Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Vol. 2 No. 30 February , 1961


The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! At least Valeriy Brummel and Igor Ter-Ovanesyan are here to take on John Thomas and Ralph Boston in the New York AC Games and the National AAU meet, both in Madison Square Garden. Brummel is track and field's newest shining star, having broken Thomas' world record with a 7-4½ last month in Leningrad.

The NYAC games are held Feb. 17. If the Russian youngster is nervous about his first US competition, it doesn't show. When Thomas can't negotiate 7-2, Brummel is on his own. He is over 7-3 on his second jump. To the delight of the crowd, he has the bar placed at 7-5 because, as he says later, “I wanted to do better than I have ever done. He has three good shots, but doesn't clear. There will be another day, specifically eight days hence in same environs.

If Brumel is disappointed, it is nothing compared to the anguish of Ter-Ovanesyan who, presented with a runway 30 feet shorter than he is accustomed, can't get his step down and fouls six times. Boston needs no competitive incentive. He sails 26-1¾ for an indoor world record. Wins for Brummel and Boston, disappointments for Thomas and Ter-Ovanesyan; you could say the jumps had their ups and down.

Don Bragg, not used to being second banana, soars 15-7 for a meet record and has three near misses at 16-0. With that mark in mind, it is significant to mention that John Uelses places fourth with his first 15-0 clearance, perhaps an indication of things to come.

The most anticipated event on the track is the 880 where George Kerr beats Belgium's 800 world record holder Roger Moens 1:52.2 to 1:52.5. Hungary's Istvan Rozsavolgyi toys with the mile field, winning by 2.5 seconds over Peter Close in 4:04.0.

And now to the AAU meet. The jumps have the same Russian – American match ups and the excitement level has been ratcheted up a notch. Ter-Ovanesyan has his step down and takes the lead in the first round with a leap of 25-7¾. In the third round he becomes the second ever indoor jumper to reach 26 feet with a jump of exactly that distance. Boston answers in the fourth round with a 25-11¼, but time is running out. Neither improve in the fifth round and one jump remains for each. Boston is up first. With the crowd cheering wildly, the Olympic champion sprints down the runway, hits the board with two inches to spare and elevates. At the top of his jump it is apparent that this is a special jump. Indeed it is. The measurement is 26-6¼, a world record by 4½ inches. If you think it is all over but the shouting, think again. The Russian is made of stern stuff. He has been moving his mark back all evening and he does so once again. This is to be an all or nothing attempt. He is all out down the runway, hits the board and it is obvious that this is his best jump of the evening, well over 26 feet. Is it enough to beat Boston and take his WR? We'll never know. The red flag goes up. It is a foul by about an inch. The Russians want it measured anyway. They are turned down by judge Eulace Peacock who cites the rules. Eulace Peacock, does that name ring a bell? If so, it is because he was a 26-3 jumper himself in 1935. Were it not for Jesse Owens, he would have been the world record holder for 24 years until last summer.

The crowd anticipates the high jump match between Thomas and Brummel, but though it is exciting, the marks are an inch below those of last week, Brummel winning 7-2 to 7-0. How far high jumping has come in the last few years is measured by the 18 year old Brummel's apology for missing 7-3.

There is far more excitement on the track than there was last week. In the 1000 Ernie Cunliffe, pictured on the front page, comes within a tenth of the world record he set in Boston, splitting 54.5 and 1:51.9 en route to a 2:08.0 clocking, two yards ahead of Ed Moran. The milers jog through a 3:12.5, with Istvan Rozsavolgyi leading, before Jim Beatty destroys the field with a 56+ final quarter to win easily in 4:09.3. Hayes Jones, who had said he would be concentrating on the sprints in the future, ties the world record in the 60 yard hurdles, defeating Elias Gilbert. No times are given for the placers. Eddie Southern wins his first AAU indoor championship with decisive 1:11.9 victory in the 600.

Bruce Kidd is a crowd favorite and justly so. Record holder Al Lawrence takes the three mile field out with a 4:33 first mile. Houston teammate John Macy then trades the heavy lifting with Lawrence as they take turns leading laps. By two miles, reached in 9:16, Lawrence has realized it is not his day and fallen back, but Lazlo Tabori and the 17 year old Kidd are right there. Another lap and Kidd pops into the lead followed by Tabori. Goodby, Macy. For the next three quarters the Hungarian veteran stalks the Canadian teenager, never more than three yards back. He is still there at the gun and the race is on....but not for long. Down the backstretch Kidd opens up 10 yards, an advantage he stretches to 20 at the tape, winning in 13:47.0, claiming the fifth spot on the all time list. Lazlo has to be content with 13:51.6.

Though some results from the Boston AA meet were mentioned in the last issue, the story appears in this month's. Ernie Cunliffe set the world record at 1000 yards of 2:07.9 in winning by 3.5 seconds. John Thomas set the American record in the high jump with a 7-3 clearance. It would have been the world record had not Brummel jumped 7-4½ a few hours earlier in Leningrad. Thomas, after clearing 7-3, was quoted as saying, “That's enough for one night. I'm satisfied.” Here is a question to ponder. When he said that, did he know of Brummel's jump?

Speaking of Brummel, the classic shot of him touching a basketball rim with his right foot appears on page 15 of this issue.

Now it is February 3 and we are at the Millrose Games at the Garden. Henry Wadsworth bests Don Bragg in the vault, 15-4 to 15-0, Tarzan's first loss at MSG since 1957. The Florida vaulter also takes second in the high jump at 6-6. Hungary's Istvan Rozsavolgyi has said that he is in shape to break Ron Delany's 4:01.4 world record in the mile. For awhile it appears this could be the night. Ernie Cunliffe leads through the quarter in 61.5, but Rozsavolgyi takes over and quickens the pace to 2:01.7. Could we be viewing a record?......No, wait. False alarm. Rozsa slows and Deacon Jones is forced to take over before the 1320, reached in 3:05.3. With two laps (320 yards) left “the slim Magyar zoomed to the front”. Jones hangs tough, but is dropped with half a lap to go. Rozsavolgyi coasts home in 4:06.0. “Cunliffe, apparently out of it, finished fast to grab second in 4:06.4 with Jones at 4:06.5.”

It's the next week and we are at the Sports Arena for the LA Times meet. This 17 year old Canadian, Bruce Kidd, just continues to impress. On tonight's two mile menu we have Al Lawrence, Max Truex, Jim Beatty and John Macy. The veterans let the kid take the lead, but the pace is a dawdling 2:25 at the half. No other splits are given. The pace picks up, but it is still tactical. The youngster leads - “mincing along on his toes” even - for 21 of the 22 laps. At this point “Beatty put an end to all the foolishness with a 160 yard burst that covered the final circuit in an unbelievable 18 seconds”. Beatty 9:05.7, Kidd 9:07.7.

Bert Nelson writes: “The best time of the meet was the 2:08.7 for the 1000 yards by Ernie Cunliffe. Off form with the tail end of a cold, Ernie bolted to the fore halfway through the race and hung on for a diminishing but decisive five yard margin over Jim Grelle.”

Eddie Southern's 57.8 takes the 500 over Jack Yerman and Mal Spence, 58.1 for both. George Kerr, the best 400-800 runner on earth, logically is comfortable in the 600. He wins in 1:11.1 over Mal Spence's twin, Mel, who clocks 1:11.9.

In an odd footnote, the outstanding performer of the meet doesn't go to any of the above, indeed not to any performer in an open race. It goes to crowd favorite Tom Sullivan of St. George High in Evanston, Illinois who wins the high school mile in 4:13.7 with painful splits of 2:01.5 and 2:12.2.

Remember how discouraged Dyrol Burleson was after his thumping at the hands of Jim Beatty last month? Well, apparently Coach Bowerman knows what he is doing. Burleson is in New Zealand kicking some major Olympic butt. On Jan. 21 in Auckland he handles OG 5000 champ Murray Halberg in a 1500, 3:47.4 to 3:47.7. Four days later in Napier he outruns Bill Baillie by two seconds with a 4:04.0 mile. The best is yet to come. Back in Auckland on the 28th he takes on Halberg and OG 800 champ Peter Snell at a mile and leaves them both behind: Burleson 4:05.6, Snell 4:05.7, Halberg 4:06.4. On Feb. 1 in Dunedin he once again handles Halberg 4:01.2 to 4:03.6. Good? Yes, but you ain't seen nothing yet. In Christchurch on the 4th he lines up for an 800 against all three Olympic 800 medal winners, Snell, world record holder Roger Moens and George Kerr. No description of the race is given, but when the dust clears, Burly has won in a personal best equaling 1:50.0. The medalists finish in the same order they did in Rome: Snell 1:50.1, Moens 1:50.4, Kerr 1:50.6. That he stubs his toe in a final mile against Halberg four days later in Wellington, 4:04.2 to 4:04.8, doesn't diminish the success of the Oregonian's tour.

Gleaned from columns: Bobby Poynter has left his San Jose problems behind and is now enrolled at LA State....Istvan Rozsavolgyi has a guilty secret: he is a “chain smoker”, knocking off three or four cigarettes in succession each evening....Roger Moens says his best days are behind him and that he won't break his 1:45.7 800 world record, but neither will Peter Snell. “He is too heavy. He is a shot putter on the side.”.....Vern Wolfe who coached three high school national record holders in consecutive years (Jim Brewer in the PV, Dallas Long in the shot and Karl Johnston in the discus) and then took an assistant job at San Jose State, is now the head coach at Foothill Junior College. Wonder how far his climb up the coaching ladder will go?......Speaking of how far, Ralph Boston, whose broad jump record is a fraction of an inch short of 27 feet, is a confident guy. He says he can jump 30 feet....And finally, Bert Nelson vents, “At Rome many of our runners wore disgraceful dirty gray sweats into the stadium in place of their official blues. They wore non standard uniforms in Greece and London. And some refused to wear numbers in the London meet. None of our athletes are good enough to be allowed to do this and our coaches and managers should see that they don't.”

We'll close with an ad. Kansas coach Bill Easton will lead a “Hawaiian Track Party” for ten days in July. There are no meets, but there will be clinics which will display Easton's “wealth of coaching experience and know how plus genial personality.” Airfare from San Francisco, accommodations at the luxurious Waikiki Biltmore and many activities are included for only $315. Sign up now.

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