The University of Kansas, led by versatile athletes like Ernie Shelby (right), whose leap against the Nebraska sky gave him first place in the broad jump and who finished third in the low hurdles and fifth in the hop, step and jump, won the National Collegiate track and field championship last weekend at Lincoln in a two-day meet studded with bizarre and unlikely happenings.
The odd doings started Friday afternoon during the qualifying heats. Jack Yerman, a strong but nearsighted quarter miler, ran off his lane on a turn, finished the race a lane inside and, although he won his semifinal heat easily, was disqualified. A little while later, a half miler named Bert Ohlander was still stripping his sweat clothes off when the gun sounded for the start of his heat. Ohlander shed his sweat pants rapidly and took off up the track. He caught the field about 150 yards from the start, but this opening sprint was too much for him and he failed to place.
In the 400-meter hurdle trials half of the six-man field in the second heat failed to finish as hurdles toppled like bowling pins. Dick Howard, who may be the United States' best in this event by the time the Olympic Games roll around, was jostled out of his lane by a toppling competitor, ran around the staggered hurdle in the lane next to his and then returned to his own lane to finish and win the heat. This was fair enough, but Howard was momentarily disqualified. When the disqualification was announced, the dismayed Howard collared the nearest judge. "Man," he said, "let's straighten this thing out." Howard was reinstated.
The mishaps which marred the second day of the meet, when the finals were run, were not so funny. Ray Norton of San Jose State, who is one of the finest sprinters in the world, was disqualified in the 100-yard dash. The disqualification was fair; twice Norton sprang out of his blocks before the starter's gun sounded. On Ray's second break the starting judge said, "That's all, Norton." The tall, slender sprinter kicked his sweat pants, lying on the track behind his starting blocks, and walked silently away. He walked a few steps and then lay down on the grass beside the track and cried. He lay there, crying, while the race was run ( Kansas' Charlie Tid-well won in a wind-aided 9.3 seconds), and he didn't move when Stanford Coach Payton Jordan knelt beside him to comfort him. When he finally got up, he walked off and sat alone until it was time for him to run the 220-yard dash. In this race he crouched quietly in his blocks until the field got away ahead of him. Then, running with a smooth, long-reaching gait, he caught the other runners in the stretch and won easily.
ANXIOUS AND TWITCHING
Only then would Ray Norton talk to anyone. "No, I don't feel much better now," he said. "I wanted that one so much. I didn't want anyone to get the jump on me. That second time I saw someone move and I lit out. I sure wanted to win."
Tidwell, who was next to Norton in the 100, said, "It was all my fault. I guess I twitched and I pulled Ray off. I didn't mean to."
"I guess it was just youthful eagerness," said Norton's coach, Bud Winter. "It looked like a miracle was in the making and Ray was anxious. It wasn't the starter's fault."
The miracle Winter was referring to was the strong showing of the San Jose State team, which had been regarded as a fairly remote dark horse in this meet. Until Norton's disqualification in the 100, San Jose had been close on the heels of Kansas. It finished second, with 48 1/10 points, to Kansas' 73. Houston, fielding an international team of two Americans, one Polish refugee and a Canadian, was a surprisingly good third with 38 points.
Possibly the most courageous of the competitors at the meet was Houston's John Macy, the Polish refugee. Macy attempted an almost impossible double by entering the 3,000-meter steeplechase and the three-mile run. He might have won both except that he was spiked on the first water jump in the steeplechase, cutting a deep, three-inch gash along the outside of his right ankle. He won that race anyway, with his right shoe full of blood, and later, with the gash stitched up and bandaged, he stayed close until the last lap of the three-mile run and finished third. "It hurt some," he said, "but I worry more that my leg was not striding right. My muscle got sore here." He touched his thigh. "I could not run properly."