Once Upon a Time in the Vest

Sunday, July 30, 2017

V 6 N. 52 Bob McMillen and John Barnes, Two Oxy Heroes

Our friend Phil Scott dug this story out of the past.  He has an uncanny ability to search out old characters from the sport.  Long forgotten yet easily remembered.  We'll bring up another one soon.
Phil Scott

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California Digital Newspaper Collection > Occidental Weekly > 26 September 1952
Occidental Weekly, Number 1, 26 September 1952
Sorry, some of the times are left out of the article. ed. 

Oxy Spike Heros Hailed McMillen Labeled 'Greatest US. Miler of All Time'; Barnes Points for '56 Olympics
California Digital Newspaper Collection > Occidental Weekly > 26 September 1952
Occidental Weekly, Number 1, 26 September 1952


      Two of the finest athletes in the world graduated from Occidental last spring. These same two, Bob McMillen and John (“Long Jawn”) Barnes, ended their college careers with the thrill that comes only after many years of hard work and preparation, combined with the will to win a trip to the Olympic Games, which were held this year in Helsinki, Finland.

     Both these fine runners have made exceptional records throughout the course of their high school and, college experiences. John Barnes was born in Oklahoma, but early in his life moved to Long Beach, Calif. There, in his junior year, under the guidance of Coach Vince Reel, he displayed his amazing versatility by touring the 220 in 23.0, the 440* in 50.8, the 880 in 2:03,4, and the mile in 4:33,8. Next year he suffered a very serious lung Infection which sidelined him for the season. John Comes to Oxy In 1949, John came to Occidental and to Coach Payton Jordan. That spring he again appeared to be on his way as he won the 880 against the SC Frosh in 1:56.5, beating Lloyd Jepson, and placed fifth in the 400-meter hurdles of the AAU meet in Fresno. As a sophomore in 1950 he was becoming a national figure. He beat Olympic champ Mai Whitfield in the Compton Invitational in the time of 1:52.9. In the 440 he scorched to a 47.1 leg in the mile relay to help Oxy run the second fastest time in the history of track and field. John placed third in the NCAA finals for the 880. As a junior, '‘Long Jawn” climaxed a tremendous season, winning the NCAA 880 at Seattle, stopping the watches at 1:50.7. Earlier at Compton he again beat Mai Whitfield only to be disqualified for “cutting in.” This year saw Barnes anchor the mile and two-mile Tiger relay teams, running his quarter in a tremendous 46.8. and the 880 in a blazing 1:48.4. He again won the NCAA crown, this time in 1:49.6. He is a member of the world’s record distance medley relay team, which consisted of: Miller—44o —47.8; Butler 880 1:54.5; Barnes—l32o—3:0l.s; McMillen mile —4:13.9; total 9:57.7. Then in June he finished second to Mai Whitfield in the 800-meter Olympic Trials to secure his ticket for the trip to Helsinki, 

     Due to a miscalculation on his part he failed to qualify for the finals. On tour a week later he proved himself by beating Utzheimer of Germany in the 800 meters at 1:50.6. Utzheimer had previously placed third at the Olympics. Later in London he teamed with Whitfield, Ashenfelter, and Pearman to set a new world’s record in the four-man two-mile relay. He also ran a 4:12 mile, combined with three others to mark one of the fastest four-mile relays ever run. At this stage, John's career could not be called uneventful, but even now he is looking forward to bigger and better things in the 1956 Olympics. Bob McMillen A native Californian, Bob McMillen got his start in track at Cathedral High School where he gave some hint of the future when as a senior he ran a four-lapper in 4:24. After quitting school to work as a carpenter for a year, he enrolled in 1948 at Glendale College where, under the coaching of Walt Smith, one of SC’s track greats, he ran a 4:21 mile. After the regular season Bob went to the Olympics in the steeplechase. McMillen came to Oxy in the spring of 1950. Under the guidance of Payton Jordan he showed amazing improvement, but due to ineligibility was unable to compete for Oxy. He won the Frosty Martin mile at Long Beach In both ’5O and ’5l, and in the 1950 SPAAU meet finished second to Jim Newcomb in a blazing 4:07.'8 mile. In the ’5O Coliseum Relays he efforted a 9,02.0 for the fastest two miles ever run on the West Coast. In 1951 he became eligible at Oxy and was a tremendous asset. Against SC he won the mile in 4:24.5, the two-mile in 9:32.3, and placed second in the 880 a step behind teammate John Barnes in 1:54,3. At the Compton Invitational he- won the mile, beating Willy Slykhvis, king of the European milers, in 4:09

Slow Season Start In ’52

The season started slow for Bob, but he won the NCAA 1500-meter run at Berkeley later in the season in 3:50.7. Winning the metric mile in the U. S. Olympics Trials, McMillen too left for Helsinki. There he was second in his first heat at 3:55.8, tied with four others at 3:50.8 for his second heat, and in the finals scored an amazing second to Joseph Barthel of Luxembourg, with whom he will share the Olympic record of 3:45.2. McMillen was almost dead last as a tight little knot of swift milers jockeyed at the last curve. Suddenly weaving his way between the runners like a halfback in a broken field, he galloped. This sprint carried him to a close second place. The last 440 yards was run in a heart-breaking 56.2 seconds, the second fastest lap ever run. From July 24 to August 23
Josy Barthels winning the Helsinki 1500 over McMillen and Werner Lueg of Germany

     Bob ran 15 races, including many after the Olympics. His post-Olympic races were highlighted by two runs. On August 6 he ran a 3:45.8 metric mile, but was defeated by Malmo of Sweden. In another 1500 meters at Luxembourg, he finished second again to Barthel with a duplication of the Olympics. This time was the fastest ever recorded by an American, a scorching 3:45.1 which is equivalent to a 4:024,4:03.7 mile, making Bob McMillen the greatest American miler of all time. Truly, John Barnes and Bob McMillen will go down in Occidental annals as exemplifying the true spirit of Occidental College.
John Barnes and Bob McMillen

Helsinki 1500 1952  Video clip

JOHN BARNES, left, and 808 McMILLEN, two of the finest athletes ever produced at Occidental, wound up their collegiate careers in a blaze of glory at the Olympic Games in Helsinki this summer. Barnes is now doing postgraduate work here while McMillen is awaiting a call from the service. Both hope to compete in the 1956 Games.

Barnes died in 2004,  McMillen in 2007.

Sport Reference summarizes McMillen's career as follows

Full name: Robert Earl "Bob" McMillen
Gender: Male
Height: 5-10.5 (180 cm)
Weight: 150 lbs (68 kg)
Born: March 5, 1928 in Los Angeles, California, United States
Died: April 1, 2007 (Aged 79.027)
Affiliations: LAAC, Los Angeles (USA) / San Jose State Spartans, San Jose (USA)
Country: USA United States
Sport: Athletics
Medals: 1 Silver (1 Total)


After falling three times in the heats of the 1948 Olympic steeplechase, Bob McMillen wisely gave up the event and
 turned his attentions to miling. He won the NCAA 1,500 m for Occidental in 1952 and, after winning the Final Trials,
his devastating finishing burst narrowly failed to net him the Olympic gold. McMillen’s time of 3:45.2 in Helsinki was
 a new U.S. record and he had a best time for the mile of 4:07.8, which he clocked in finishing second to Jim
Newcomb at the 1950 Southern Pacific AAU meet. In the 1955 Pan American Games 1500 metres McMillen finished
Personal Bests: 1500 – 3:45.2 (1952); 3000S – 9:18.7 (1948).


Glossary  · SHARE  · Embed  · CSV  · Export  · PRE  · LINK  · ?
1948 Summer20LondonAthleticsMen's 3,000 metres SteeplechaseUnited StatesUSA8 h1 r1/2
1952 Summer24HelsinkiAthleticsMen's 1,500 metresUnited StatesUSA2Silver

Men's 1,500 metres

Event History  · Glossary  · SHARE  · Embed  · CSV  · Export  · PRE  · LINK  · ?
1952 Summer24HelsinkiAthleticsUnited StatesFinal2=OR3:45.23:45.39
1952 Summer24HelsinkiAthleticsUnited StatesSemi-FinalsHeat Two4QU3:50.63:50.84
1952 Summer24HelsinkiAthleticsUnited StatesRound OneHeat Four2QU3:55.83:55.82

Men's 3,000 metres Steeplechase

Event History  · Glossary  · SHARE  · Embed  · CSV  · Export  · PRE  · LINK  · ?
1948 Summer20LondonAthleticsUnited StatesRound OneHeat One8

This is how John Barnes is remembered in Sport Reference along with his Olympics heat times.
Full name: John Baird Barnes
Gender: Male
Height: 6-0 (183 cm)
Weight: 159 lbs (72 kg)
Born: October 12, 1929 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States
Died: August 25, 2004 (Aged 74.318) in Suffolk, Virginia, United States
Affiliations: Occidental Tigers, Los Angeles (USA)
Country: USA United States
Sport: Athletics


John Barnes ran for Occidental College and won the 800 at the 1951-52 NCAA Championships. He finished second in
 the 1952 Olympic Trials but failed to make the Olympic final. In 1952 he ran on a world-record setting 4×880 relay
team (with [Bill Ashenfelter], [Reggie Pearman], and [Mal Whitfield]) at the USA vs. British Empire meet in London.
 He later coached high school track & field from 1962 thru 1992, and also taught government at local colleges. He was
 a Civil War buff and collected antiques related to the Civil War.
Personal Bests: 440y – 48.1 (1951); 800 – 1:49.6 (1952); Mile – 4:19.0 (1950).


Glossary  · SHARE  · Embed  · CSV  · Export  · PRE  · LINK  · ?
1952 Summer22HelsinkiAthleticsMen's 800 metresUnited StatesUSA4 h2 r2/3

Men's 800 metres

Event History  · Glossary  · SHARE  · Embed  · CSV  · Export  · PRE  · LINK  · ?
1952 Summer22HelsinkiAthleticsUnited StatesSemi-FinalsHeat Two41:53.41:53.54
1952 Summer22HelsinkiAthleticsUnited StatesRound OneHeat Three2QU1:54.5
Finally,  a tribute from one of John Barnes' former athletes.  These testamonials probably mean more to
 a coach than tributes from sportwriters, blogs, and obituarial composers.

Yujin Yi former Glendale HS Athlete talks about Coach John Barnes

Thank you for posting the note about Coach Barnes.
I had the priviledge of being coached by him while I attending Glendale High School 4 years ago. I did not meet him 
until my sophomore year when he first came out to coach our team because he had retired from teaching before my
 freshman year. It's not every day you get to meet someone as thoughtful, funny, motivational and downright talented 
as Coach Barnes. I've never met anyone who had the kind of effect that Coach had on our team-- everyone looked 
up to him and admired him, and, in turn, he made us believe that we were each capable of greater things, both on 
and off the field. His extraordinary coaching lead our boys' team to beat Muir High School in 1999, ending their 
19-year dual meet winning streak. He never minded staying late after practice to give personal help to a team 
member, regardless of whether he was the school record holding senior captain or the new freshman with shin 
splints. He treated each member of the team as an important and vital part of the team. His coaching skills were,
 inarguably, the best. In a society where an ever-growing cleavage divides the generations and prevents them from 
communicating or understanding each other, Coach Barnes never had a problem connecting with us kids, over 
5 decades his junior. It was no wonder that he was the heart and soul of our team.

I will always remember Coach on the field, in his Civil War-era/ranch outfit (complete with boots), his cane and
 leashed dog in one hand and the "green horse spray stuff" in the other.
And although my own mediocre track career ended with my receiving my high school diploma, Coach Barnes 
remains, and will stay, one of the most motivational people in my life.

I was deeply saddened to hear of his passing, and even more sorry for all those who will never have the chance
 to meet one of the greatest athletes, teachers, coaches, and mentors.

We'll miss you, General Barnes.

I was a big fan of both these guys. My brother-in-law to be was a sprinter on the Oxy track team when McMillen and Barnes were there, and I went to all the Oxy meets. McMillen always started the season very slowly and then peaked at the right time. Barnes coached at College of Sequoias JC in 1959 when I was at nearby Porterville JC. I talked to him at length that season.

My mother, uncle and sister, and brother-in-law all graduated from Oxy. My dad was on the track team there in both 1928 and 1929. It was a great place to see dual and triangular meets. They beat Stanford, at Oxy, in dual a meet in 1952. McMillen and Barnes signed my program that night which I still have. Bob Mathias was on the Stanford team. Oxy was in conference with Pomona, Redlands, Whittier and Caltech. Oxy had lots of good track athletes in 1950’s and 1960’s. Bob Gutowski to name one.  


Saturday, July 29, 2017

V 7 N. 51 (9) Jon Hendershott's Most Memorable Women's Distance Races and Marathon


Women’s Distances & Marathon.

by Jon Hendershott

Ruth Chebet

In 2016, at the age of 19, Ruth Jebet—born in Kenya but Bahrani since ’13—lowered her steeple personal best to 9:15.98 in her first race of the Olympic year, at the Shanghai Diamond League affair. The diminutive Jebet (5’5”/108lb) had been running the splash-and-distance event for only three seasons and had placed just 11th in the Beijing World Champs final.
In the ’16 Prefontaine Classic DL contest, she would face none other than that ’15 Worlds winner in Hyvin Jepkemoi of Kenya, as well as U.S. record holder Emma Coburn. Their clash would produce my most memorable women’s steeplechase.
It turned out to be two separate races, as Jebet and Jepkemoi moved out almost immediately to a wide margin over Coburn, who then had her own large gap back to the trailing runners. Emma really was in no-woman’s land as the front-running pair dueled.
Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi
At the bell, Jebet held perhaps a 30-meter pad ahead of Jepkemoi, but the world champion doggedly chipped away at the lead. Off the final barrier, she charged hard but Jebet stayed just in front to the line, even if only by about one step. Jebet clocked 8:59.97, then the No. 2 time ever and the fastest time ever run on U.S. soil. Jepkemoi cut her best to 9:00.01 to become then-No. 3 all-time.
Emma Coburn
Then all eyes turned to Coburn, who cleared the final barrier at around 9:00. She worked hard over the closing stretch and crossed the line in an American Record 9:10.75. Coburn lowered the old 9:12.50 AR set at the ’09 Worlds in Berlin by her then-training partner in Colorado, Jenny Simpson.
Later, Coburn said, “I knew the Kenyans were going to run fast today, so I was happy to be conservative early on. I came through in 8:02 with a lap to go. Honestly, it’s really hard to close under 70sec in a steeple when you’re tired. But I thought that if I closed perfectly, I could do it.”
Coburn went on to place 3rd in the Rio Olympics and cut down her AR to 9:07.63. Jebet again ran sub-9:00 with 8:59.75 to win the Games title from Jepkemoi and two weeks later slashed the global record to 8:52.78 in the Paris Diamond League meet. Brilliant running by all three women and it started in that superb Pre race.

3000m Steeplechase Women Prefontaine 2016 Clik here
5000 METERS:
Tirunesh Dibaba

The ’08 Beijing Olympic 5000 was far from a quick time—or pace. As an IAAF history noted, the opening tempo was “turgid”: an 83.2 first circuit, followed by a 91.8 (really) and an 89.3 on the next two. Did the other runners honestly think they could outsprint the superior finishing talents of the favorites, defending champion Meseret Defar and her Ethiopian teammate Tirunesh Dibaba? After all, “Tiru” had earlier won the 10,000 in an Olympic record 29:54.66.
Meseret Defar 2nd
So later-to-be-doping-DQ’ed Elvan Abeyelegesse of Turkey turned up the heat with a 68.8 fifth circuit, but the pace dropped again so that the 3000 was passed in 9:58.13. Tiru & Defar had to have been licking their chops. At 4K (13:04.77), Dibaba led and she cranked out closing laps of 65.5 and 60.9 before adding final 200 of no less than 30.2 to cap her 15:41.40 winner. It was slower than any other Olympic 5000 winner—men or women. Abeyelegesse initially placed 2nd in 15:42.74 and Defar 3rd at 15:44.12 but the Turk was DQ’ed a couple of years later and Defar moved to 2nd with Kenya’s Sylvia Kibet (15:44.96) elevated to bronze.
Sylvia Kibet 3rd

Yet how utterly dominating was Dibaba? She ran her last 400 in 59.54, final 800 in 2:03.96 and last kilometer in 2:36.63—the latter merely 13:03 pace!

Elvan Abeyelegesse  joined the ranks of the DQ'd.

Beijing 2008 Women's 5000   Clik here

10,000 METERS:
In Barcelona in ’92, South Africa returned to Olympic competition after a 32-year absence following the fall of its oppressive regime of racially-segregated apartheid. One of the Springbok’s most noted stars was distance runner Elana Meyer and she waged a memorable 25-lap duel in the hot conditions with Ethiopian Derartu Tulu.
Britain’s Liz McColgan, who had won the ’91 global title the year before in Tokyo in similarly-steamy conditions, led through halfway in 15:35.91, while Meyer took the lead with less than 4K to go. Her 72-second pace shed everyone save Tulu and the pair remained together until just after the bell.

Then the tiny Tulu sped up and the race was over. She crossed the line in 31:06.02, with Meyer (31:11.75) next and American Lynn Jennings clocking an American Record 31:19.89 to earn the bronze medal.
Tulu and Meyer
But after the race came the truly memorable part: Tulu and Meyer took a victory lap together, a black Ethiopian and a white South African with their arms around each other’s shoulders, sharing in their collective achievements as athletes, as women and as citizens of a united world. The 31 minutes of their race had been memorable, yes, but those few additional minutes as they circled the track together as equals was worth so much more.

Lynn Jennings  3rd

Barcelona Women's 10,000 Clik Here

Joan Benoit  1st

Unlike my men’s memories of the marathon, when I didn’t feel I could claim to have seen an entire men’s race, I can do so with a very significant women’s race.
Well—full disclosure again—I watched much of my most memorable women’s 26-miler on the giant screen inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum at the ’84 Olympics. But I did see the entire race, so I feel morally okay in claiming that I did.
A bit of background: with the Games being in LA in ’84 and me living at the time in Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay Area, it was natural that I drove south to the Games. Office colleagues Dave Johnson and Howard Willman had flown to LA, but they knew I had driven. So both DJ and Howie—being massive fans of every aspect of the sport— dropped very broad hints to me in the days leading up to the August 5 marathon that they would really like to see it from start to finish, and inside the Coliseum.
Their desire to see the race was totally understandable: after all, it was the Olympic debut of the women’s marathon. And there was the dramatic story of top U.S. contender Joan Benoit, who had undergone arthroscopic knee surgery only some six weeks before the spring U.S. Trials in the 26-miler. Yet Joanie had won the Trials and had to be considered a viable contender for the Olympic title.
But it wouldn’t be an easy race, since Grete Waitz of Norway, the inaugural world champion from the year before, as well as her teammate Ingrid Kristiansen plus Portugal’s Rosa Mota all would be running.
I admit there was a side of me that didn’t want to have to get up early on race day morning to grab breakfast before driving in to the Coliseum. We accredited journalists often got home from the evening sessions at the Games quite late at night and valued some morning sleep time (well, this one did).
But the more I thought about it, the more I knew DJ and Howie were right: we had to be there to watch this historic race. And I am so glad we were. After we took our seats in the Coliseum’s media section and waited for the start, we quickly found out that the concession stands were offering the nice touch of bagels (with cream cheese and strawberry jam) and espressos. What a civilized way to watch a marathon, I decided.
It was a sunny, mid-70s Sunday morning in the Coliseum, though out at the start in Santa Monica, it was cooler and overcast. (It would warm up plenty by race’s end, which led to one of the most dramatic finishes ever at the Games—in any event.)
After the start, the field jockeyed around for the first couple of miles. Then after about three miles, Benoit—easily recognizable on the big screen thanks to the white painter’s cap she wore—had had enough. Joanie moved away and opened up a lead of some 6 seconds at the 5K mark. Waitz, Kristensen and Mota, among others, played it cautiously and didn’t follow. They must have been gambling (hoping?) that Benoit would tire and come back to them in the later stages.
No such luck. Benoit just kept stretching her margin, all the way into the Coliseum. By the time she emerged from the big entry tunnel near the sprint starting line at the head of the homestretch, she was nearly 90 seconds ahead of Waitz. Benoit ran the final lap inside the stadium before finishing as the first Olympic women’s marathon champion by thrusting her arms over he head in triumph.
Greta Waitz  2nd

Rosa Mota 3rd
Joanie clocked 2:24:52, an Olympic Record that stood for 16 years. Waitz finished in 2:26:18, 39.0 ahead of Mota (2:26:57) with Kristensen 4th at 2:27:34. Mota would go on to win the Games title four years later in Seoul.
Then the United Nations parade began as the trailing runners entered the stadium for their last circuit of the track before finishing. As one of those back-markers came out of the tunnel, it was clear that she was in dire physical distress. Swiss Gabriele Andersen-Schiess wobbled crazily on rubbery legs, yet seemed to slyly avoid any attempts by medical personnel to aid her.
It was agonizing to watch, yet exhilarating and inspiring at the same time as the raw determination to finish this Olympic race impelled Andersen-Schiess forward. The Coliseum crowd watched in can’t-look-away fascination as the runner in red weaved her away around the final lap. In the homestretch, several medical people were no more than an arm’s length away from her, but Andersen-Schiess deftly eluded any aid to avoid the risk of being disqualified.
Finally, the finish line mercifully ended her ordeal and Andersen-Schiess collapsed into the awaiting arms of the medicos. She was whisked to a hospital, yet had recovered well enough after only two hours that she was discharged.
She placed 37th out of 42 finishers in the historic race, that long closing lap being clocked at 5:44. Her final time of 2:48:42 would have won the first four men’s Olympic marathons—and five if you count the unofficial 1906 edition.
The race was a mixture of a classic triumph by Benoit coupled with an historic example of the will and drive inherent in all athletes. I’m so glad Dave and Howard kept after me to drive in to see the race. It was unforgettable.

Los Angeles 1984 Women's Marathon

(Next: women’s relays.)

V 11 N. 3 "Quicksilver: The Mercurial Emil Zatopek" by Pat Butcher, a Book Review by Paul O'Shea

When we come across books to review, we know that there is a particular skill set needed to be fair and honest and at the same time literary...