In its final makeup, the U.S. Olympic track and field team is a curious patchwork. It has men the breadth of Discus Thrower Al Oerter, who weighs 270 pounds and looks as if he could stop the 5:18 express with a stiff-arm, and man-children like 120-pound Gerry Lindgren and 130-pound Tom O'Hara, who if they were not competing as qualified distance runners probably could make a strong case for half price at the ticket window. It is a team of soldiers, students, teachers, marines, engineers, bankers, mechanics, loners, extroverts, hypochondriacs and gastritis sufferers. It is made up of large, earthy veterans like Parry O'Brien, 32, who has won medals in Rome, Melbourne and Helsinki, and pink-eared rookies like 17-year-old Jim Ryun, who just recently discovered that if he runs 1,500 meters fast enough he can lam right out of Kansas on the weekend.
It is a patchwork of styles. Bob Hayes runs 100 meters like a man trying to punch an invisible opponent, Distance Runner Bob Schul and Sprinter Henry Carr are the perfect runners one illustrates how-to textbooks with. And it represents a variety of training habits. Rex Cawley runs the 400-meter hurdles faster than any other man in the world but just now found out about it, because he never self-trained more than 300 yards at a clip, and if he even gets near a hurdle more than once every two weeks he feels overworked. For this he has been accused of being singularly lazy by his friend Mike Larrabee, but Larrabee has since adapted Cawley's low-key approach to his 400-meter run with astonishing results. Gerry Lindgren, on the other hand, ran 210 miles a week, a total of 1,680 miles in the eight weeks preceding the final trials.
For these three, anyway, their systems are precisely O.K. They and others not much like them became the 1964 U.S. Olympic track and field team last weekend, our representatives to Tokyo in October. Trials that began in red-hot New York in July and cut the field to little more than a hundred were completed in cooled-off Los Angeles, where the two-day finals drew only 37,536 to the Coliseum. They were almost anticlimactic, though they should not have been, and they fell short of being entirely satisfying entertainment. Assured the Tokyo trip, not all those who had won in New York were eager to put out. The meet consequently lacked general excellence. The self-assured Schul, for example, cooked up a dead heat with Bill Dellinger as the two sped down the straightaway ahead of the pack at the finish of the 5,000 meters.
But there was also the quadrennial display of emotions by exhilarated men who had wondered if they could make the team and did and by heartbroken men who had figured to and did not. Probably the most heartsick of all was Jim Grelle, the old campaigner and former Olympian, who has done as much as any runner to raise American standards in the distances. Reaching desperately for the finish in the 1,500 meters, easily the most exciting event of the meet, he apparently had salvaged third, when on his outside came 17-year-old Jim Ryun, his head rolling as if ready to topple off onto the track. But it was Grelle who toppled. Abruptly aware of the danger, he lunged at the finish and sprawled headlong—a futile fall, for Ryun had edged him out.
When all the sadness and joy had been taken care of, a coach with half an eye for track could look on it and say that it was a good team, so good that the rejects and left-outs would have made almost any of the other 92 teams that will be in Tokyo. This is the best collection of track men the U.S. has ever brought together—which should not be news either, because it figured to be.
There were few surprises in the final trial, except that Ralph Boston did not land on Laguna Beach on one of his soaring long jumps. The 1960 gold medal winner landed instead 27 feet 10� inches from point of departure on one jump, or seven inches better than the world record of archrival Igor TerOvanesyan of Russia. Because of the wind at his back—"I saw that little fan twirling in the wind gauge and knew it was going too fast," said Boston—no record could be claimed, but Boston, who twice before had lost record leaps because of wind, got one anyway in Los Angeles. With that fan twirling just a bit slower, he did 27 feet 4� inches, one inch farther than Ter.
Larrabee, who is 30, and teaches algebra (and should be home in bed right now watching over the ruptured pancreas a playful judo wrestler rendered him), tied the world record for 400 meters. "Dying" halfway through the race, Larrabee suddenly found life and said he felt as though he were floating as he first passed Ollan Cassell, then caught Ulis Williams on the last turn and held him off to win in 44.9 seconds. Larrabee's wife, Margaret, laughed and cried and said she was so happy because Mike's mother promised she would take them both to Japan if Mike won.
Cawley, 24, made the last impressive contribution to the meet when he won the 400-meter hurdles in 49.1 seconds, beating Glenn Davis' old world record. Afterward he said he had a "very definite feeling" that he could pare it down to 48.5 if he could continue working hard at not working too hard.
Not all favorites won
Surprises otherwise were more or less limited to Willie Davenport, who beat—and therefore qualified with—Hayes Jones and Blaine Lindgren in a rather slow 110-meter high hurdle; Jay Silvester, who beat Al Oerter in the discus (both under 200 feet); and Paul Drayton and Dick Stebbins, who outstripped Hayes and Carr in the 200 meters.