In the lonely world of exhaustion, where track records are set, the determining factor is usually psychological. This was again amply demonstrated when the best college track and field performers in the United States decided the 37th annual National Collegiate Track and Field Championships in sun-splashed Berkeley, Calif. last week.
Glenn Davis, a rubber-faced, cheerful young man who already holds the world record in the 400-meter hurdles, set another world record in the 440-yard dash; Eddie Southern, a truly brilliant quarter-miler from Texas, might have outrun Davis had he run more and worried less. Charlie Tidwell of Kansas ran the fastest 220-yard low hurdle race around a curve in the recorded history of mankind because he neither saw his opposition nor bothered about it. And Don Bow-den, the cranelike Californian who is the only American to run a sub-four-minute mile, lost a tactical battle to imperturbable Ron Delany, of Villa-nova and Ireland, in the mile.
Delany, who won the mile in 4:03.5, then returned to the iron-hard track an hour later to win the half mile in 1:48.6, analyzed his victory over Bow-den simply.
"Don has been thinking about this race for a year," the bony-faced Irishman said. "He's been planning to run the half under two minutes and the three-quarters in three flat, and he worried about it so much he couldn't run for worrying when the time came. I run every week. I'm used to taking each race as it comes. This was just another race to me."
Bowden, who must have taken heart from the Delany-Elliott race a week before this meet (SI, June 16), tried to match Elliott's tactics without Elliott's amazing stamina. Elliott had set a tremendous pace for three-quarters with Delany hanging doggedly in his shadow, then tacked a whistling anchor lap to the first three to leave Ron staggering far behind at the finish. Bowden, too, set a tremendous pace for three laps. His half and three-quarter times (two minutes flat and just over three minutes), were nearly precisely the same as Elliott's, but Delany, who learned a valuable lesson against Elliott, stayed well off the pace in this race. He was 35 yards behind Bowden going into the anchor lap, but the tremendous Delany kick was intact, and as the field hit the backstretch, Bowden faltered and Delany, the odd, turkey-trot running style still strong and smooth, closed the gap quickly. He assumed the lead around the final turn and then just walked away.
Bowden, his mouth dry and tacky from his effort, said, "Something went wrong with my gas machine. The only way you can beat Delany is to run a real fast three-quarters. But when I got through with the three-quarters I didn't have any poop left. It was a 4:06 day for me and that was that. I'm going to run the mile again at the AAU meet in Bakersfield next week. I know I can run a good mile. This just wasn't the day."
It wasn't Eddie Southern's day, either. He faced an old bugaboo in Ohio State's Glenn Davis and, although it is very unlikely that anyone could have beaten Davis' world record 45.7 in the quarter, Southern's effort was far off his best of the season.
This race may have been won two years ago on a plane bound for the Melbourne Olympics, when Southern and Davis, both competitors in the 400-meter hurdles, were seat mates. Davis, a happy soul who seldom worries about a race, had beaten Southern in the AAU championships and final Olympic trials, and he didn't let Southern forget it on the long plane ride. By the time he had beaten Southern again for the Olympic championship, the Texan had developed a strong inferiority complex about Davis.
In the NCAA finals last Saturday, Davis drew the outside lane, with the whole field behind him in the staggered start of the two-turn quarter mile. Southern, running in lane four, had a clear view of his nemesis, ahead of him and to his right.
Southern came out of his blocks in a scrambling rush and set out after Davis with a blazing pace for the first 220 yards. As the field turned into the backstretch, where their relative speeds could be judged for the first time, he moved up steadily on Davis. But by the time they hit the second turn Southern had begun to tire and Davis, who had run with beautiful and relaxed smoothness all the way, kicked and pulled away quickly on the wide curve and down the straightaway to the tape.