When it was all over, it was clear that something wonderful was happening to women's track and field in the U.S. Anyone not familiar with the sport had to be surprised by this sudden burst of achievement, but those special fans—nuts, they call themselves—who follow the game closely had seen it coming all along. Like, say, Calvin L. Brown, whose business card identifies him as a "track nut and announcer."
Brown flopped down on a couch in the reception room of the girls' dorm, breathed deeply of the perfumed air and observed: "This year for the first time our youth program is finally paying off. Most of the girls here are still in their teens. They are getting younger now, like they are in swimming. The girls are finding that there can be a certain air of glamour in all this. For one thing, running does great things for the legs. It makes them shapelier."
Whatever the magic was, it was working. Bill Peck, a track statistician, also feels that the trick is in starting them early. "If you get them running early," he said, "the girls can see that they are going to get a lot of attention, and they get to meet a lot of boys that way—not just one or two, like they might otherwise. And the boys get to see them."
Brooks Johnson, former sprinter turned coach, agreed. "At the nationals two years ago 300 entries was an unheard-of record. This year there were 500 girls. Quite frankly, a lot of these new girls are spin-offs from swimming, where the competition is a lot tougher."
"I don't think the track girls go through as much muscular activity as swimmers," said Coach Temple. "Look at the swimmers. Shoot, some of them look like weight lifters. Our girls are definitely more feminine." There it was: track can be beautiful.
"Being a girl and an athlete goes hand in hand," said Mamie Rallins, turning up in hip-hugging gold corduroy bell-bottom pants. High Jumper Estelle Baskerville, in crisp white cotton, summed it all up: "At school," she said, "we will occasionally meet a boy who will say, 'Oh, you're an athlete. Funny, you don't look like an athlete.' Well, what's an athlete supposed to look like?"
Don't worry. Now we know.