"We were trying to figure out how to keep the crowd excited," explained Assistant Meet Director Payton Jordan, the Stanford track coach, before the meet. Jordan need figure no longer. The crowd loved the race.
San Francisco also had plenty of what the winter must finally count on if it is to be thoroughly satisfying: the country's returning Olympic heroes. On hand were 15, but practically all were sadly out of shape. "I took four weeks off and gained 14 pounds," moaned 400-meter gold medalist Mike Larrabee before coming in second in the quarter mile.
"I've been on the banquet circuit," was 10,000-meter champion Billy Mills's cheerful complaint. "I've had hardly any chance to work out, and my weight went up five or six pounds." Mills wore a dark blazer with brass buttons to dinner on the eve of the meet. "You see," he pointed out to 18-year-old distance runner Gerry Lindgren. "I button the top two buttons now. It hides my pot."
The Kansas Indian was entered in the mile. "Actually my wife, Pat, entered me. She figured I had less chance of being lapped in the short race," he said. No one even had a chance to pass Mills, let alone lap him. He led from the start, held off a last-lap challenge by Britain's fast-closing Simpson and won by a stride in a slow 4:08.1.
Lindgren was also out of shape. The ankle he injured prior to finishing ninth in the 10,000 in Tokyo is still sore, that and the deep snow in his home town of Spokane have limited his usually prodigious workouts. But he does not enter Washington State until February 1 and therefore hopes to compete in several more meets before the NCAA ban cuts off his winter competition. Last week Lindgren was soundly beaten in the two-mile run by George Young, an Olympic steeplechaser whose competitive schedule is limited only by his teaching job in Casa Grande, Ariz. Young whipped around the last lap as if he were entered in the open 160, and won by 40 yards in 8:50.7, a very brisk early-season time.
Like Lindgren, husky Randy Matson, who won a silver medal in the shotput in Tokyo and first place in San Francisco with a good heave of 63 feet 4, can also compete in his specialty until February 1, at which time he resumes his interrupted sophomore year at Texas A&M. And, like Larrabee and Mills, Matson is wrestling a weight problem; but he has too little of it. In a post-Olympic lethargy he abandoned most of his weight-lifting program and slipped down 15 pounds to a svelte—and weak—240. Some of the Olympic athletes have retired, a few will be back in school and others will be a while getting into shape. If they take too long some very determined non-Olympians will cart home most of the silverware. Whoever wins, it will be business as usual this winter—only more so.