Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Vol. 2 No. 13 Answer to Herb Elliot Question

Various correspondents (Ernie Cunliffe and Dennis Kavanaugh and Pete Brown) indicate the Herb Elliot photos mentioned in a previous entry were taken at Compton, CA on June 2, 1958. Elliot ran 3:58.1 followed by Tabori in 4:00.5 and Delaney in 4:10. The rabbits appear to be Jerome Walters from the Southern California Striders and perhaps Bob Shankland from USC. John Cobley of Vancouver,CAN indicates that the "C" on Herb's vest stands for Cerutty. Merv Lincoln wore an "S" for Stampfl. There was quite a coaching rivalry in those days. Stampfl , I think, had migrated down under by then. Also of note, Elliot is racing in Dreske shoes.

The previous week Elliot had run an easy 4:02.7 at Modesto. Do these tracks and stadiums and events even exist anymore?

Walters 4th in 4:14.2; Truex 5th in 4:17.3 and Shankland 6th in 4:19.3
Marshall Clark got 6th in the 2 mile in 9:21.1. I missed that meet, on duty at Camp Pendleton. I did attend the Coliseum Relays that year with a hot date; the two of us made it by crawling through a hole in the fence. Very classy!
Pete Brown

It was pretty obvious that it was at Compton (by the stands), and I did recall that it was in 1958—as you probably did. I thought it might be the late Marshall Clark at first (don’t remember what he looked like; but he graduated in 1957, as I recall). So, it seemed as if it had to be Bob Shankland (who evidently still lives in Denver). Both Ernie and I have run against him (I did some 15 or more years after Ernie did; not sure if Bob ran x-c at USC, but I don’t think I ran x-c against him, anyway).

The rules in effect then required the rabbits to finish; didn’t they? At least for world record purposes?
Dennis Kavanaugh

Here is Time Magazine's account of the race
Just before his fleet-footed protege, Herb Elliott, 20, stepped to the starting line for the mile run at California's Compton track meet last week, Aussie Coach Percy Cerutty bobbled his grey goatee with an expansive boast: "We will set too fast a pace for him and steam him out."

Despite Cerutty's floating pronouns, everyone within earshot understood. He was talking about Villanova's Ron Delany, the frail, pale Irishman who, never running faster than he has to, has been almost unbeatable ever since he won the 1,500 meters in record time at the 1956 Olympics. Aussie Elliott was casually planning to race him right off the track. Neither Herb nor his coach showed any concern about the presence of Hungarian Refugee Laszlo Tabori.

Elliott took off on the heels of Pace Setters Jerome Walters and Bob Shank-land. He turned the first quarter in 57.5, and the speed that was supposed to steam out Delany threatened to burn up Elliott as well. A Negro youngster collecting hurdles at the trackside watched the runners whisk past and chuckled softly: "Look like those cats think it's the 440. Some-thin's gotta give."

Elliott finished the half in 1:59.3. The pace setters faded, and Delany's bobbing stride began to break apart. He looked more and more like a man in a bowler hat trying to catch a tram. Tabori came on to make a brief challenge, but Elliott stayed in command. He had no noticeable finishing kick; he merely ran fast all the way. Coach Cerutty stood at the head of the stretch wildly waving a towel, the signal that there was a chance to break the world's record (3:58). As usual, Herb Elliott's competition was only the clock, and he fell a few ticks short. Time for the mile: 3:58.1. Tabori was second, a shade on the wrong side of four minutes. Well beaten, Delany hung on to third.

"What happened to Delany?" the young Aussie was asked when he caught his breath. "I didn't look back to see," said Elliott. The Delany himself supplied the answer. There were no excuses. It was not the cold wind that bothered him, he said with a smile. "It was lack of wind. I didn't have any."

Max Truex

Len Thornton, Max Truex, and Gordon McClenathan
A nice article on Max Truex can be found at

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