Friday, December 12, 2014

v. 4 N. 94 A Tale of Two Miles

First I wish to acknowledge the work of Keith Sharon (George Fullerton article)  and Dave Johnson (Rudy Simms article)  and their respective organizations  The Oregonian   and  Track and Field News for their initial stories that combined have enabled this piece to be written.

This is the story of two divergent paths from both coasts of this big country, yet bound by the universality of Track and Field and the one mile run.  It germinated with a note  from Rick Lower of Beaverton, OR, always an inquisitive guy especially when it comes to distance runners.  Rick sent me a copy of a recent article about George Fullerton formerly of Ashland, OR who ran a pretty fast mile in 1946 when he was a senior in high school in that town.  Two weeks prior to that race, George had destroyed what had been the Oregon state high school record  by running 4:28 in the meet running up to the State meet.  Unfortunately state meet records in Oregon only counted if set in the actual state meet.  Too bad if it is raining and snowing at your state meet.  This was still the case in 1961 in Ohio when I was never credited with a state meet record having made the time in the district meet.  Leaving nothing to chance Fullerton ran 4:24 the following week to officially put his name in the Oregon state high school record books.   It should be remembered that the national high school mile record of the day was listed as 4:21.2  set in 1934 by one Louis Zamperini.
George Fullerton 1946

George Fullerton today catching Steelheads
pictures were provided to the Oregonian by Fullerton's daughter
Candace Spiro

The following week on June 3, 1946 in the State AAU meet in Portland,  Fullerton hooked up with Oregon State runner Dick Petterson.   Fullerton set the pace and led the race right down to the last straight when Petterson blew by him to win in 4:19 in a PR time, but when the second place timers checked their watches, they read  4:20.5 for the kid.   That was 0.7 seconds under Zamperini's record.  Fullerton was greeted by a brass band when he got home to Ashland.  And though his high school coach filed with the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations (NFSHSAA) for ratification, it was never granted because of the meet being run in "open" competition.  Even though Fullerton did all the pace setting work, he did not get credit for the record.  The complete story can be read in The Oregonian, Dec. 9, 2014, written by Keith Sharon.    Fullerton still lives in the Northwest, in Vancouver, Washington.

Those three weeks of miling got George Fullerton all the attention in the world from  college recruiters, and he chose Oregon State to seek his fortune on the cinders.   Unfortunately  a foot injury early in his Freshman year at OSU ended his running career.   He got his degree , served time in the army and came home to teach physical education and coach track and field, eventually  retiring from Clark Community College.

Having read this piece about Fullerton, and wondering if  others may have lost national records to the stilted rulings of a national organization of old boy administrators, I started googling for more info and was amazed  to learn about the way national scholastic records are rejected or accepted.  This is nothing new to serious track and field statisticians, but to the guy less possessed of that mindset, it is a very different world to discover.  I won't go too deep into this because it is a bit confusing as there are several bodies who look at records and treat them in different ways for instance Track and Field News and NFSHSAA or whatever monnicker they are using today.  I will give you a link to a discussion on the Track and Field website that is much more definitive than where I'm prepared to go with this report.

But you are probably wondering about the title of this piece,  A Tale of Two Miles.   What is the second mile?  This one's a real whodunnit that was uncovered by Dave Johnson in 2007 reporting for Track and Field News on their digital website.

Rudi Simms and the First Sub 4:20 High School Mile

In 1943, Rudi Simms ran 4:18.2 to break Chesley Unruh's 4:20.2 mile record set in 1925.  Unruh was also in an 'open' race.    The record would not be broken again until Deacon Jones ran 4:17.8 in 1954.  Wow, this takes Zamperini out of the picture in the list of high school mile  record holders.   Or does it?  It all depends on whose definition of high school record holders you care to acknowledge.  Simms and Unruh would fall under the banner of:  as long as you are under 20 years old at the time, and you have run the race no later than August 31 of the year of your graduation, we don't care who was in the race, whether it was only high schoolers or whether there were at least 4 schools in the event and, on and on.  By the more conservative definition,  Jim Ryun and Lukas Verzbicas would be the only two high schoolers to meet those  rules for sub 4 minute miles in high school.  Alan Webb, Tim Danielson, and Marty Liquori would not be on the list because their miles did not meet the conservative definition.   Readers please correct me if I'm wrong on this last statement.    A great and detailed discussion of these rules and the progression lists of best high school milers can be found at
Keep in mind this is a 3 page discussion that you must flip through to get all the details.  And it was done in 2005 before Dave Johnson's discovery of the Rudy Simms story.  Also note that Glenn Cunningham does not get on to some peoples' list , because he was 20 years old his senior year in high school although he was within the rules of the state of Kansas high schools on age allowed to compete.

But back to Rudi Simms.    He had just graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx where twenty years later world class shot putter Gary Gubner would compete.   Simms' 4:18.2 was run in the Metropolitan AAU meet at Triborough Stadium on Randall's Island, an " open"  race where he finished third to Bill Hulse former NYU runner (4:15.9) and Fred Wilt (NT).  Simms and Hulse carried the New York Pioneer Cub colors that day.  Dave Johnson's impeccable research would confirm Simms' birth date as Feb. 9, 1925 making him 18 years old on that day.  Also of note at that meet was a 174' 10 1/8" discus throw by Hugh Cannon former BYU athlete competing for the US Navy.  This bettered the listed WR held by Willi Schroder of Germany (1935) but slightly less than the pending WR of Adolpho Consolini at 175' set in 1941.

Earlier in his career Simms was credited with a 1:59.8 half mile his junior year.  His credentials also included an anchor leg on the DeWitt Clinton winning distance medley relay (1 7/8 miles)  at the Penn Relays.  In May 1943 he had a 4:31.1 mile in the PSAL meet and on June 2, 1943 ran a 4:25.8 putting him 3rd on the annual national list behind Roland Sink (South Pasadena, CA) 4:21.4 and Jack Corridan from (Wiley HS, Terre Haute, IN) 4:24.4.    (see brief bios of Corridan and Sink at end of this piece)

But there is more.   The rest of Simms' life is one of mystery and perhaps American tragedy.  First, Simms 4:18.2 proved to be no fluke as he ran a 4:01.4  1500 meters finishing second in the AAU junior meet in 1943.    Simms is listed as Rudolph Gordon Simms in NYU's records , competing for the Violets in 1944-45 (a sixth place finish in 28:55 in the IC4A cross country meet in 1944 in Van Cortland Park) and winning the IC4A mile in 1945.   But after that Rudy Simms fell almost completely off the radar.  There is only a brief mention of a comeback attempt after the war in the Amsterdam News.

In 1971  there is a story of the death of a Rudy Simms at the hands of a white policeman's bullet during a racial incident in the Bedford Stuyvesant  district of New York.  The deceased was listed as 45-50 years of age. But it has not been confirmed this person is the same Rudolph Gordon Simms of our story.

So Dave Johnson's research confirmed the 4:18.2 to be legit, as Simms was not over age and for Simms to have become a  "new if unknown-at-the-time national high school record holder in the mile".

Johnson continues,  " The remainder of the story is unknown, and filled with question marks.  Apart from the postwar comeback attempt little is known of Simms after he left NYU following a win in the '45 IC4A mile.  Did he leave to join the war effort?  Was he just not a good student?  Had he fallen onto hard times?  And is he the same person who died in a '71 racial incident?" And what is the definition of a 'racial incident' in 1971?

Roland Sink was AAU mile champion in 1945 and placed third in the 1,500 at the 1948 NCAAs. He competed for USC and the Los Angeles AC.
Personal Bests: 1500 – 3:52.7 (1948); Mile – 4:12.6 (1948).  He competed in the 1948 Olympics in London and was eliminated in the opening heat of the 1500 meters.
Mr. Sink also was a middle school teacher of one of our most loyal readers, Pete Brown.  

Jack Corridan   was recently inducted into the Indiana High School Track and Cross Country Hall of Fame, Jan. 2014.

Jack Corridan - Terre Haute Wiley
The site  of "red-headed" Jack Corridan running daily to and from his home on Crawford Street in Terre Haute, to St Patrick’s Elementary School was common. When he entered Wiley High School, he traveled the same route only more than a half mile farther. Corridan put that experience to work in high school, finishing second in the mile run in 1942 and winning the Indiana state meet in the event with a record time of 4:24.4 in 1943. That time bettered the existing mark by nearly two full seconds.  Corridan’s record stood for 6 years.
Corridan earned a track scholarship to Georgia Tech but his collegiate career was interrupted by service in World War II. When he returned to school he ran the 400-meter hurdles in addition to the distance events.
Corridan was so modest and unassuming that he did not share his many athletic successes with his children. Jack Corridan died in Blairsville, Ga., age 80, in February of 2005.

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