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Now, if O'Hara really tries...
Tom C. Brody
March 16, 1964
In Chicago last week Tom O'Hara ran the fastest indoor mile in history but, once he realizes how good he is, he will go faster
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March 16, 1964

Now, If O'hara Really Tries...

In Chicago last week Tom O'Hara ran the fastest indoor mile in history but, once he realizes how good he is, he will go faster

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At exactly five minutes to post time, Weiland finally told O'Hara of the night's strategy, indicating offhandedly that an all-out assault on the world indoor record would be sort of nice. O'Hara blinked his long red lashes, pranced a few steps in place, then jogged away to contemplate the new strategy.

Weiland's casual brainwashing more than worked. O'Hara actually jumped the gun and had to be called back. "I wanted to make sure I got out like Jerry told me," he said later. At the gun he executed Weiland's plan perfectly, taking a quick lead. Irons, as expected, overtook O'Hara in the backstretch. Grelle positioned himself in his customary spot near the end of the string. The first quarter came and passed with Irons bringing the field past in 58.1—exactly right—and O'Hara a stride behind.

Just short of the half-mile mark, where Irons began to feel the pace, O'Hara was having the time of his life, running with light, quick strides, his long red hair, which was bright pink under the lights, bobbing happily atop his head. A lap beyond the half-mile mark the public address announcer gave the time: 1:58.8. This was just the sort of news the big crowd wanted to hear, and they began to abandon their seats and their senses. Almost before the announcer's voice had died, O'Hara saw Irons falter. He quickly raced by the Canadian on the inside. "He has to do it all by himself now," Weiland shouted.

And then Grelle made his move, realizing that if he didn't do it then, O'Hara would be out of sight later. "I felt surprisingly strong," Grelle said, "and for an instant I thought I could catch the redhead." But the redhead was running just as strongly and seemed to be capable of going much faster. He flew through the three-quarter mark in 2:59.8, right on schedule, and immediately went into his long kick to the finish. It left Grelle five yards behind. Still, it was not an all-out effort—"I knew Grelle was right behind me," he said. "I was afraid of him. He has that kick, too, and I wanted something left for the last 160 yards." Weiland, unheard in the crowd that was screaming at the top of its lungs, was saying: "He's got to go faster, faster, faster. He'll never make it." With the gun for the final lap, O'Hara bolted. So swift was his final surge that he lapped Bill Dotson, the fifth man in the race. Rounding the last curve, he leaned far out over the infield and sprinted past the finish line. "I felt strong," O'Hara yelled at his coach to make himself heard above the crowd, "real strong. I could have burned those last three laps." And then, softly: "I wish I had."

If O'Hara was wistful, it was also plain that he was maturing rapidly. His Chicago lesson behind him, there now remains the great outdoors and Peter Snell to conquer. "Snell's record is definitely within reach," O'Hara said quietly after the race and, while such talk smacks of brashness, O'Hara is not a brash man. If he says Snell's record can be had, look out. O'Hara will very likely have it.

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