Once Upon a Time in the Vest

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

V 9 N. 28 Conversations with a Longhorn, Walter Belt

Been chatting a bit with Walter Belt, a thrower of consequence at the U. of Texas in the mid 1960's.   He enlightened me on the weight training program at that institution back in those days when benefits from weight lifting were only beginning to be understood and applied to sports other than kicking sand in the faces of runts on the beach.    He informed me of the Stark Center at U of T that is dedicated to two thousand years of weight training with its magnificent collection and archives.
Here is some of our conversation:

August 26, 2019

Please add me to your distribution.     Thanks

Walter Belt        UT Letterman, 65-66-67

Will do, Walter.  How did you find us, through a teammate?   .................................................
 If you wish to make comments, you are more than welcome.  There is a place at the end of each posting which I then screen before putting up. I 've never refused anything unless it sounds like
spam.   ............................  Glad you can join us.  What were your events?

George Brose

Ricardo Romo has been forwarding to me.  He and I were on Texas team in 65 and 66. He graduated and I had one more year. I was a thrower - lucky enough to be in lock step with Randy Matson in high school and college. In high school I was 3rd nationally behind Randy and Bruce Wilhelm. 2nd to Wilhelm at Golden West - Matson went to the AAU nationals. Being a mere mortal I did not keep up with either through college and  afterwards. 2nd at Kansas Relays and 3rd at Texas Relays were my best showings. When I was a senior and they were freshmen I did beat Al Fuerbach at Kansas and Oldfield in Austin. While watching Oldfield with Matson, Matson commented, "If that guy ever learns to dance, he will beat my records". Oldfield was stumbling around the ring and almost falling over but still throwing 65. Same story with Fuerbach and Oldfield, 

Thank you for doing all this. Not much on track and field these days.  With reference to the over 9000 at the dual meet -- I bet there were not many more than 9000 at the natl champs in Des Moines.


Yes, track is in a sad state of affairs.  It is where TV and professional sports and Dancing With the Stars have taken us.    I cannot say I get very excited watching track on TV these days  (even though some of the performances are incredible).
Thanks for writing and telling about yourself.  You were at a great school and in a great program.  Did you do much weight training in your day?  We had a modest weight room with a bench
and a couple of dumbells (not the athletes) at OU. It had a dirt floor under the stands.   It was more than the football team had then.  Oh yes, we also had a spittoon next to the bench.  Mike Lindsay, from Scotland, had insisted on getting some weights.  Lindsay (4th at Rome Olympics in 1960) Dan Irwin, Richard Inman, and Sheppard Miers were our main throwers.  We also had Preston Smith from Grapevine TX and Carl Pelligrini from Dallas.  Carl was a very good discus thrower.  Carl had transferred from a school in Boston.  Once told me about a naked couple jumping off a building on St. Patrick's day in Boston and it only made the fourth page of the papers.  

George – for the day, we had a great weight training facility at UT. It was used by all sports. The room now is the football cheerleaders practice and locker room.

No spittoons!

Our training coach was a phys ed professor. Fyi, UT and the general Austin area has a long history of weight training – or “physical culture” – outside of the team sports. See below link

https://www.starkcenter.org/     Readers, clik on this site, it is an incredible source of all kinds of info including audio interviews with many members of the 1968 US Olympic Team.   The Stark Center is a must visit if you are in the Austin area. ed.  

Terry Todd lettered in tennis before the iron bug got a hold of him.

https://davedraper.com/blog/2007/05/04/irononline-bash-2007/    Again Dear Readers if you are into weights, history, or Texas barbeque, you must check this out. ed.

The whole article is something else, but do scroll down to the bit about Mike Graham’s Old Texas Barbell Company.

Graham’s partner, Carol Finsrud, was one of the first female throwers at UT.

And you thought track and field was a cult.

I wonder if that physical culture industry came from the Germans who immigrated into the area around New Braunfels and the like.  They had the 'turnvereins' with a lot of exercise with
Indian Clubs as they were called in English.   Dayton where I grew up and Cincinnati had a number of those gyms in the 1880s.    Pierre de Coubertin the father of the modern Olympics
was impressed by the Germans and the English sport mentality although it was quite different in the two countries.  The French had nothing of the sort except smoking, drinking wine and doing
impressionist painting,  and he didn't think they would fare too well in future wars because of this.  At that time the French could have fought the English as easily as the Germans.  He came to  America too and saw sport in schools and brought the idea back to France.

Walter, I love this kind of story. It's going on the blog.  It's what makes us unique.  All these  guys have stuff in their heads that we've got to
collect before it's forgotten or six feet under.    You may remember Joe Don Looney who played football somewhat infamously at OU after transferring from I think TCU or UT then Cameron JC. Leading punter in the nation and All American running back.   He was heavy into weights and would go down to Baton Rouge in the summer to hang at a gym, where Billy Cannon did a lot of lifting.  Joe Don ran a 9.7  100 yards and was about 225 pounds.  Crazy and proud of it.  He ran track with us in 1963 or 64 to avoid spring football.  How our track coach managed that with the A.D. is anyone's guess but they didn't call Coach Bill Carroll , 'Slick Willie' for no reason.   Bud Wilkinson said that Looney was his first and last JC transfer ever, period.  Once in the spring game Looney purposely went after three unblocked tacklers and ran over each one
and went about 60 yards into the end zone and then walked back to the huddle.   Wilkinson, who was God, with a whistle and clipboard  in Norman, said, "Looney, aren't you ever going to hustle?"    Looney replied,   "Fuck, coach, I'm not ashamed to admit it, I'm tired as Hell."   Almost no one dropped the F bomb in  those days, esp. to persons in supreme authority, but that was Looney.  When OU lost to Texas next season they got rid of him about two weeks later for slugging a grad assistant.  Wilkinson retired and ran unsuccessfully for governor of Oklahoma.  It was said that losing that last time to Texas cost him the election.  Tom Osborne I think is the only football coach that won a major election after football,  becoming a Congressman.  Were there others?


Can any of you Longhorns help me with identifying members of this 1964 Longhorn team?

Top Row:  Left Coach Price,  Ernie Koy (football all American?), 5th from left  Preston Davis
Middle Row  2nd from left  Ricardo Romo

Front row:   second from left  Loy Gunter   , second from right  Chuck Frawley?

And finally:

Last week we mentioned a boy from Wasco, CA setting the HS HJ record.
Reynaldo Brown had a week to bask in the glory of this achievement before Wasco's (CA) Otis Hailey claims the record with a leap of 7-1¾. 

Well, friend Pete Brown, wrote asking if I knew the Merle Haggard song
"I'm a Radiator Man from Wasco", which I didn't.  If you like Merle Haggard  clik here     I'm a Radiator Man From Wasco

Roy fills in the knowledge gap:   Do you know where Wasco is located?  That would be the San Joaquin Valley, just 24 miles from Bakersfield.  The population is 25000.  There are 8000 in the Wasco State Prison.  Not sure if they are counted.  Here is our little known fact of the day.  The area around Wasco grows 55% of all the roses grown in the US.

Monday, August 26, 2019

V 9 N. 27 Dave Edstrom R.I.P.

Image result for dave edstrom decathlon
Dave Edstrom Capping Off His Pan Am Games Decathlon
Victory in the 1500 at Chicago 1959

Dave Edstrom throwing at 1959 Pan Am Games in
Chicago's Soldier Field

David Allan Edstrom
Sept. 10, 1938 - May 9, 2019
David Allan Edstrom was born in Portland and passed away May 9, 2019 in Denver, Colo. He was 80 years old.
David grew up in Sherwood, Ore.,with his parents, Sigward and Elsie Edstrom and sister Janet (Weber). He ran track at the University of Oregon and in 1959, won a gold medal at the Pan American Games and in 1960 made the Olympic team. In 1968, David and his family moved to Colorado Springs where he was the assistant track coach at the Air Force Academy. He went on to become a municipal bond attorney, specializing in public financing of municipalities. 
Edstrom with Rafer Johnson and Steve Anderson of Oregon

U. of Oregon Members of 1960 Olympic Teams
Jim Grelle, Dave Edstrom, Sig Ohleman, Coach Bowerman
Harry Jerome, Jim Grelle, Otis Davis

From Sports Reference Dave's resume follows:

Dave Edstrom won the Pan American Games gold medal in the decathlon in 1959, with his other major decathlon title coming at the 1963 Kansas Relays. At the AAU decathlon, he was runner-up in 1957, 1959, and 1961, and placed third in 1958 and 1963. Edstrom finished fourth at the 1960 US Olympic Trials, which doubled as the AAU Championship, but he made the team as the third American, as [C. K. Yang] of Chinese Taipei finished second to [Rafer Johnson]. Edstrom was world ranked in the top seven for five consecutive years (1957-61). He competed for the University of Oregon, the Emerald Empire TC, the Oregon TC, and the US Air Force.
Personal Bests: 120yH – 13.8 (1960); HJ – 1.95 (6-5) (1958); LJ – 7.29 (23-11¼) (1958); SP – 15.23 (49-11¾) (1960); DT – 52.83 (173-4) (1963); JT – 65.33 (214-4) (1958); Decathlon – 7,870 (1960).
No indication is given as to what happened at the Rome Olympics , but he is only credited with three events completed  100, Shot Put, and  Long Jump

George   and friends:

It is with deep sadness that I am hearing of the passing of Dave Edstrom.  U-of Oregon 1961 Decathlete.
Yet, of course,  I must thank you.

Dave was a member of our group that competed in New Zealand in January of  1962.
Such a great soft spoken guy!   No. pretentions. 
On this trip, Dave was not expected to compete in a decathlon but, ran
 the 110M Hurdles, long lumped, high jumped, and ran 100M as I remember.

Ernie Cunliffe, 1960 Olympian, was my roommate on the trip and, Jim Dupree 800M, S. Illinois U. was also, a member of our group. 
Jim, likewise, passed away over the past 2-3 years. Jim was the - 1961 AAU Champion. at 880 Yd.

Rounding out our group was: Bruce Tulloch of England.
Footnote: All of the tracks we ran on in New Zealand were grass, laid out and surveyed on either Cricket pitches or rugby grounds.
Bruce Tulloch who ran bare foot loved them, as did I. -  (except for running 400M on  rugby grounds); which were much more uneven.
I don't remember breaking 49.0 for 400M on either of these "Tracks". But faired quite well on the Cricket pitches: 1:48.5, 1:49.2, 1:50.6 for
880 Yd.

John Bork
WMU Class of 1961

Sunday, August 25, 2019

V 9 N. 26 May, 1968 Relays Weekend

May 1968 #1
Penn, Drake and Mt SAC all on the same weekend.


Roger Bannister about 1952/53
How do you spell Penn Relays? V-I-L-L-A-N-O-V-A, that's how. The Wildcats dominate with a record five relay wins, the mile, two milefour mile, distance medley and sprint relay.
Of special note is the continued emergence of Larry James as a quarter mile force. The junior has been progressing nicely this season. In February he won the indoor USTFF 500 in 56.0, only half a second off the WR. In March he won the indoor NCAA 440 in 47.0, the fastest ever run on an 11 lap to the mile track. April 6 saw him run his first out of the blocks 440 since high school when he ran 45.2 in a dual meet with Tennessee*. These were merely steps leading to his performance at Penn where he anchored the Wildcats mile relay team to victory with a blistering 43.9 lap, the fastest ever run by a human being under any circumstances.

Whereas James has suddenly appeared on the world stage, he has been competing in track since he was 11. Obviously, he was an extremely talented prospect when he went out for football as a ninth grader at White Plains HS in New York. One needs to question the wisdom of the freshman coach who played him at left guard. Seeing the futility in getting beat up by big guys, James abandoned further gridiron adventure to concentrate on track. As a senior, he was state champ in the low hurdles (18.7) and placed second in the 300 intermediates (38.0). Then it was off to Sacramento for the Golden West meet where demonstrated his versatility, by triple jumping 48-7 to place fourth. More importantly, he was a key cog on White Plains' national record-setting 880 (1:25.4) and mile relay (3:12.7) teams. All this said, he was only the second best quarter-miler on the team behind Otis Hill.
Dave Patrick anchors the sprint medley, distance medley and the two mile yet neither he nor James is selected the outstanding athlete of the meet.
Dave Patrick

Frank Murphy

That honor goes to teammate Frank Murphy who split 1:49.1 for his 880 in the 2MR, broke open the DMR with his 2:53.6 1320 and anchored the 4MR in 4:04.1.
Ian Hamilton, Charlie Messenger, Frank Murphy, and Dave Patrick after their
WR 2 mile relay set earlier in February at the Mason Dixon Games in Louisville.

Tribute to Larry James by Walt Murphy

Drake 1953

Click your heels together three times and say “There's no place like the Drake Relays” and we are in Des Moines where Saint Cloud State senior Van Nelson captivates the crowd with three mile (13:17.4) and six mile (28:22.2) victories.
Van Nelson  tailed by Lou Scott?

 Texas, anchored by Dave Morton's 45.4, runs 3:05.5, the fastest mile relay in the country this season. Lamar Tech and Ohio, anchored by Randy Clewis (45.6) and Emmett Taylor (45.2) are second and third in 3:07.3 and 3:08.1. 

Sunday none of this mattered when the news came that the plane carrying the Lamar relay team of Don Delaune, Mike Favazza, Waverly Thomas, Clewis, half-miler John Richardson and coach Ty Terrell had crashed, killing all aboard.


Continuing west we arrive at the Mt SAC Relays where the highlight is the removal of Jim Ryun as a world record holder. Okay, we're stretching this a bit. Jim was co-owner of a world best, specifically the distance medley. As the DMR is not a recognized WR event, his Kansas team's 9:33.8 was only listed as the fastest ever. As such, it is the target for the Fort McArthur squad of Bob Tobler, Darnell Mitchell, Tom Von Ruden and Preston Davis.
Bob Tobler
Tom Von Ruden
Preston Davis
                             If I could find a picture of Darnell Mitchell I would put it here.

Tobler leads off in 47.2. Mitchell runs the 800 in 1:50.2. Von Ruden's 2:56.1 places responsibility squarely on Davis' shoulders. The former Texas star is up to it, running his mile in 3:59.9 to establish a new world best of 9:33.4. Yep, all that work for four-tenths of a second. Removing some of the glitter from the performance was the fact that much of the crowd is still filing in as the race is being run.


There is a backstory to our Distance Medley World Record.  Originally our Army coach, Ralph Higgins of Oklahoma State fame, had picked Bob Tobler (440), Tom Von Ruden (880), me on the 1320 and Bob Day of UCLA fame for the mile anchor.  He had put the numbers to paper and thought we had a chance to get the WR.  However, after beginning our warmup, Day began to feel weak and complained to Higgins that he didn’t feel well enough to run.  Once Bob began throwing up Higgins knew that he had to find a fourth.  Who?  Higgie settled on Darnell Mitchell who he moved to the 880.  I doubt Darnell had more than 20 minutes to warmup.   Coach asked both Tom and I what we wanted to do and both of us opted for the 1320.  Coach picked me for the anchor.  Higgie tells me later he chose me because of my two recent runs, a 3:40 in the 1500 at the Australian National Championships in March and a 4:01 mile at the Texas Relays in early April. 

I forgot all about the world record attempt and by the time Tobler, Darnell and Tom finish their legs there were no competitors visible on the finish straight…I had to have had a 200+ yard lead.  I had not paid any attention at all to split times by Bob, Darnell and Tom.  I do notice that it’s very quite...there couldn’t have been more than 50 people in the stands and only a few athletes on the infield.  I take off at a decent pace figuring to run around 4:05.  At the first quarter I hear Higgins “62-63” and I was quite content to continue at that pace.  At the 660 pole I hear Higgins screaming at the top of his lungs, “four minutes, four minutes!”  TVR is standing on the finish straight yelling “four minutes gets the world record!”  As I get to the half-mile pole Higgins is yelling splits of “2:04-2:05!”  I’m in trouble as I suddenly realize what is going on and I need to get to 4:00 minutes to have a chance to get the WR.  I get a nice surge of adrenaline as several of our Army teammates are around the track and Higgins is everywhere…he’s about 70 at the time and I am still amazed at the sprinting he must have done to get me the splits at each pole…and I get to the finish line just under 4:00 and .4 clear of KU’s record.  My fondest memory from that day is the hug and kiss on the cheek I received from Coach Higgins when it was announced we had broken the world record.  BTW, if I am not mistaken, Kansas, with Jim on the anchor, breaks the Army world record one year later!

Best regards,

Preston Davis

Randy Matson is up for the challenge of his two closest shot put competitors, Dave Maggard and George Woods. Though not reaching the 70 foot mark that only he had thrown, his 69-1 easily tops Maggard's and Woods' bests of 65-10 and 65-9.
Randy Matson

* Here is a
      reality check for old timers. That Villanova – Tennessee meet mentioned in the third paragraph drew a crowd of 9200. What would any top collegedual meet draw today? Let's rephrase that sentence to include the words “if dual meets existed today”. Your writer recalls early morning runs with a buddy in which, in addition to world problems, the impending USC – UCLA dual was doped out with the score changing on each run. “Sure, SC has three discus guys with better marks, but the UCLA kid is only four feet behind their second and third guys. If he can get a second, that's a six pointchange.”

The high school event to watch this year is the high jump. On April 20, Compton's Reynaldo Brown clears 7-0½ to break Clarence Johnson's national record by a quarter of an inch. He had a week to bask in the glory of this achievement before Wasco's (CA) Otis Hailey claims the record with a leap of 7-1¾. They won't meet until the state meet. Rest assured, our diligent reporters will be there covering it.
In a previous entry we had discussed the great talent of the Compton and Centennial high schools. Let's put this in perspective. Imagine that you are Pat Bradford. On April 23 Pat jumps 6-11¾ to become.....not state record holder, not district record holder, not school record holder, but #2 guy at Compton High. Oh, and by the way, Compton has a third unnamed kid who has cleared 6-5¾. Wonder if he will letter?
In addition to Hailey's HJ, three other national records have been bettered this season. Bob Bornkessel of Shawnee Mission High in Kansas clipped six tenths from Joe Kurzrok's 37.3 record set in last season's Golden West.
Port Neches of Groves, TX no longer holds the 440 relay record but it hasn't left the state. Fort Worth's Kirpatrick High blazed 41.1 to shave off a tenth.
As long as we are in Texas, let's pay homage to the greatest prep shot putter ever, Sam Walker. The Samuel High (Dallas) senior once again broke his own record with a throw of 72-3¼. How dominant is he? He has now bettered Karl Salb's record of 69-6 six times this season and holds 8 of the 10 all time best marks. Only Salb and Dallas Long (69-3) remain on that list. As we are early in the season, it is likely that by season's end, the top ten will be Sam's exclusive territory.
The second T&FN May issue is coming up soon. A highlight will be the name of that third Compton jumper. Stay tuned.

   What a nice blog entry today especially since I knew of many of the athletes.  It also caused me to lament the current demise of the Penn, Drake, and Mt. SAC relays, especially the first two.  Coaches and athletes now have no interest in relays because that is just a weekend wasted without a real opportunity to record an NCAA qualifying mark.  Coaching bonuses and NCAA appearances are all that matters.  Running in front of 52,000 fans at Penn, being part of the Iowa friendly hospitality at Drake, and basking in the huge fields at Mt. SAC are quickly passing away.  Too bad!  Bill Schnier

Thursday, August 8, 2019

V 9 N. 25 An Inside Story on that 1966 Mile World Record at Berkeley

When Jim Ryun broke the World Record in the Mile at Berkeley in 1966 it was a make up meet for the cancelled international dual meets with the Soviet Union and Poland.  We were getting heavily into Viet Nam, though all hell had not yet broken out in the streets of Chicago at the '68 Democratic convention.  I didn't get to see the race as I was living at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 1966.  Fortunately our blog has been in contact with one of the runners in that race, Ricardo Romo, the University of Texas miler and long time record holder at that Austin institution.  After reading Walt Murphy's blog about that race, I decided to get Ricardo's views of that afternoon on that hard cinder track.  Where was he in his career?  How did he contribute to that race?  What does he remember specifically?  Maybe this account will bring up some more questions.  Ricardo has been kind to write this piece for us and we thank him for taking that time.  Here it is.!

Memories of a Sub-Four Minute Miler
Ricardo Romo

     Today, fifty-three years ago--amost to the day-- I
became the first Texan to run a mile under four minutes.
What I didn't know at the time was that only 18 Americans
had ever accomplished that feat.  I have been asked many times about writing about that achievement and up to now, 
I had not given it much thought.  Then I realized that I 
spent thousands of hours training to excel in an event that 
took me less than four minutes to complete.  Was it worth 
such an expenditure of time and effort?  And would I
recommend others to try it?  Yes--here is my story.

     In 1960, at age 16, (when everyone called me 
Richard)  I finished 5th in the state track competition with 
a 4:30 mile time, a respectable time for a 10th grader.  By
my senior year in high school I had improved my time
significantly.  My 4:10 mile was one of the fastest ever by
a U.S. high school runner.

     Three state championships earned me a track
scholarship at the University of Texas Austin.  UT Austin
had great academic programs and one of the finest track
programs in the nation.  I started college with three goals.
To run a su-four minute mile; to graduated from The
University of Texas; and to earn All-American honors in 
Track and Field.

     At UT Austin  I was fortunate to have Pat Clohessy, a 
former runner at the University of Houston and U.S. 
champion in the 5,000 meters.  Clohessy came to UT to
earn his Masters' degree and was offered a graduate
assistantship in the track program.  He served as my
distance coach and mentor.  Clohessy trained with us
daily throught my freshman and sophomore year and 
his mentoring paid off.  In the summer of 1963 I improved
my mile time to 4:05 in a track meet in Portsmouth, England.
I came in second but defeated two of England's top
Olympic runners.  It was the fastest mile time for a
freshman in the United States.  I was on my way.
Romo (4:05.0)   between John Whetton ( 4:05.1) ( and Bill McKim (4:04.9) in that race in Portsmouth  Bruce
Tulloh is back in 4th wearing number 3 and shoes.
Training with my club in Wales

U of Texas Cross Country team with their Southwest Conf. placings over
their chests.  Must have won the conference meet.  63, 64?

Ricardo Romo and Chuck Frawley.  Behind them is Pat Clohessy, Australian
grad student and U. of Houston All American who coached them their freshman and sophmore years at U of Texas.
They accompanied him to England that first summer.  

     A serious track injury in an indoor track meet in Fort
Worth in February of 1965 nearly ruined my track 
ambitions.  As I started the 1,000 yard run, I felt a sharp 
pain in my left ankle.  We were running indoors on a dirt 
track and thus everyone used regular long spikes.  A spike
from the runner behind me caught my ankle and severed
my tendon.  I felt the pain, but since I was in the lead, I
decided to finish the race.

     I crossed the finish line in first place, but I left blood
dripping from the back of my shin.  It was a serious injury
and it required three months to cure the infection in my 
leg related to the dirt field.  My surgery went well and after
four months I resurmed my training--albeit quite slowly.  I 
was not certain if the injury would hamper my full
development as a premiere runner.  By December I was 
back in top shape.  I had lost the 1965 track season, but 
felt lucky to be competing again.

     My preparation for a sub-four minute mile required
superb conditioning and being at the right track meet at
the right time.  I was living in Texas, but in the 1960s our
state shut down most of its competitive track meets over
the summer.  Everyone agreed that California offered the 
best opportunity for competitive meets on a weekly basis
and possibilities for fast times.

     In the summer of 1966, I spent the summer in 
California with the expressed goal of running a sub-four
minute mile.  Two friends made the transition to running in
California possible for me.  First Gene Comroe, a UCLA 
trackman who hailed from Dallas and competed in the 
same Texas state and regional high school meets with me
assisted by providing aspare bedroom for me over that 
summer.  Comroe was a member of the Southern
California Striders, a track club that included the UCLA 
middle distance star, Bob Day.  Day was a su-four 
minute miler and a world class runner at 800 meters.

     Comroe and Day introduced me to Atis "Pete" 
Peterson, the Striders' distance coach.  Peterson's famous
motto was "Run for Fun, " and many of our workouts over
the summer of 1966 were exactly that.  Peterson trained 
Bob Day and Ted Nelson, a former Canadian middle
distance star and the American indoor record holder for
1,000 yards.  Not long after meeting Nelson, he and I both
decided that we would add extra speed training to our
practice to prepare us for a su-four minute mile.

     Two events prepared me personally for my sub-four
minute mile in 1966.  While it has been more than 50 years
ago, I remember the events quite clearly.  In June of 1966
I competed in the Santa Monica Invitational meet which
featured Cary Weisiger, a former Duke star miler with a
best time of 3:56.6.  I ran well that day and beat Weisiger
by more than ten yards.  I knew then that my training was 
paying off.

     On July 17, 1966 I had my second opportunity to 
assess my readiness for a sub-four minute mile.  I had
been invited to the Berkeley Invitational where I learned
that Jim Ryun would attempt to break the world record of
3:53.6 set by Michel Jazy in 1965.  I had competed against 
Jim Ryun numerous times, defeating him once in May of
1964.  Two months later, he improved his time and
finished third in the U.S. Olympic trials, which earned him
a trip to the Olympics in Tokyo.

     On the day before the Berkeley race, several of us, including Tom Von Ruden, Wade Bell, and Cary Weisiger were approached
by one of Ryun's close track associates about helping Ryun set
a world record.  for this article, I will call Jim's friend Dick.  Ryun
was a friend and I had competed with him the previous two
years.  I finished ahead  of him in an invitational meet in Houston
in May of 1964.

     Dick asked us to be rabbits for Ryun.  My initial plans were to 
run close toRyun for the first three-quarters and perhaps run
under four minutes.  It was a good plan, but we were convinced that sacrificing a chance for our best times might provide more important track history.  Ryun had set his goal of being the first American in 38 years to hold the world record in the mile.  Dick made a passionate plea that if Ryun succeeded, the American flage would fly proudly across the globe.

     Von Ruden, Wade and I agreed and formulated our running plan.  Ryun wanted a 58.0 first quarter and Von Ruden delivered with a 57.7 quarter.  I took over with a goal of running a 1:56 first half.   I felt comfortable and got to the half mile in 1:55.5.  It was a bit fast, but the first quarter had also been fast.  I remember that the crowd stared cheering when the half time was announced.  They knew that Ryun had a shot at a 3:50 mile.  
Weisiger, Ryun, Romo on the backstretch of the second lap.
Left to Right   Wade Bell (10)  Cary Weisiger, Tom Von Ruden (4), Jim Ryun (2), Ricardo Romo (3)

     Wade Bell took over from me and led Ryun to 2:55.3 at the third quarter, definitely on world record pace.  Ryun always had a great kick and everyone expected that he would run 57 flat or better in the last quarter.  He did indeed and his 55.0 seconds last quarter brought him to the finish line in a world record 3:51.3.  Ryun had broken the world record by more than two seconds, a highly improbable feat.  The two other rabbits stayed in the race as I did.  Often the rabbits drop off--exhausted by the faster than usual pace.  Von Ruden clocked 4:11.1 and Wade finished in 4:19.3.

Berkeley Mile 1966   Click Here

Unfortunately this is very limited to the start and last 330.

Kansas Relays Program
Progrm implies that Romo got his 3:58.8 at Texas Relays but it was
at the meet in the San Fernando Valley described below.

     I was exhausted at the three quarters mark, but 
decided to hang on and, as a consequence I finished third
in the race.  Ilearned soon that I had managed a highly
respectable time of 4:01.4, one of my fastest times ever.
Weisiger, who paced himself carefully, finished second 
with a 3:58.0 effort.  It occured to me minutes after
finishing that if Weisiger, whom I had beaten two weeks
earlier, could run a 3:58  mile, so could I.

     Great distance runners build up their endurance and
speed over many years.  Every world record holder has
done it differently.  Roger Bannister trained religiously, but
did so while studying for a medical career.  Herb Elliott
trained three or more times a day and seemed to live only 
for setting world records.  When Ryun set the eworld record
he was a 20 years old college student and the youngest 
ever to be a world record holder in the middle distance.

     After the Berkeley mile I returned to Los Angeles to 
continue my training.  Bob Day, a 3:56 miler often joined 
me and other runners for afternoon and weekend runs.  
Pete Peterson thought I was ready for a sub-four effort
and selected an invitational meet in the San Fernando
Valley for me to compete in August.

     On the day of the race, I took the day off from my job
at the Century Plaz Hotel.  To pay my billss I was busing 
dishes and washing drink glasses.  That summer the job
market was tight and I felt lucky to find work that did not
interfere with my training.  I rested all day and left two
hours early for the track meet.

     Ted Nelson and I agreed that we would push each 
other torun an even pace of 60 seconds per quarter.  We
were both excellent kickers and felt confident that we 
could finish the last quarter under 60 seconds.  All went as
planned.  We were dead even with 300 yards to go when I 
began to accelerate.  My time of 3:58.8 was more than I had expected.  Nelson finished ten yards back with an 
excellent 3:59.5 effort.

Finishing his first sub 4 minute mile and with Pete Peterson and Ted Nelson after the race.
     Important and memorable accomplishments are often
done with the help of others--in some cases many 
individuals.  Over many years I trained with other 
teammates and received excellent advice on how to
prepare.   I quickly learned that distance running also
requires discipline and over the yeears I learned to push
myself while setting reasonalbe expectations.

     For me, all that training paid off on a cool August 
evening whn I became the 18th American to run a 
sub-four minute mile.  While I thought I might have run 
faster, I was humbled to know that my 3:58.8 was the 
7th fastest ever by an American and surpassed the best of any 
Texas or South American runner.  My friends often remind
me that my mile time also made me the first Texan and 
first Hispanic to run a sub-four minute mile.

     My record stood for 40 years and I was pleased that 
when it was broken, it was by a fine UT Longhorn runner
by the name of Leonel Manzano.   Manzano broke my
recordd by less than two seconds, but went on that year 
to win a silver medal in the Olympics.

For more on Ricardo Romo see the post we did on him with more autobiographical material from several years back.
Ricardo Romo, An Inspiring Story  Clik Here

Comments on this posting from various sources have added some interesting information and corrected some errors.

First this from Tom Trumpler

Hi George,

Interesting recollections from Romo on his contribution to T&F history by being in the race when young Jim Ryun set the mile world record at Berkeley in 1966.
(Interesting, too, that Buck, i.e., John Bork, made a similar contribution by running in the 880 race when Peter Snell set the then world record on a Christchurch grass track in New Zealand in 1962!)

More interesting was Romo's quest and personal victory to finally run a sub-four minute mile (how many times have all of as young runners imagined one day breaking the tape at 3:59 or better!).

Ricardo describes his triumphal run where he and Ted Nelson push each other to the sub-four glory land as being at an "invitational" in the San Fernando Valley. This select "invitational" invited everyone to the starting line, as it actually was an all-comers meet at either Pierce College or Birmingham High School.

The L.A. City schools sponsored a great series of all-comers meets in the 1960s. Monday night was at Gardena High School. Tuesday night was at Venice High School (fondly remembered as that is where I ran my first track race - a two mile run in heavy rubber tennis shoes, and also for the excitement of these meets -- we were able to sit alongside the edge of the broad jump pit and watch Ralph Boston (then Olympic champion and world record holder) land in the sand before us!!!!)  Wednesday and Thursday were either at Pierce College or Birmingham. Mike Larrabee, a double gold medalist (400, 4x400) in the 1964 Olympics, was a regular at the 440 at Pierce, with other L.A. Striders!

Back to Romo's San Fernando Valley Invitational -- the race was run on August 10, 1966, a Wednesday night, in Woodland Hills (Pierce College all-comers meet). How exciting was that for local runners to be on the track chasing Romo and Nelson or watching from the infield as TWO runners broke the then still elusive four-minute barrier! Romo and Nelson were the 19th and 20th Americans to go sub-four.

1966 -- American Runners Breaking Four Minutes in the Mile
16. Roscoe Divine (Oregon) 3:59.1 (2nd place) Eugene June 02
17. Wade Bell (Oregon)3:59.8* (3rd place) Eugene June 02
18. Tim Danielson (California HS) 3:59.4* (4th place) San Diego June 11
19. Richard Romo (unattached) 3:58.8* (1st place) Woodland Hills August 10
20. Ted Nelson (SoCal Striders) 3:59.4* (2nd place) Woodland Hills August 10

And a second letter from Tom Trumpler

Yes, feel free to post my e-mail about the summer all-comers meets. These meets (Gardena H.S. on Monday, Venice H.S. on Tuesday, Pierce College on Wednesday, Birmingham H.S. on Thursday) were held every week during the summer - a great experience for high school or seasoned track athletes. 

George, you may also consider posting Ken Gerry's e-mail ("I'll never forget that race." "As a 15 year old, I just sat there in awe.") about having witnessed Romo and Nelson go sub-four. Ken's comment shows how exciting these meets were to all the high-school age kids. Ken now is a 68-year old who can probably still vividly re-play that race in his mind. (George, note that Ken became an exceptional miler himself, 4:13 at the Univ of Arizona, and may have been partly inspired by witnessing the Romo and Nelson all-comers race.)
- Tom

Here is Ken Gerry's note.   Ken witnessed the race Ricardo's sub 4.

I’ll never forget that race. I was in the stands at Pierce College watching after having run the 2.6 mile cross country race. My track coach at Camarillo High School, Jack McEwen, upon hearing over the PA loudspeakers, about the sub 4 attempt, said, “Phooey, this won’t happen!”
As a 15 year old, I just sat there in awe.  Not one, but two milers under 4:00 !!
Ken Gerry

This came from Tim Johnston and Mel Watman describing an error in the photo of Ricardo running in England.  We misidentified the winner Bill McKIim and the place Portsmouth.  Tim with help of Mel Watman put us back on the right track.  As many know, Tim was 8th at the '68 Mexico Olympic Marathon in 2hr 28+ and is the co-author with Donald Macgregor of the book  "Otto Peltzer, His Own Man".

1:13 PM (6 hours ago)
George - just to put the record straight.



Dear Mel,

Sad news about Basil. I first read it in George Brose's blog, 'Once Upon a Time in the Vest', which you are probably familiar. I attach a subsequent issue featuring Richard Romo, who spent the summer of 1963 running with my club, Portsmouth.

As you will see there is a picture of Richard winning the mile at the Welsh Games from John Whetton and 'Alan Simpson'. Clearly, that's not Simmy. Any idea who it might be?

Hope all is well with you.

       Tim J 

Dear Tim

Yes, so sad that Basil Heatley has passed on. What a wonderful career he had.

That photo was not taken at the Welsh Games. Having trawled through AW for 1963 I can tell you the meeting was AAA v British Universities v Combined Services at Portsmouth and it was Bill McKim who won in a pb of 4:04.9 ahead of Richard Romo 4:05.0 and John Whetton (pb 4:05.1). That’s Bruce a distant 4th in 4:07.1 after leading through 60.8, 2:04.8 and 3:06.5.

Hope you are thriving.

Best wishes


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