The weather was warm but the wind was blowing last Saturday night in Modesto, and Dave Patrick (see cover), anchor man on Villanova's two-mile relay team, was pessimistic about breaking the world record of 7:16 set by the Soviet Union. "I know we can run a world record," Patrick said, "but everything has to be just right." Despite the wind, Villanova came close. Charlie Messenger started for the Wildcats and, after trailing in the first lap, passed the baton to Ian Hamilton with a five-yard lead. Hamilton gave Frank Murphy a 10-yard lead, and Patrick got a 20-yard head start on Tom Von Ruden, anchor for the strong Army team from Fort MacArthur. Patrick just about disappeared into the night on Von Ruden, winning by 50 yards. The time was 7:17.7, better than Villanova had ever run the distance before and the third best two-mile relay ever run. "I didn't think we were going that fast," Patrick said. "It's very hard to run a race like that after you have traveled across the country."
For Dave Patrick, a lot more traveling may be in order this Olympic year. One of several excellent middle-distance runners bunched behind Jim Ryun, Patrick is a possible competitor for the gold medal in the 1,500 meters, the so-called metric mile, this October in Mexico City. And while Patrick, or anyone, for that matter, is a long shot at the moment, anything can happen in the next five months.
This became dramatically evident last week when it was disclosed that Ryun had come down with mononucleosis. Ryun's physician ordered him to drop all training and prescribed a complete two-week rest. But he cautioned: "Mononucleosis is one of those things you are never certain about. You must wait and see. And hope." Ian Hamilton, Patrick's teammate, was even more pessimistic. He said, "I had it last year and I couldn't get rid of it. If you start to run again too soon, it takes longer to get over it. I couldn't do better than two minutes for the half mile."
At best, Ryun will come into the Olympic trials subpar. At worst, he will not be ready for the Olympics. In either case, it presents both opportunity and responsibility for Patrick, because of all the runners chasing Ryun—sick or well—he is the only man in the world to have beaten him in a serious race since August of 1965.
They have met three times. A year ago last winter Patrick beat Ryun in the half mile in Detroit, setting the world indoor record of 1:48.9. ( Ryun had run the mile earlier in the evening.) This February, in Madison Square Garden. Ryun whipped Patrick in the mile. ( Patrick was hindered by a hairline fracture in his right foot.) A few weeks ago in Fresno, Patrick anchored Villanova to victory over Kansas and Ryun in the two-mile relay. ( Ryun made up 15 yards on Patrick, but the latter, who had been handed a 50-yard lead, was not pressed into going all out.)
Now 21—he will be 22 this August 14—Patrick was born in Baltimore and raised in Essex, a suburb. Because of his name and because he runs for Villanova. a Catholic college, Patrick is usually assumed to be an Irish Catholic. In actuality, he is a Protestant of English descent. His father is from North Carolina, and for the past 37 years has worked in a Bethlehem steel mill in Baltimore, where he is now a foreman.
As a youngster Patrick played baseball, football and basketball. When he was 15 and a sophomore at Kenwood High School he began running cross-country and then the mile upon the urging of his older brother. Leonard, then a half-miler at the University of Maryland. "My brother always told me that half-milers are a dime a dozen, but good milers are hard to find." Patrick says. In his senior year Patrick stepped on a horseshoe peg and rammed it into his left leg. The wound required 12 stitches and then became infected. "I didn't think I would run again," he says. "When I got over it, I favored the leg and then threw my hip out three times."
Three colleges, Maryland, Tennessee and Villanova, were after Patrick, and although he at first found the idea of a Catholic school somewhat strange, he selected Villanova because it was only 90 miles from home and, more importantly, because Jumbo Jim Elliott, the track coach, is "miles ahead of any other coach."
Villanova is run by the Augustinians, of whom the most famous or notorious, depending upon one's point of view, is Martin Luther. "Luther," says Jim Murray, the puckish sports publicity director, "dropped out to start the AFL. Now, after 400 years, we're working on a merger." Elliott, who is fast to agree with Patrick or anyone else that he is miles ahead of any other coach, is a peppery, voluble Irish-American. "Any damn boat I'm in is always rocking!" he exclaims, bursting into a loud laugh. Under his stern but beneficent hand, Villanova has compiled an impressive record in track; indeed, the college does not have room to display all the trophies the team has won. "Terrible!" complains Elliott. "Print that! I'm taken for granted!" Despite such talk, Elliott would never leave his alma mater, and he watches over his boys like a shrewd monsignor. He has a high regard for Patrick. "As good as Dave is as a runner," Elliott says, "he's going to be even more of a success in his life."
Unfortunately, Patrick's running career has, until recently, been hampered by injuries or illness. First he hurt a tendon in his ankle, then his tonsils became infected and then last winter he suffered the fracture in his foot. In between ailments he has shown flashes of genuine brilliance, such as his record half mile against Ryun. This year, his senior year, he was appointed captain of the track team. When Negro members talked of boycotting the important New York Athletic Club indoor meet, Elliott let Patrick and the team members decide what course to take. The team voted 16-0 by secret ballot not to go. "I know because I counted the votes," Patrick says. "There were two reasons. We thought the New York AC was doing itself an injustice by not letting Negroes in the organization. We also thought that we have such a great team feeling that we didn't want to take a chance and try to split any views. We function as a team, and we should go or not go as a team. We decided not to go. Although some athletes may excel more than others, the team feeling is what we strive for."