tried other brands, but turned always back to Drangesko" said Hamarsland in a radio interview.
There were many runners in the fifties who could not run other than shoes from Drange. Before the Olympics in Melbourne in 1956 Drange telegraphic message from the Olympic city to submit a new pair to 800 m - runner Derek Johnson. Drange made a couple in record time and got sent it off to Australia. They must have looked after well, Johnson ploy silver medal ahead Boysen with them. Boysen also ran with Drangesko. So did Gordon Pirie who took silver in the same Olympics. An additional triumph for shoemaker was certainly also when same Pirie same year set a world record in the 5000 meters at Krohn Minde.
Athletics Museum at Lillestrom has one of Boysens couple as he sat both Norwegian records and world records with. Altogether it was set 60 Norwegian records, 30 Danish records, some English records and thus world records with shoes made on a bench in Bergen.
Long before Nike, Adidas, Puma and other brands were Billion shop.
Source: Athletics in 1991.
Two guys who wore Drange shoes out of Norway in the mid-1950's and early 60's.

Gordon Pirie






I think we have enough on this posting to keep you busy up until

Christmas.  No need to buy presents for yourself.  This is it.



Best wishes for all the holidays, whatever ones you care to

celebrate.  It's been fun doing this or we wouldn't be doing it.

Just hope we don't hurt any feelings or piss anyone off too much.

Should that be our new mission, Roy?


George and Roy

Thursday, December 18, 2014

V. 4 N.96 John Bennett and Meredith Gourdine Olympic LJ Silver 1956 and 1952

How many can remember who finished a close second to Greg Bell in the Long Jump in Melbourne in 1956.
Phil Scott brought John Bennett to our attention recently and he certainly deserves a page or two.  In reading about Bennett, we learned of the fascinating career of Meredith Gourdine, whom John Bennett refers to in his email.  Gourdine was also a silver medalist in the Long Jump in 1952.



Bennett on the podium in Melbourne with
Greg Bell and Jorma Valkama of Finland





 from the Devil's Lake Journal  May 25, 2011 by Ray Maloney MIDDLETON, Wis. — John Bennett was simply looking for a way to secure a few more points to earn his first varsity letter in track at Grand Forks Central in the spring of 1947.
While many first experiments can often go awry, Bennett's was simply magical as he claimed the silver medal at the Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia just nine years after trying his hand at long jumping for the first time.
That feat has cemented Bennett as one of the greats in North Dakota high school track and has earned him a place in the North Dakota Track and Field Hall of Fame. Bennett, along with several other former standouts, will be inducted Friday night in Bismarck following the first day of the state high school track meet at the Bismarck Community Bowl.
"This is a tremendous honor," Bennett said of his recognition as one of the state's greats. "Track and field has always been a big part of my life and I just want to salute the people responsible for getting this hall of fame going.
“It is humbling to be included on the list of some truly outstanding athletes who call North Dakota home,” Bennett added.
An all-around athlete, Bennett was an all-state running back in 1949 and captained Central's basketball team in 1949-50. But it was as a jumper that Bennett's star would lead to Olympic glory.
"My experiences in North Dakota track and field started in 1947," Bennett said. "I needed four more points at the end of the season to make a letter (at Central) as a freshman.
"I was fortunate to have a brother who took an interest and suggested trying the long jump," Bennett added. "We stayed late one day to experiment."
Bennett proved to have a knack for the event.
Just days later, in a meet in Devils Lake, Bennett soared 19-7 1/2 to win the district title. He would go on to win a pair of state titles in the event, along with one championship in the high jump. If not for a broken leg suffered one week before the state meet in his final prep season, Bennett likely would have made it three crowns in the long jump.
He would later say the injury and not having the opportunity to defend his titles as a senior was the biggest disappointment of his athletic career.
Following his graduation from Central in 1950 Bennett went on to stardom and gained international fame at Marquette University in Milwaukee.
"Marquette was well respected in the Midwest and had a terrific coach (Bus Shimek)," Bennett said. "I talked it over with my family ... and decided to give it a try."
Just like the 'experiment' years earlier, the decision to attend Marquette proved to be a good one for Bennett.
Under Shimek's tutelage, Bennett would earn four letters for the Hilltoppers, as the Marquette teams were known at the time. He would also emerge as one top long jumpers in the world.
"(Bennett) had both the speed and the spring to be a great broad jumper," the late MU coach once said. "He had the knack of consistently hitting the takeoff board in the correct place which is necessary for one to be a great broad jumper."
The North Dakota native would go on to win a pair of NCAA broad jump titles during his college career. He won the 1953 crown with a leap of 25-3 1/4 in Lincoln, Neb. and defended that title the following year in Ann Arbor, Mich. with a leap of 25-10 3/4. He still owns the Marquette school record in the event more than 60 years following his graduation.
"It pays to work hard toward a goal," Bennett said, "and that is proof positive."
Bennett continued competing while serving in the Army and at the 1955 Pan American Games he soared to a personal-best of 26-3 3/8. That jump, perhaps, ironically, was registered in the same Mexico City pit that Bob Beamon would set a world record 13 years later. He finished second in the Pan-Am Games to Army teammate Roslyn Range, who edged Bennett by five-eighths of an inch for the top medal.
Bennett continued to train for the Olympics and in 1956 finished first in the Trials when he and former Indiana University standout Greg Bell both sailed 25-8 1/2. It was the fourth best jump in the world that year.
At the Olympics just five months later Bennett finished second to Bell, whose gold-medal winning jump of 25-8 1/4 was six inches better than the former Central sensation's 25-2 1/4.
Bennett went on to operate a line of men's clothing stores in Wisconsin before his retirement. He now lives in Middleton, Wis.
But he fondly recalls his days on the northern plains.
"I still look back at the rocky, but productive experiences competing in high school in North Dakota as the turning point of my life," Bennett said. "My grandparents homesteaded near Grand Forks when it was the Dakota Territory. I have always considered the area home and proudly so."

Phil Scott received this email from Mr. Bennett recently.

While I was in my second season with Marquette and the '52 indoor season I used the hitch kick effectively for the first time and increased my "best effort" by 13 inches overnight (Drake University) and suddenly was in the top tier nationwide.  Things got better from that point on (53) with much success leading to the NCAA Div 1 win at Lincoln, Neb, and third or fourth in the Nat'l AAU (worst ever performance).
It did lead to a summer trip to Europe, however, and our coach was Don Canham of Michigan who later became Athletic Director.  It was on that trip I won the 100 meters in Stockholm in 9.4 seconds..a dream come true.  Don passed away a couple years ago age 90 plus.
I respected him so much, as I have Melvin Bus Shimek at Marquette, track coach going back to 1927.

In 1954, my senior year, I repeated the NCAA win at Michigan with 25'10 3/4", the current school record, and won the Nat'l AAU at St Louis.  One of the AAU second place efforts was in Dayton and I believe it was '57.

Going back to 1950 while best man at my brother's wedding in Yonkers, NY and before entering Marquette, my brother and I went to the IC4A meet at Randels Island to watch Meredith Gourdine of Cornell U jump. He used the (sizzers) (hitch kick) and I wanted to get that form down pat.  He won silver at Helsinki in 1952. At the 1996 Games in Atlanta I spoke to Merideth, who by then was blind and dying of diabetes.  I told him how he influenced me and that it led to my success.  He replied : "Thanks, John, but you are the one who got it right." A few months later he passed away.

I met with and got tailor-made jump shoes from Adi Dassler in Germany and the protective heel base saved the day for me as I had an ongoing injury which drove me crazy.  With the form and shoe I was finally satisfied.



 Here is something we found on Meredith Gourdine  from Jackie's Facts
Born in 1929 in Newark, New Jersey, Meredith Gourdine was a physicist, pioneer researcher and inventor in the field of electrogasdynamics, a process dealing with the action of charged particles moving through a gas stream. He held more than 40 patents, while developing practical applications based on this esoteric procedure in four areas—energy conversion, paint-spraying systems, pollution control and printing.          
Meredith Gourdine in his Lab


Meredith Gourdine
at Cornell

Graduating from Caltech in 1960 (Phd?), he worked for the Aeronautical Division of Curtiss-Wright Corporation, where he became aware of an 18th-century procedure, and developed a generator based on this principle. In 1964, after failing to sell his ideas and his invention to his employer, Gourdine founded his own research and development company.          
Gourdine Laboratories moved from research to the development of products and processes based on the use of electrogasdynamics technology. Gourdine is best known for his Incineraid system, which was used for the removal of smoke from burning buildings, and a technique for dispersing fog from airport runways. These techniques purify the polluted air by introducing a negative charge to the airborne particles, causing them to become electromagnetically attracted to the ground, thus leaving clean air in its place. Gourdine was also issued a patent for the Focus Flow Heat Sink, which is used to cool computer chips.          
In 1973, he founded Energy Innovations in Houston to produce direct-energy conversion devices and was CEO there until his death in 1998.          
Meredith Gourdine also enjoyed success in another field. He won a silver medal for the long jump at the Olympic Games in 1952.  

Meredith Gourdine of Cornell won the 1951 IC4A with a career best of 25-9¾ (7.87) and at the same meet won the 220y hurdles. In the Olympic year, Gourdine beatJerome Biffle to win the Final Trials. One week earlier, at the AAU, he had also defeated Biffle, although finishing second to George Brown. However, Biffle won the one that mattered, finishing a bare four centimeters ahead of Gourdine in the Olympic final.




I was sitting at the PC when this came in.  Hence the quick response.
As to your bet-I would lose on John Bennett but saw Meredith Gourdine in 1952 in London at the quadrennial ( at that time) USA v British Empire(sic).  I am pretty sure he ran a relay leg.  His bio is most impressive-obviously all track guys are not dumb!Keep them coming George.
Geoff Williams

Of course, we SoCal guys saw Meredith Gourdine compete a number of times.  Dennis Kavanaugh

Well done, Dennis,  I just wanted to see if you guys were awake on the West Coast.  George

Once saw him at an all-comers meet in Alhambra.

Pete, didn't he sometimes run the low hurdles? Dennis K.

I for one saw him at 1952 O Trials.  Pete Brown

Great articles on John Bennett and Meredith Gourdine.  I find their stories to be much more interesting than their long jump marks, just indicating that it is the journey rather than the destination which is ultimately attractive.  Gourdine's work as a physicist was certainly more important than his long jump, but it is no surprise to know that such people chose T&F as their sport.  That tradition is still going on today.     Bill Schnier


Sprints, hurdles and long jump---may have run all-comers at Muir HS as well as Alhambra. After Cornell he studied at Cal Tech and worked for JPL in Pasadena.

Pete Brown