All five of them were world record holders. They were introduced first at the finish line of the 100-meter dash, then trotted back the length of the course through the crowd's roar to wait for the starter's gun. A thin drizzle began as they set their starting blocks, but in the almost electric tension of the moment none of the 40,000 people at the Penn Relays paid any attention to it.
Nor did the sprinters. Bobby Morrow, the Olympic champion, was grim and withdrawn and calm. The road back for Morrow has been a long and difficult one, and this race was to be an accurate measure of how much farther he has to go. Dave Sime, who four years ago was the fastest human in the world, looked pale and very tense, his eyes blank and unseeing. Short, stocky Bill Woodhouse was businesslike. Tiny Ira Murchison was relaxed, bouncing easily, shaking his hands loosely and smiling.
The fifth man was Ray Norton, double sprint winner in the U.S.- Russia and Pan American meets last summer. Norton's square, tough face was set, his jaw locked. He had been unbeatable for a year, but he had never faced a field like this one. "This is it," his coach, Bud Winter, had said the night before. "If he can relax and run his race against this kind of competition, they'll never beat him."
Now, at the starting blocks, the five sprinters crouched tensely. Twice they broke in false starts. The first time it was Norton, and the other time two or three broke together. On each of the breaks Morrow, the veteran of a hundred big races, remained steadily in his blocks.
When the gun finally cracked and they were away, it was Morrow whose quick reflexes sent him into the early lead. The big sunburned Texan led the field by a stride at 20 yards. Here was the time when Norton might try too hard and chop his stride and lose.
But he did not. In a beautiful, smooth, lifting burst of speed he drew even with Morrow 40 yards out and then began pulling away. Sime, who had started poorly, moved too, not gaining on Norton, but leaving Morrow behind. Murchison, up with the leaders for the first 50 yards, faded and finished last. Woodhouse stayed close up and finished fourth.
At the finish it was Norton by two yards over Sime, with Morrow another two yards behind. The time—10.5—was not remarkable, but the race was run into a four-mile wind and over a track chewed up by the hordes of runners competing in the two-day meet.
Winter hugged Norton after the race. "The time doesn't matter," he said. "That takes care of itself, just so long as you win. Nobody has any idea how much this means," the coach went on. "This was Ray's biggest psychological hurdle. By far his most important race ever. Now he's over it all. He knows he can do it, and he's loose." He looked over at Norton, who was by now pulling on his gold and white satin warmup suit. "Come on, Ray," he said. "Get those wrinkles out of your forehead " Norton laughed and the wrinkles disappeared.
Norton, Sime, Morrow and Ed Collymore raced at 200 meters later in the gray, rain-spattered afternoon. The tension was notably lacking in this one; everyone, including Norton, was sure he would win it and he did. He ran it in 20.6 seconds, around a full curve, tying the listed world record. He ran easily and confidently, and he looked like the finest sprinter in the world.