Once Upon a Time in the Vest

Friday, July 31, 2020

V 10 N. 61 Janell Smith R.I.P.

In 1964 a high school junior from Kansas made the US Olympic track team, competed in Tokyo,  and it was not Jim Ryun.  Can you name that runner?

A lot of people won't remember Janell Smith, because in the early 1960s you had to look beyond Track and Field News to know anything about women's track.  I lived on the prairies in those days in the state south of her home state of Kansas, and I do not recall seeing her run.  Although I must have at the USA Poland meet in Chicago in 1962.   She didn't appear at the Kansas Relays, because there were no women's events at that meet.  The Texas Relays allowed a few women's events mainly the 100 yard dash, and the Texas Track Club was allowed to compete there against a few uncoached young girls, and the track announcer at the relays took great pleasure in making crude remarks about them.    They dominated with their bouffant hairdos more than their speed.  At the University of Oklahoma, one young female student worked out with our team.  She competed in the long jump, and now I can't recall her name.  Perhaps it was Peggy.  She traveled on her own to  meets and made it to nationals.  She also had to put up with some jibes and teasing, but she held her ground and was not deterred.

But Janell Smith was truly a force in her time setting a world record in the 400 meters while still in high school, making the cover of Sports Illustrated and representing her country in the 1964 Olympics.  To put Janell Smith's performances in perspective, we can compare Sidney McLaughlin's high school PR at 400m (51.88) with Janell's 52.30 run on cinders fifty five years earlier.

Below is a much better account of her life as it appeared in MileSplit this week.
And thanks to Tom Coyne for bringing this story to our attention.

Dear George:
Actually, our thanks should  go to my daughter-in-law, Phyllis Erikson, a Kansas girl who brought it to my attention.
I, very much, appreciate your fast action.
Take care,

In Memoriam: Janell Smith, 5/3/1947 - 7/25/2020

Janell Smith's senior picture, rescued from a house fire decades later by a volunteer firefighter who knew who she was and tried to save her memorabilia.
Janell Carson (Smith) has passed away at the age of 73 after a months-long battle with cancer.
The Fredonia HS (Kansas) and Emporia State University alum was one of the greatest U.S. track and field athletes you've never heard of. 
But it wasn't always that way. 

Janell Smith in her dress uniform prior to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

For several years, Janell Smith was one of the best, and best-known, female athletes in the world, including being on the cover of Sports Illustrated. But after she finished her career, she opted instead for the quiet life of a first-grade school teacher, wife, and mother to her three sons.  She rarely spoke about her glory years, and when she did, she often left out the details that showed just how incredible she was during that time.
At the height of the Cold War in 1962, she was competing behind the Iron Curtain at the age of 15.
At the age of 17 she joined fellow Kansan Jim Ryun, also a high school junior, on the U.S. Tokyo Olympic Track and Field team.
Janell Smith on the podium at the at the 1963 AAU National Meet where she tied the American Record for the 70yd hurdles at the age of 15.

She broke the indoor 400 World Record by 1.6 seconds the winter of her senior year of high school at a meet in Berlin, Germany, running 54.0.
One week after she turned 18, she appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

May 10, 1965 Sports Illustrated cover featuring Janell Smith (r) and Marie Mulder (l).

At the age of 18 in 1965, she ran a 52.3 400 on cinder at a meet in Ecuador.
She was a two-time AAU national champion at 440y/400m.
She set multiple American Records in multiple events.
She helped design and select the 1968 U.S. Olympic Team uniforms.
Picture and article about Janell Smith's indoor 400 WR in 1965

And she did it all without a high school or college team in the pre-Title IX era.
You'll notice that there's no mention of state titles.  The greatest 400m runner Kansas ever produced never ran in a state meet because there was no state meet for girls.  The first girls state meet wasn't held until 1972, seven years after she graduated from high school.
She won two NAIA national indoor titles in college despite Emporia State University not having a women's team.

Janell Smith with her coach/father, Meade, at the U.S. v. Poland meet in 1962. She was 15 years old.

Recently, Janell's still-standing state 400m record of 52.3 was identified as the best Kansas high school track and field record in any event.  You can read about that, as well as see Janell's Kansas Sports Hall of Fame induction speech here: Ranking the Records Countdown #1 - Janell Smith, 400m, 52.3 (1965).
She is survived by her husband, Mike, three sons Brian, Scott and Tim, and multiple grandchildren.

Thanks for the information on Janell Smith. When I was in high school in socal we would go to all the big indoor meets in LA... All were held in the LA Sports Arena near the LA Coliseum.
There were two big events...  The LA Times Meet and the Sunkist Meet.
All had big time international athletes representing. No doubt the glory years of track in this country.
I remember seeing Janell compete in one of those meets . Interesting never really thought much about her after seeing her in that one competition....   I knew she was from a small town in Kansas and now I know about her athletic accomplishments.
Mike Solomon

That's really a good piece on Janell Smith.  I had not heard of her but she surely deserves mention.   I think the remarkable thing is that she thought to run.  I have always admired pioneers and entrepreneurs because I don't think I am one.  Evidently her career was not as long as Jim Ryun's but to have her mark recognized by the Kansas HS organization ahead of Ryun's is remarkable, unless they were thinking only about girls' records.  In either case it says a lot about her.

Thank you for the article on Janell Smith. Very well written.
Dennis “Mac” McNulty 

Thursday, July 30, 2020

V10 N. 60 Death of a Polevaulter and the Olympics Reported 100 Years Ago

Today we bring you two stories.  One the passing of a polevaulter I met through this blog and an Associated Press Report of the Antwerp Olympics of 1920.
Preston Holsinger

First, I was informed today that former Oklahoma State University polevaulter Preston Holsinger passed away on June 20, 2020.  Preston was a state champion high school vaulter in Oklahoma in the early 1960s as well as an all state quarterback.  He was recruited to play both sports at OSU.  His best talent was seen  in the polevault where he was a three time Big 8 champion in that event.  If he played a game of football for the Aggies, I'm not aware.  He also qualified for the US Olympic trials.   A few years ago, Preston got to reading this blog and we communicated several times about events.  He even sent me a book about one of his teammates Chris McCubbins of Enid, Oklahoma who won the steeplechase in the Pan Am Games for the US, but met a Canadian girl at that event held in Winnipeg and subsequently became a Canadian and ran for Canada in the Montreal Olympics.

You can see Preston vaulting in this video link at 21sec.   It is from the Big 8 Outdoor meet held at OSU in 1964.  He is the vaulter in orange shorts, black top.  Opening race is the 880 won by Tonni Coane of Kansas.  Second and third were Dave and John Perry of OSU, fourth Walt Mizell of Oklahoma, and fifth Lowell Paul of Kansas.
The Vaulters are Preston Holsinger,  Jim Ferrell in white, Oklahoma, Floyd Manning Kansas,  Missouri vaulter unk.  Jerry McFadden can you help me on that one?  Ferrell was the leading high school vaulter about 1962 over 15 feet. I think the Mizzou vaulter won that particular meet.

Big 8 1964

The other story today was picked up off the AP website.  It is coverage of the 1920 Olympics, the first after an 8 year hiatus during WWI.  There is also a video clip in the article with some nice pictures of early Olympic Games.

Here is that link.  To see it just clik on it

1920 Olympics Report from Associated Press

Note the military presence in the US team as they march into the stadium.  This was one year after the pandemic of 1918-19.  There had been an international military games held in 1919 in Europe as well.  How they coped with the virus is not noted.

It is indeed a frustrating time for us watching the few live sports activities these days and the effect of a stadium packed with live, breathing, cheering fans is becoming very self evident.   Best to all of you and take care of yourselves and your loved ones.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

V 10 N. 59 What will College Seniors Do? and Some Old Photos

A few weeks ago we speculated on what college athletes might be facing in the coming year with the granting of an extra year of eligibility.  What would happen with scholarships promised to incoming freshman if the seniors on scholarship decide to stay for that extra year.   In a recent article in the Eugene Register Guard, it was noted that 12 members of the combined men's and women's teams at U. of Oregon have decided to move on with their lives and not return.  Ten of those are seniors and two are red shirt juniors.  So that problem may be solving itself if other schools have similar responses from their team members.

Photos of the 1908 Olympic Marathon
On another note, Walt Murphy's blog titled "This Day in Track and Field"  noted the events of the 1908 Olympic Marathon on this date when Dorando Pietri crossed the finish line first with a bit of 'aid' from officials and was subsequently disqualified for that assistance giving the victory to the US runner Johnny Hayes.  Pietri's efforts were however recognized by presentation of a special trophy from  Queen Alexandra.   The article referred to was originally printed in The Guardian, several years ago.

Here is the series of photos that appeared with that article.

Pre-race notice to London citizens to turn out.
American team walking to the start.  Johnny Hayes the eventual winner is #26
Just after the start, going past the royals

The Londoners certainly turned out

Pietri early on takes the lead.
Note he has a handler on a bike with him.

Showing no sign of imminent collapse.
Note the roads seem to be well packed dirt.

Johnny Hayes follows with his handler in tow.  The handler carries a bag with
refreshments much like the domestiques in bicycle races today carry to support
their teammates.  Another official appears to be handing him a sponge.

More crowds

Pietri appears in the stadium but he's in trouble, because the officials are
keeping up with him.  That last bloody 385 yards are the fault of the royals
wanting a start at their castle.  Note the rather portly official on the right. He
stays with Pietri right to the finish and even while he is carted off.

The portly dude appears to be performing chest compressions on Pietri.
Also note the announcers with megaphones.
The last agonizing steps...

....Madre Mia,  it's over in 2hr. 54 min. 46 sec.

The stunned crowd watches the Italian carried off... the big dude is still there.

Later, Queen Alexandra gives Pietri a special award for his gallantry.

Johnny Hayes gets his own royal treatment from his teammates.
In the front is Lewis Tewanima from the Hopi First Nation.
He attended Carlisle Indian School with Jim Thrope.  Lewis
also ran in the 1912 Olympics.  That is quite a trophy with Hayes and a
lot to ask of five guys who just ran a marathon.
Hayes about to earn his gold medal

A proud Pietri with his Queen's Trophy
Dear George:
There is a lot more to this story than just the Olympics race.
Dorando Pietri came to the United States and had two match races against Johnny Hayes, both of which he won.  The first, in 1908, was in Madison Square Gardens and he won by 75 yards.  The second was in 1909,  presumable, outdoors.
However, there is an unsung distance running hero shown here as well, Lewis Tewanima.  Lewis was a Hopi Indian, a Native American, a teammate of Jim Thorpe's at Carlisle Indian Industrial School and both coached by Glenn "Pop" Warner.  Lewis took ninth in the 1908 marathon but also ran in the 1912 Olympics, taking the silver medal in the 10, 000.  The next American to medal at the Olympics in the 10, 000 was another Native American,  Billy Mills, taking the gold in 1964.   
My favorite story about Lewis is the time Carlisle Indian School had a track meet against an Eastern school, possibly Ivy League, and "Pop" Warner showed up with just two athletes, Thorpe and Tewanima.  Thorpe won most of the sprints and field events and Lewis won all the distance events.  Carlisle won the meet.
Take care,
Tom Coyne

Great article on an interesting race George! What I don't understand is why Pietri would be disqualified for something the race officials themselves were guilty of. He clearly couldn't shoo them away as he was delirious and seems to just be trying to get to the finish line. I remember seeing video of him zigzagging all over the place - certainly not in a stable mind to understand what the officials were doing. I googled modern Olympics marathon (great photo of 3 runners training for the 1896 race in what appears to be street clothes!) - and the marathon was run 4 times prior to the 1908 race. TIL (today I learned) the Olympics was held every 2 years :).
Anyway - 4 times prior the officials should have been aware of what was allowed and what wasn't, right? Anyone else feel Pietri was cheated out of a medal? Lastly, thanks to Tom Coyne for pointing out Tewanima. I have heard of Carlisle's amazing T&F records during Jim Thorpe's days. Another athlete that was cheated out of his gold wins as sole winner of the 1908 Olympics.
Cheers/ Susan

Responding I would say it was  ill trained  and uninformed officials who were at fault and the ultimate powers that were in place eventually saw this and decided it was unfair and should not have been allowed. Clearly there were people all over the infield getting involved.  They could not all have known what they were doing.   Who in the world had any experience in things like this in 1908?  In the picture where Pietri is flat on his back and being supported  by one person, it makes me wonder if he would have been able to get up on his own and finish.  But we don't see if he was lifted up on his feet and pointed in the right direction.    Maybe he was D.Q.'d on a protest by the Americans.  I don't know the answer to that.   Today he probably would not be allowed to finish in the interest of his own welfare and be taken away by medical personnel.  In these times there is a point where the lawyers get involved and organizers do not want to be held liable for allowing someone to be injured, even though we sign a liability waiver before any race today.  

Another story in that 1908 Olympics is a lot closer to my home (Dayton, OH).   Ed Cook tied for the gold medal in the pole vault 
with another American.  However he was simultaneously competing in the 'broad jump' and the British officials
who were allegedly openly, how should I say, hostile? to the Americans, did not give Cook any leeway for 
competing in the two events at the same time.  I believe he was denied some of his attempts in the long
jump where he was a favorite, and he ended up 4th.    Cook was originally from Chillocothe, Ohio, but he had a long teaching career at Oakwood HS (a Dayton suburb).  Our recently departed friend Richard Trace had him for physical education when he went through Oakwood schools in the 1940s. 

Of interest as well was the man who tied for the polevault gold,  Alfred Carlton Gilbert, who became known as "The Man Who Saved Christmas".   Gilbert started the toy manufacturing business that carried his name and even led a lot of kids into science with his chemistry sets that were hugely popular in the 20th century.
A.C. Gilbert  Wikipedia link

Walt Murphy sent me the link to this film clip on the 1908 marathon implying that Hayes did file a protest.  It is not entirely clear if it was the protest that got Pietri D.Q'd.  Walt thinks it was a clear breach of the rules, according to the I.A.A.F.  Olympic Book and the NY Times,  and the officials may well have made the decision without a protest from Hayes.

Here is the link: Controversial 1908 Olympic Marathon

That said,  today I went out for a longer run than usual (I won't say how long) and because of the heat and thinking of this story, I curtailed the distance half way into the run.  Perhaps it saved me the embarrassment of collapse on a forest trail.    George

V 10 No. 58 Jim Ryun Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Jim Ryun Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Yesterday Jim Ryun was awarded the long deserved Presidential Medal of Freedom for his accomplishments on the track.  He was the first high school runner to break four minutes in the mile in 1964.  He also served 10 years in the US Congress representing his home state of Kansas.

In 1964, as a high school junior at Wichita East High School, Ryun became the first high school athlete to run a mile in under 4 minutes in the time of 3:59.0, when he took 8th place at the 1964 California Relays, the last under four minutes in a historic mass finish under 4:00. His time of 3:55.3, set winning the 1965 AAU Championship race ahead of Olympic gold medalist and former WR holder Peter Snell, was a high school record that stood for 36 years. Ryun ran five sub-four minute miles while in high school including the only sub-four minute mile run in a high school event, a 3:58.3, at the 1965 Kansas HS state meet.  Wikipedia

He was on three Olympic teams 1964, 1968, and 1972.  His top achievement in the Games was a silver medal in the 1500 meters in 1968.  Also accompanying Ryun during the presentation were Matt Centrowitz Olympic gold medalist in the 1500 meters  and Alan Webb the current high school mile record holder. 

I recall seeing Ryun run for the first time  on the track at Lawrence, Kansas at the Kansas Relays about 1963.  He was a sophomore at Wichita East HS.  It was a very blustery day.  Even before the race several people mentioned to watch this young kid.  He won easily in 4:20, and it was clear then that there was more than just a little talent in that skinny, semi-awkward runner with the arm carriage swinging side to side.

Thanks to Mike Solomon, former Kansas Jayhawk for bringing this to our attention.

Hi George,

My wife and I met Jim and his wife and babies in a stroller, when we were both living in Santa Barbara while walking down State Street.  Jim also opened his running camp there the same year (1975).  Jump ahead 41 years and an episode of deja vu as we met Alan Webb and his wife and baby in a stroller outside of church in Eugene, OR as we were attending the OT in 2016.  I thought that was a great case of symmetry meeting the former and current HS mile record holders.

It is great that Jim won the Presidental Medal of Freedom.

BTW, my friend and I saw Jim run a 3:52 mile in Toronto in 1972.  That mile ironically put Jim in the same heat as Keino in the Munich Olympics where he fell.  The sad part was that did not convert that mile time to a 1500m time or Jim would have been in another heat.

Don Betowski

Don,  I sort of recall that Ryun got  tangled up with a lesser runner in the pack and went down.   Keino was up near or in the front and didn't even know it had happened.  George

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

V 10 N. 57 The Year 1000 Book Review

The following book review appeared on the website Delancy Street which comes out each day.  It presents some interesting info on distances that men and, I assume, some women were able to cover before Adidas and Nike got into the fray.    I was impressed by the Greek drawing of three runners.  Good upright carriage, maybe the one on the left, overstriding, but still drawn on a vase.  Empahsis on  gluteus medii, abdominals, arm swing, foot plant. A few years ago we printed  some interesting bits about shoe production when the Iceman met his demise in the Italian alps during the Bronze Age.  I remember once in Kenya, some Masai lads stole a few  cattle one evening and were fifty miles up the pike next day.  I don't know what condition the cattle were in but they made it.  Probably was beef jerky on the hoof.

See:  Otzi's Shoes

The Year 1000: When Explorers Connected the World―and Globalization Began by Valerie Hansen. How fast can people travel on foot?:
"Modern travelers accustomed to airplanes, trains, cars, and ships tend to exaggerate the difficulties of travel in earlier periods. We wonder how people could traverse thousands of miles on foot and forget that most people could walk 20 miles, or 32 km, a day, and for long periods. People in the year 1000 were used to this -- one envoy went on foot more than 2,500 miles, or 4,000 km, between 1024 and 1026.
"The historian who records this long trip doesn't mention how the envoy managed it, but we can suppose that he -- and most of the explorers in this book -- received help from local guides, no matter how difficult the terrain. During the 1990s, villagers helped one research group get over a difficult section of the Himalayas, showing them multiple routes that didn't appear on any map. Depending on the time of year, and the amount of snow, these routes posed varying levels of difficulty. There was even a gradual, flat route suitable for use by pregnant women.
A scene depicting long distance runners, originally found on a Panathenaic amphora from Ancient Greece, circa 333 BCE
"Data about the speed with which people could travel on foot survives from multiple places and times. If couriers were running individual legs of a journey, and they did not have to carry anything, a team could achieve extraordinary speeds, up to 150 miles (240 km) in a single day, as the Spaniards reported for the Inca in the early 1500s.
"Of course, soldiers bearing their own food and weapons traveled more slowly. The rates of travel for ancient armies, including those of Persian ruler Xerxes, Alexander the Great, and Hannibal -- and even that of the more modern Queen Elizabeth I of England -- ranged between 10 and 20 miles (16-32 km) per day. Even now, U.S. Army guidelines define a normal rate for a march at 20 miles per day. Anything more rapid qualifies as a forced march.
"Riders on horseback could go faster: a modern rider in Mongolia can cover 300 miles in a single day if he frequently changes mounts, and in the past, Mongol soldiers could sustain speeds of 60 miles (100 km) per day for a few days during intense campaigns.
"Good roads could also increase speeds dramatically. Many types of roads existed in the year 1000. In the most advanced societies, like China, dirt roads and bridges over rivers were common, and movement was straightforward. In others, few roads existed, and explorers had to find their own paths.
"Conditions of overland travel also determined how far people could carry bulk goods. Around the year 1000, the residents of Chaco Canyon in New Mexico regularly hauled corn 90 miles, or 150 km, and, on an occasional basis, transported large timbers from 170 miles (275 km) away (Chaco had no trees). They went even farther to obtain luxury goods such as macaw feathers."
The Year 1000: When Explorers Connected the World―and Globalization Began
author: Valerie Hansen
title: The Year 1000: When Explorers Connected the World―and Globalization Began
publisher: Scribner
date: Copyright 2020 by Valerie Hansen

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...