Bobby Morrow, his dark, handsome face gaunt and bony from hard work and worry, fitted his spikes carefully against the starting blocks in the finals of the 200-meter dash at the National AAU meet in Bakers-field, Calif. He thought fleetingly of the three gold medals he had won in the Melbourne Olympics in 1956, then settled himself grimly to try for a sixth-place finish in this race. He had no hope of winning; but sixth place would qualify him for the Olympic trials a week later and a chance to make another American Olympic team.
The night before, Morrow had failed to qualify for the finals in the 100 meters. He had finished far back in a trial heat, running dead-legged and slow. Afterwards he walked back the length of the course, his head down, picked up his sweat suit from behind his starting blocks, then walked alone out of the stadium to the practice area. He looked tired and beaten and through.
"I don't know," he said then. "I just haven't got it. My legs feel gone. I haven't worked hard enough, I guess. It's not the same as it was. I run a few 300s and I know I should run another one but there's no one there to push me and I take a shower instead. I just haven't got the desire I had."
He pulled his sweat pants on slowly, his face serious, almost sad.
"I'll try again in the 200 tomorrow night," he said. "I'll keep on trying to the last gun. But I don't think it's there."
Somehow, though, some of the old magic that once made Morrow the finest sprinter in the world came back to him. In his preliminary heat in the 200, he finished second, but he ran easily and he made up ground down the stretch. He grinned tentatively at the small knot of well-wishers who surrounded him after that race. He didn't say anything.
In his semifinal he finished third, coming with a rush in the last 60 yards. His grin was a little wider now. He walked restlessly up and down the infield while he waited for the finals, and he stopped briefly by the stands to talk to Oliver Jackson, his coach during his undergraduate days at Abilene Christian. Then he went out to his blocks and set himself as he has a thousand times before. Most of the field had beaten Morrow at one time or another this year and most of them must have felt they could beat him again.
At the gun Morrow was off ahead, the long experience in big races standing him in good stead. But Ray Norton, as clearly the best in this field as Morrow had been in 1956, pulled away as they hit the curve, unleashing a wonderful burst of speed. Others moved ahead, too, but Morrow, running desperately, came on again at the finish and placed fourth.
As the runners trotted back toward the judges, a curious thing happened. The crowd ignored Norton, who had run a really beautiful race. The applause was for Morrow.
Hard road back