"You mean you expect to go higher soon?" he was asked.
"When you look up at the bar 17'8" doesn't look any different from 17'4". There's no barrier. There's no limit."
Seagren celebrated until 4:30 Friday morning in New York, slept most of Friday and Saturday, and arrived at Boston Garden on Saturday night in a disgruntled mood. "First, I read in one of the papers that I've promised them a 17-footer tonight. I never said that. I don't want everybody to think that I'm a cocky kid who's going to go around to every meet telling people what he can do." Seagren was even more annoyed by the cab drivers of Boston, who persistently refused to take him and his poles to the Garden. "I've fit them in many cars," he said after he finally reached the arena, "but they wouldn't even let me show them how. So I was delayed getting here and naturally I'm in a bad mood. I don't usually perform very well when I feel this way."
He did well enough, clearing 17'�" on his first try at that height with the same kind of efficiency he had shown in New York. All his opponents failed to clear 16 feet, so once again he ended the evening as an isolated figure. While relay teams scurry about and middle-distance men battle for position with elbows flying, Seagren is off by himself, working at his specialized, technical craft. Some track nuts find fascination in the cool, scientific aspect of it all, but many people tend to watch Seagren with distant admiration, then turn eagerly back to some school relays, where kids still compete with other kids.
"That's the wrong attitude," said Steve Schoonover. "Vaulting involves thinking and emotion as much as technical equipment and skill. You can always add four inches just on guts." Schoonover, who goes to Harvard, was unplaced behind Seagren in Boston. His best vault ever is 15'8", unimpressive by today's standards but nonetheless as high as Cornelius Warmerdam ever went. In June he will graduate, after completing a full premed course in three years; in October, when Seagren goes to the Olympics, Schoonover will be at Harvard Medical School. This is too bad in a way, because Schoonover would be nice to have around whenever Seagren vaults. Seagren does it best, but Schoonover probably explains it best. He may be track's greatest contribution to philosophy—and his philosophy is just crazy enough to fit the indoor track scene.
"Seagren will do 18 feet before the end of the summer," he predicted. "And I will do 17—eventually."
"Why?" he was asked. "Because poles are getting better, or training methods have improved?"
"No, it's not that. Let me explain," he said. "You've heard of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi? You know how he's helped the Beatles and so many others accomplish things? Well, he's got the secret of pole vaulting—transcendental meditation. He convinces people that they can do anything if they really think about it and tell themselves they can. He's had guys pick up scalding hot stoves in India with their bare hands and not feel a thing. If they can do that, we can sure improve by four inches at a time by meditation."
Seagren, no deep thinker, did explain his big weekend in terms of his mental attitude. "Your frame of mind can be the difference between a record and a mediocre night. In the two meets before the Millrose Games I just couldn't get off the ground. I was practicing the same, and doing the same things. But I felt flat. Then the Millrose Games, with the big crowd and the excitement, gave me a big mental lift. That's what indoor track can do for you."