The two best races of the meet neither threatened any records nor resembled each other in the slightest. One was close, the other a completely unexpected runaway. The first was the 440-yard dash, and the reason Adolph Plummer of New Mexico failed to break a record is that the NCAA mark for the quarter mile is also the best ever run in the world, Glenn Davis' 45.7 in 1958. But Plummer, a big powerful 23-year-old Air Force veteran from Brooklyn who went to New Mexico after learning to run in North Africa, turned in the best time of his life, 46.2 seconds, and defeated one of the meet's big favorites, Abilene Christian's Earl Young.
"I knew Young was the one I had to beat," said Plummer. "I watched him in the preliminaries on Friday, and then I ran against him in the first semifinal heat. So I knew about what to expect. I figured the race would be won on the last curve, and I decided to run it harder than he did.
"It's funny," he went on. "It didn't work out like that at all. They say the good Lord watches over fools and little babies, and I'm sure no baby."
First 220 too slow
Plummer won the race because Young ran his first 220 too slowly. Young misjudged the pace—he was three lanes inside of Plummer on the strangely staggered track—and when he suddenly realized what was happening it was too late to do anything about it, though he tried. He blazed into the curve, passing the weaker runners as though they were standing still, and passing the strong ones, too. He went by Norm Monroe of Oregon State, who was to finish fourth; he went by Walter Johnson of North Carolina College, who had run 46.3 just a few weeks earlier, who was to finish third; then, at the top of the stretch, he caught Plummer—and inched ahead. But the effort had been too great; 20 yards from the finish Young began to wobble, and Plummer, driving desperately, caught him at the tape. A picture from the Bulova Phototimer was needed, to determine the winner.
Both Plummer and Young were timed in 46.2. Johnson and Monroe ran 46.4, Jimmy Wedderburn of NYU ran 46.8, and Jim Baker of Missouri ran 46.9 in sixth place. It was one of the most exciting quarter-mile races ever seen. "I just got beat," said Young. "He ran a better race, and I got beat. Maybe next Saturday...."
Next Saturday John Bork of Western Michigan will be 22 years old. Last Saturday he won the NCAA 880 in 1:48.3, which is one of the better times in the world this year. It is strange that Bork should win the 880 because he had never really considered that his race. "Two years ago," said the young man from Detroit, "I was a quarter-miler. Last year I figured my best chance would be in the 400-meter hurdles, but I never could get the rhythm somehow. This year I just started running the half mile."
He ran 1:49 two weeks before the collegiate meet and suddenly found himself a co-favorite along with Michigan's Lithuanian-born Ergas Leps. It was to be a tactical race, and everyone knew the tactics: Bork, a front runner, would go out with Drake's Charles Durant and try to hold on; Leps, a great finisher, would come from behind. Naturally. Except that Leps went out early and Bork found himself at the tail end of the parade, trapped and pocketed and going nowhere. In fury at his own clumsy race, Bork burst out of the pack on the backstretch of the second lap, pounded up even with Durant and Leps—and kept right on going. He led by five yards into the curve, he led by 10 yards coming out of the curve, by 15 yards in the straightaway, and by almost 20 yards at the tape.
Not all of the big performances or records were restricted to running events. Dallas Long of USC, the huge, blond lump of muscle who held the old collegiate shotput record of 61 feet 9 inches, broke that easily with a 63-foot, 3�-inch heave. His teammate, Luther Hayes, raised his own hop, step and jump record to 51 feet 2� inches. John Thomas cleared seven feet in the high jump, found himself tied with Southern Cal's Bob Avant, and jumped again, at 7 feet 2. He left the bar bouncing gently on the standards—but still up there—for another record. It was the first time in a collegiate meet that two men had gone seven feet.
It was also the first time in a college meet, or anywhere else, that eight pole vaulters did 15 feet. Three of them—George Davies of Oklahoma State, the new world-record holder at 15 feet 10� inches, Dick Gear of San Jose State and Jim Brewer of Southern Cal—then went to 15 feet 4 inches and a three-way tie for first.