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At a few minutes past 4 o'clock last Saturday afternoon a young man from Asbury Park, N.J. ran 100 yards faster than anyone had ever run it before. With the noise of traffic on the Tri-borough Bridge threatening to dissolve his eardrums, and the indelicate stench of the East River, at low tide, wafting in gently from the rear to hurry him on his way, Francis Joseph Budd raced down the black cinder straightaway of Downing Stadium on Randalls Island in New York City in 9.2 seconds to bury the oldest of world records.
The occasion was the 73rd edition of America's largest and often most confusing track meet, the annual national championships of the AAU. The place was alive with more than 500 of the best athletes that the U.S. could produce. To such a gathering the revision of records is all part of the day's work, like getting sunburned or trying to remember where you left your sweat pants. But no one—ordinarily—goes around revising records in the 100-yard dash. Thirty years ago it was 9.4 seconds. In 1948 Mel Pat-ton lowered it to 9.3. In the next 13 years 12 runners equaled Patton's time. No one, however, improved it without a hurricane at his back. Not until Budd.
Hardly anyone would pick Frank Budd to run 100 yards so fast. A mysterious childhood disease left his right calf noticeably smaller than its mate. Budd's coach at Villanova, Jumbo Jim Elliott, and various doctors who have examined him believe the cause to have been polio; Frank and his mother say no. Patton himself always said that the first man to run 9.2 would be tall and strong and quick, a young giant with the reflexes of a cat. Budd is completely middle-size—5 feet 10 inches, 172 pounds—and he never seems to be in a hurry until he runs. He lacks the effortless grace of a Patton or a Bobby Morrow. He does not have the catapult start of Jim Golliday or Ira Murchison. He has none of the incredible finishing power of Ralph Metcalfe or Dave Sime He just hustles along.
But Frank Budd has no weaknesses, either. His start, if unspectacular, is still very good; he is never caught languishing in the blocks. Since curing an old habit of straightening up toward the end of a race, his finish has improved. And his acceleration in that vital pickup area 10, 20 yards down the track, where big races are often won, is as good as that of anyone. At the age of 21, he is a sensible, well-balanced young man who prefers to let others worry about the races he is going to run.
One reason others were worrying last Saturday was that Budd, after running fifth in the Olympic 100 meters at Rome, had won 21 straight races, indoors and out. Twice this season he ran 9.3, tying the old record, and he accomplished the feat on the notoriously slow eastern tracks where no one had run such times before. Jumbo Elliott was among those who felt that on the right day, with the right competition, there was no reason why Budd could not run 9.2.
Budd ran three races on Saturday. He ran 9.4 in his qualifying heat and 9.4 in his semifinal, breezing. Then he crouched in his blocks for the finals. The fact that he had drawn the spike-chopped inside lane did not worry him, nor did the fact that two of his opponents—Murchison and Cook—had once run 9.3s themselves. He looked up the track at the finish line, 100 yards away, and waited for the starting gun.
At 10 yards Budd was clearly in the lead. "It was a very good start," he said later. At 40 yards he was almost a stride ahead. At 70 yards James moved up on his shoulder. James's real name is Salawatha Nejawachacomondidite and he is half Chiricahua Apache. He is a very intelligent fellow, educated at UCLA and Cal Tech and on his way to studying medicine at the University of Geneva, and he is also Frank Budd's friend but, like anyone with an Apache at his heels, Budd fled. He crossed the finish line a good yard ahead. Drayton, his Villanova teammate who always comes charging at the end—and who beat a very tired Budd the next day in the 220—passed James to finish second.
One of the three first-place stop watches caught Budd in 9.4, but this was patently in error; the other two watches read 9.2, sufficient to certify the faster time as correct, and the three watches on second place all stopped at 9.3. The wind gauge registered .5 meter per second, or just over one mile an hour, quite a bit under the International Amateur Athletic Federation's maximum allowance for a following wind of about 4� miles an hour. And the track itself later measured 100 yards 1 lA inches. Everything checked out. Frank Budd had run history's first official 9.2.
It was well that the 100 produced fireworks since the mile, which was supposed to be fabulous, turned out to be a dud. The only person who was happy about the result was Dyrol Burleson. He won and he beat Jim Beatty for the first time in four attempts.
Burleson and Beatty are America's two fastest milers. Burleson, a slender, blond 21-year-old from the University of Oregon, set an American record of 3:57.6 last May. Beatty, a small, dark, 26-year-old who once ran for North Carolina and now runs for the famed Hungarian expatriate, Mihaly Igloi, at Santa Clara Youth Center, has done 3:58.