Poise bred from the maturity of experience was worth a ticket to Moscow in the National AAU Track and Field championships in Bakers-field, Calif, last weekend. Harold Connolly, the record holder in the hammer throw, pointed the way early when he broke his own world record in the first event of the meet; in the 440-yard hurdles Glenn Davis added a third world record to his collection.
The youngsters came close in some events, but the veterans of nerve-twanging competition on a hundred tracks in a hundred meets won out. Bobby Morrow, the imperturbable Olympic sprint champion from Abilene Christian College, coasted through trial heats in second or third place, then turned up his competitive overdrive a notch and won the 100- and 220-yard dashes. Eddie Southern, an Olympic veteran who can beat any quarter-miler in the world except Glenn Davis, was a 10th of a second off Davis' week-old world record in winning the 440-yard dash, and Tom Courtney, the Olympic 800-meter champion, running only his third race of the dying track season, won the 880-yard run.
Herb Elliott, old in competition despite his 20 years, won the mile from fellow Australian Merv Lincoln; Olympic champion Parry O'Brien won the shot, Rink Babka the discus, Bud Held the javelin, Bob Backus the weight throw, Ron Morris the pole vault and Charley Dumas the high jump. All in all, it was a bleak time for the youngsters.
Southern, who spent a long week fighting off a deep depression after his loss to Davis in the NCAA, was relaxed for this race.
"I feel like a tiger," he said before the 440-yard final. "A baby tiger, maybe, but baby tigers can bite." He led all the way, from the gun to the tape, fighting off a late surge by Olympic 400-meter champion Charlie Jenkins. "I ran with my head as well as my legs this time," he said later. Jenkins, who ran on the pole (Southern was next to him in lane two), was .6 of a second under his best time in 46.1 behind Southern's 45.8.
"I surprised myself," Jenkins said. "I haven't worked much lately. I had reached a plateau and I actually thought I was beginning to slack off. But now I am on a new plane and I believe I will improve. I figure running the pole costs you three yards in a two-turn 440 where you run in lanes all the way. Watch."
Jenkins trotted out on the track.
"Now look how close to the line I can run out here in lane two," he said, running a tightrope an inch inside the white line marking the inner boundary of the lane. "Now I'm running the pole," he said, trotting back up the track. He came back, running a foot away from the cement curb. "You can't snuggle up so close to that curb," he said. "You're taking a chance on stepping on it and breaking stride. So you're giving away maybe three yards."
Jenkins had finished about three yards behind Southern.
In the mile, Australia's Herb Elliott won a bristling race from Merv Lincoln, who had the unpleasant distinction of having run the fastest nonwinning mile in track history. Lincoln turned in the best mile of his life (3:58.5), only to trail Elliott's 3:57.9. Don Bowden, who tried to run Ron Delany into the ground in the NCAA last week, made the same mistake against Elliott this time. He and Gail Hodgson, the South African who runs for the University of Oklahoma, hurtled to a 57.8 quarter and a 1:59.6 half, then died as the two Australians took over the lead on the last lap.