At the end of the current indoor track season George Young says he will hang up his spikes and call it a career at the age of 31. This news will be greeted warmly by distance runners everywhere, but it does not necessarily mean that the world has seen the last of little George, his stubby legs and his bleeding ulcer. Retirement is, after all, a fairly relative thing, and what George means is that he is going to channel his energy into other endeavors, such as going back to school to get his doctorate in education or perhaps setting a new world's record for running across the Grand Canyon.
"Yes, they have a time record for the Canyon," says Young, who hails from Casa Grande, Ariz., "and it's not too good. About three hours for 18 miles. I think I could run it in two. Just for kicks I'd like to try it. It would be something to do, a lot of fun, and yet it wouldn't be too competitive."
Last Friday night in the Los Angeles Invitational Track Meet, Young had a more conventional route and distance to run—22 times around a Tartan track, or two miles. Yet, such is his dominance of this race indoors that he didn't have too much competition here, either. With one splendid burst of speed early in the last lap, he swept past Ron Clarke to take the lead, then held off a belated challenge by John Lawson to win his 11th straight indoor race in a commendable 8:42.2. "I was rather shocked, really, to see him blow past me like that," said Clarke, who holds four world records. "I didn't think he was that close. That's the way to win, though—move quickly and kick hard."
As impressive as Young's victory was, the color TV set awarded the premier athlete of the meet went to Australia's bright, young Ralph Doubell, the Olympic 800-meter champion, whose time of 2:07 for 1,000 yards was only a second off Peter Snell's world record. Along with his prize Doubell also got a kiss from Meredith MacRae, the daughter of Gordon MacRae and one of the stars of Petticoat Junction, whose clinging orange minidress drew more attention than the majority of the events. It was a measure of the meet when Clarke said, only half jokingly, "That kiss was the most exciting thing that happened all night."
Indeed, what didn't happen was possibly more momentous than what did. For one, the NCAA refused to sanction the meet. This meant that top college stars like Jim Ryun, Dick Fosbury and Bob Seagren could have competed only at the risk, if not with the certainty, of losing whatever eligibility they have remaining, and `were therefore conspicuously absent. "We didn't feel the meet management was proper," explained Chuck Neinas, the NCAA's assistant executive director. "We have information to indicate that it does not meet our standards in regard to prizes and extra inducements."
The awards at most meets sanctioned by the NCAA consist of trophies, plaques and/or watches. At Los Angeles, besides the TV won by Doubell, the awards were portable typewriters for first place, clock-radios for second and attach� cases for third. The athletes, of course, opposed the NCAA stand almost to a man. "Man, you keep getting those watches," said John Carlos, "and what are you supposed to do with them all?" Although Carlos is enrolled at San Jose State, he was not affected by the rule because he is not competing for the school's track team. But two Olympians, Seagren of USC and Lee Evans, also of San Jose, withdrew and, downcast, watched from the stands. "I think it's kind of pathetic when a fellow can't compete in his own town," said Seagren. "But what can I do? My hands are tied. If I go ahead and vault, I'll be ineligible. The only guy who loses anything is me." So handsome Bob had to be content with driving all the women mad and watching a Japanese named Kiyoshi Niwa, who finished 11th at Mexico City, win the pole vault by clearing 16 feet.
In addition, there were an unusual number of athletes who were willing but, for a variety of circumstances, unable to compete. Early in the week Dave Patrick had to cancel out of the mile because of a torn back muscle. The afternoon of the meet, Sprinter Charlie Greene telephoned to say he was snowbound in Omaha. And, as the meet was under way, Long Jumper Bob Beamon, whose astonishing leap of 29'2�" in Mexico City earned him the warmest greeting of the night, pulled a thigh muscle and was forced to withdraw.
Even the Olympians who did show were not up to snuff. Willie Davenport won the 60-yard hurdles in seven seconds flat and, disgruntled, muttered: "I should have done 6.8 or 6.9 easy." In the same race Dave Hemery, who won a gold medal for Great Britain in the 400-meter hurdles, finished a dismal fourth due mainly, he said, to a pulled muscle. Barbara Ferrell, Geoff Vanderstock, John Pennel, Bob Day, Tom Farrell and Ralph Boston also took their lumps. "Everybody let down after the Olympics," explained Hemery, "and now we're just starting to get ourselves back in shape."
One Olympian still very much in shape both physically and verbally was Carlos. Here he came, several hours before the meet, into the hospitality room of the Sheraton-West Hotel, snapping his fingers, bopping, stuffed into a black jacket and tight Levi's. "Somebody better get on it," he said, jabbing a finger at an official, "because I paid my own money to get down here." That night, Carlos warmed up in a faded Malcolm X sweat shirt, then rather melodramatically peeled that off to reveal an all-black uniform: shirt, trunks and socks—even his watchband. He decided on this stunning ensemble, he said, because two weeks ago a writer had noted that he had worn white socks while running the 60-yard dash in a world-record-tying 5.9 at Washington, D.C.
"I didn't want people to think I couldn't run a 5.9 without white socks," Carlos said, "so it's going to be all black from now on."