The tall (6 feet 4�) youngster stood very still, his body slightly bent, right foot forward. The only sound in Madison Square Garden was the hum of the ventilation system struggling with the smoky air; the 15,000 people at the Millrose Games sat tensely. The bar on the high-jump standards was at seven feet, and no one, ever, anywhere, had high-jumped seven feet indoors before. The crowd waited.
When the boy began his run, his steps were clearly audible across the board floor—thup, thup, thup, thup, thupthupthup. He lifted hard, the long body coming up in an easy, clean motion, rolling briefly, then suddenly down and the bar firm on the standards at seven feet.
The crowd erupted in a volcano of noise. John Thomas looked up at the bar, at his world-record jump, then hopped in excitement, his usually phlegmatic face lit by a wide grin. He was to fail three times later at 7 feet 1� inches but it didn't much matter. He was only 17, there was plenty of time.
Away from the circus atmosphere of the indoor track meets, John Curtis Thomas is a painfully shy Boston University freshman. His dormitory is Miles Standish Hall and as he left it one afternoon last week, a few days before his triumph in the Millrose Games, he acknowledged, with a diffident smile and a brief hand motion, the greetings of the students in the lobby. With a companion he crossed the street, slushy from a recent snow and went into the English Grill Room of the Hotel Kenmore.
He studied the menu carefully, item by item. Asked what his favorite dish was, he said, seriously, "I like food, period." Then he settled on steak, well done, a cup of split-pea soup and a glass of milk. He considered clams briefly, asked the waitress if they were fried.
"No," she said.
He shuddered. "No, thank you."
He was in the midst of final examinations. "I have two C's, so far," he said, around the steak. "Biology and speech. I got English, hygiene and psychology coming up. Psychology's the toughest. I'm not going to do very well in that exam. I don't understand the work."