Sunday, November 8, 2015

V 5 N. 102 November , 1965 Cross Country


    Except for those crazy guys in Australia and New Zealand, the world has turned from track and field to cross country. In collegiate track a school's fifth best distance runner can be “a guy”, somebody who isn't counted on for points except for the occasional third place in a dual meet. Ah, but when cross country rolls around, this guy becomes vital to team success. Often even the sixth and seventh runners will determine the outcomes of meets. Depth matters far more than in track. That said, let's see how the 1965 season is shaping up.

    Many conference championships and sectional meets are in the books. The All-Ohio, the first of the big meets, is held on October 30 where at Bowling Green, the Mid-American Conference shows it will be heard from when the nationals roll around. Miami edges Ohio 52-58 with Bowling Green third with 126. Defending national champ Elmore Banton of Ohio wins by a comfortable 19 seconds over Kent's Sam Blair.
Elmore  'Mo' Banton , left with Coach Stan Huntsman and two
other team members Bill Heller and Larry Smith.

Mo today
    Three days later Larry Furnell of St. John's clips 47 seconds off the Van Cortlandt Park 5 mile course meet record with a 24:51 to lead the Redmen to the Metropolitan Intercollegiate title, 61-67 over Fordham. Jim O'Connell of CCNY is 150 yards back at 25:18. Former record holder and three time champion (if you count his freshman division win), Jim Loeschhorn, runs his fastest time on this course, 25:35, but it is only good for third.

    Another three days pass and we are back at Van Cortlandt Park for the Heptagonal Championships. Army demonstrates why they are undefeated by placing 1-2-8-9-10 for a decisive victory over Navy 30-68. Harvard with 73 is third. The individual placing is skewed by “sharp eyed judges”. Jim Warner slows to allow teammate Paul Decoursey to tie with him, but the overly officious finish judges rule Decoursey the winner as both run 25:20.8.

    The next day on Western Michigan's six mile course, Miami places three runners in the top six to take the Mid-American Conference title (not yet universally referred to as the MAC) and hand defending national champion home team a rare loss 42-44. For the second time in a week Elmore Banton and Sam Bair place 1-2, but this time Bair has cut the margin to 11 seconds. Ohio is third with 79 and Bowling Green fourth with 97. (Historical note: Jack Batchelor of Miami is tenth, 70 seconds behind Banton.)
    The same day in the Big Eight championships on the Oklahoma State course, Kansas State puts the hurt on the rest of the conference with a dominant 34 points to leave Kansas and Oklahoma State well behind with 58 and 68 points. Oddly, the race is contested on a course half the distance run on the Western Michigan course, only three miles. John Lawson of Kansas is the individual winner in 14:04followed by Colorado's David Wighton, 14:16, and Tom Von Ruden of the home team, 14:19. K State packs its runners closely, placing 4-5-7-8-10 with a spread of only 31 seconds.
Lee Assenheimer, Northwestern
thanks to Dan Martinez for this photo

    Two days later, Nov. 8, the Big Ten meet is held on the golf course at defending champion Minnesota. The Gophers are left in the dust by the lads from Northwestern who run 1-2-5-9-23 to win easily with 40 points to 65 for Michigan State and 82 for Minnesota. Lee Assingheimer outlegs teammate John Duffield by three seconds for the win in 20:05. Of note in the Chicago Tribune article below is the statement that this is the first time Northwestern ever fielded a full team in the Big Ten Championship.
Only pic of Lee Assenheimer that we could find.
The meet got next day coverage in the Chicago Tribune. This was
Assenheimer's second straight Big Ten win.  The article noted it was
the first time Northwestern fielded a full team.

    On the 12th in Chicago's Washington Park, the Central Collegiate Championship provides an inkling of what may happen ten days later in the nationals. Defending national champion Western Michigan was outrun by Miami last week in the MAC championship. A week makes a difference as this time the Broncos score 40 points to beat Miami, 52, and Kansas, 58. John Lawson of Kansas puts himself in the favorite's role by taking the lead from Ohio's defending national champion, Elmore Banton, at the 3 ¾ mile mark of the five mile race to win by 60 yards over Kent State's Sam Bair who passes Banton with 250 yards left. Lawson 25:08, Bair 25:16, Banton 25:21.

1963 WAC Champs U. of New Mexico

Sorry, no pic of the 1965 team. Appearing here
Top  Head Track Coach Hugh Hackett and Pete Brown Cross Country Coach
Front L-R Singleton, Goff, Tony Sandovol, John Baker, Ed Coleman
George Scott, the winner in 1965 was running for Jack Daniels at
Oklahoma City U. in 1963.

    The next day the Western Athletic Conference Championship is held in Provo, Utah. Last year New Mexico came into the meet as the defending champions, but finished only fourth. This year the Lobos are on a mission. Led by 29 year old Australian transfer George Scott from Oklahoma City, they score 27 points leaving BYU and Wyoming well back with 50 and 83. Scott holds off teammate John Baker by five seconds for the win in 15:14 on the 3.1 mile course. BYU's Bob Delaney is third in 15:21. Lobos Ron Eller and Ed Coleman are fourth and fifth in 15:25 and 15:31. As a result of this race the University of New Mexico is in the unique position of having three individual conference cross country champions on its squad. In addition to Scott, Baker and Coleman won in 1963 and 1964.

    Two more days pass and now we are in the Big Apple for the ICAAAA meet on Van Cortlandt Park's five mile course where Georgetown dominates the 14 other schools, winning with 59 points to Notre Dame's 87 and Army's 94. Georgetown's Eamon O'Reilly blows away the competition with a 24:24 to win by 27 seconds over Charles Messenger of Villanova. Jim Warner of Army and Ed Dean of Notre Dame are another two and four seconds back.

    Five other meets are reported only lightly. Doug Brown of Montana, this year's 3 and 6 mile NCAA champ, is unpressed in winning the Big Sky Conference title by 50 seconds. Ireland's contribution to Oklahoma Baptist University, Pat McMahon, wins the 6 mile Midwest Federation meet in Wichita in 29:56 over Kansas freshman Jim Ryun 30:29. Washington State's Gerry Lindgren takes the NCAA District 8 meet in Corvallis by four seconds over Kenny Moore of Oregon in 20:15. Unattached Jim Grelle, is third at 20:41, two seconds up on WSU's Chris Westman. The Cougars edge the Ducks 33-37 for the title with Oregon State third with 54.

Preston Davis
    The South is slowing coming around to this cross country thing but there is still a way to go as measured by Tennessee sweeping the first six spots in the SEC meet. Second place Mississippi State scores 70. The Southwest Conference is basically a dual meet between Texas and Arkansas with the Longhorns winning 28-30 on the first place tie between Preston Davis and Richard Romo as the team take the first eight places.
Ricardo Romo


     The nationals are held in Lawrence, Kansas, home of the Jayhawks, on November 22. This meet is historically significant because it is the first cross country national meet not held on the Michigan State course. It is also the first time the distance is six miles, not four. It is notable for who isn't here as much as who is. Gerry Lindgren, is absent as are the WAC champion New Mexico team and the Miami squad that beat defending champ, Western Michigan a couple weeks ago.

Elmore Banton is the defending champion. Doug Brown was the champion at this distance on the track in June. John Lawson is undefeated, beat Elmore ten days ago and this is his home course. Who's your money on?
Doug Brown U.of Montana and
Coach Harry Adams

    Brown and Lawson separate themselves early on. The last time this pair raced was the NCAA 3 mile where Brown out-leaned Lawson. Will it that close again? The mile posts are passed in 4:479:3614:14before the significant hills start. The next mile goes off in 5:ll (19:25) with Brown leading and Lawson right there. The fifth mile contains a butt buster of a hill and this is where Lawson makes his move, passing Brown and pulling away. Brown, obviously a skilled and experienced runner, collapses a half mile further. Lawson finishes to the cheers of the hometown crowd, winning in 29:24, 18 seconds ahead of Eamon O'Reilly of Villanova. Next is Chris Westman of Washington State in 29:58, followed by Tennessee's Bob Reddington 30:02, and Ray McCubbins of Oklahoma State 30:07. Steve Smith leads Western Michigan in defending its title by finishing sixth in 30:08, a second ahead of last year's champion, Elmore Banton.

Western Michigan NCAA Repeat Champions 1965
Coach Dales back row left
The Western Michigan team members following Lawson are:
Place     (Team Scoring) 1.    (1)   John Lawson  Kansas           29:24
6.    (6)   Stephen Smith, WMU          30:08
21.  (14) Wolfgang Lugauer WMU    30:49
27.  (17) Theodore Nelson  WMU     31:07
33.  (22) Gary Myers WMU              31:13
34.  (33) Roger Plont WMU               31:14    1:06 spread
45.  (34) Michael Gallagher WMU    31:28
96.  (45) Keith Brown WMU             32:46

    Yes, they are tooting their horns, looting stores and setting fire to police cars in a fog of tear gas as the town of Kalamazoo celebrates the Western Michigan victory. Okay, that's an exaggeration, but the townsfolk were real happy and smiling a lot. The Broncos' 81 points give them a comfortable margin over Northwestern 114, Tennessee 138, Georgetown 140, Oklahoma State 185 and the hometown Kansas Jayhawks 203.  Also of note here is the second place finish of Northwestern University.  As we said before they won the Big Ten meet with only their first full squad effort, and then they get a second nationally.  Western Michigan, North Western? Separated only by the width of Lake Michigan?  Is it something in the water?
John Lawson, undefeated in 1965 XC season

NCAA list of finishers   Click on this link for a complete run down of finishers.   You'll find some interesting addendums to the race.  For instance Elmore Banton took his role of defending champion very seriously by leading the first mile.  Maybe it wasn't his day to repeat, but he was where a defending champ belonged, at the head of the pack.  Sam Bair, who had been running close to Banton all year, faded badly in this race finishing 73rd.  What happened to Miami?  They had beaten Western Michigan in the Mid American Conference championship a few weeks before.  Well, the Redskins,  (sorry, folks, that was their name in the 60s) had four runners DQ'd for "cutting the course" as the NCAA officials succinctly put it.   I checked what their team score might have been (551 points), so they weren't even close to beating anyone that day.  Must have been a long  ride back to Oxford, OH the next day.    One other point about the meet was the venue.  The Kansas cross country course was a real bugger.   The 'Kansas Hill' was an anathema to runners in the Big 8.  The December, 1965 iaauw of Track and Field News has a cover picture of Lawson and Brown charging up that hill.   Prior to 1965 it was only a three mile course, but we went up that S.O.B. twice in three miles.  I don't know how many times they did it on the six mile course. Did they just repeat the old 3 mile course a second time?  The hill was at least a half mile long.  It started gradually and just got steeper and steeper and steeper as you ascended it.  It was the most debilitating piece of real estate I've ever tried to run on.  I've climbed mountains that were steeper and higher and more difficult, but I wasn't racing anyone on those slopes.    When Kansas moved their home course over to Bob Timmons' ranch, I'm sure a lot of Big 8 coaches breathed a sigh of relief.   Speaking to John Lawson a few months ago, he talked about  going to the front and leading that race in the final stages.  He humbly said that if anyone had come up and challenged him in those final stages of the race, they could have taken it from him.  It's a very honest thing for a champion runner to confide.  Even when leading there may  be some doubt in one's mind.  You spend so much time preparing, and training and pushing yourself to the limit, but there is indeed a limit.  And if you exceed it or come up to 99% of that limit you have put yourself in a very vulnerable place.  It is something inherent in the field of human performance and art to extend your work to the point that all your vulnerabilties are out there to be challenged, but then forging forward on that public stage and conquering your own doubts and the best efforts of others to knock you off the pedestal.  That is what separates the champions from the runners up.  The University of Kansas honored John Lawson by naming the hill  'Lawson Hill'.   When they moved the course out to Rim Rock Farm, they dedicated another hill out there to John Lawson.   Well deserved, John.
Lawson leading Doug Brown on a short sharp hill at the
four mile mark.  Brown would collapse a mile later and DNF.
(from cover of TF&N Dec. 1965) Rich Clarkson photographer

Wester Michigan top five flanking Lawson in Fog Allen Fieldhouse
after the meet: Roger Plont (33), Ted Nelson (17), Steve Smith (6)
John Lawson (1), Gary Myers (22), Wolfgang Laguer (14)
(from cover of TF&N Dec. 1965) Rich Clarkson photographer

John Lawson would go on to put the icing on the cake of his undefeated season.  Three days later he won the USTFF cross country meet held in nearby Topeka over such luminaries as Oscar Moore, Jim Ryun and Bill Dotson, and Doug Brown finishing in the top ten.


And in Conclusion:

    In the first paragraph we mentioned those crazy guys in New Zealand and Australia. As falling leaves are followed by falling snow in the US, not only are the Down Unders holding track meets, they are doing some pretty amazing things. Be watching for our next report.

More on Doug Brown   We ran this piece earlier, but thought some of you may have missed it.
Jack Batchelor, he would have better days in the future.

Never did run the KU course. My worst memories are the OSU course, with the  bloody steep hill in the last 300 yards to the finish. XC was not my favorite sport. I really did not enjoy it until I moved to France  and into the mud, the rain & snow, jumping the logs, etc. An early mudder! 

Morocco XC was also another experience - go up the hill & turn left at the staked out camel !!!

But it was all great fun.

Still love what you guys are doing with the site!!

Jerry McFadden


George Brose said...

It's so nice to read about our contemporaries, especially Elmore Banton, Stan Huntsman, George Dales and the others who made cross country so exciting during that period in history. George Dales and Don Canham then proceeded to establish the NCAA Indoor Championships in Detroit, a very successful meet in every respect for a long time. Bill

George Brose said...

My son was a student coach under Elmore Banton at Ohio U. for a year and a half while working on his masters. He eventually coached track and x-c at a small Nebraska college--Wayne State College.

Dennis K

George Brose said...

I'm sure Mo was a great mentor. I met him a number of times down in Athens. What a humorous guy. He was telling a friend of mine and I about how his women's team had once underperformed at a meet and came home with a second place trophy. At Monday practice he had them all run to the top of the football stadium for a pre practice meeting. When they got there, he was waiting with the second place trophy. After giving them a round of hell, he threw the trophy off the stadium into the parking lot below. He's laughing all the time he's telling the story. Said one of the kids collected the pieces and glued it back together and kept it.

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