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The long and the Shorter of it
Gwilym S. Brown
December 06, 1971
That's Frank Shorter (right), who won the national championship
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December 06, 1971

The Long And The Shorter Of It

That's Frank Shorter (right), who won the national championship

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"I saw this corridor open up just in front and I thought it best to take advantage," Moore said later. "That was what started me off. I shot up with the leaders much too soon and when I heard a mile time of 4:20 I was appalled at how fast we'd been going. Losing was my own damned fault. I disintegrated in the last three miles and finished up full of lactic acid, feeling bilious and horrible, hitting and kicking myself for running such a stupid race while Frank was being so smart."

Shorter's smart move was to bide his time and go through the first, fast mile a comfortable seven seconds back of Moore and the other early leaders.

"As usual everyone went out like crazy," Shorter said. "I was in about 100th place after 200 yards, but then everyone proved to be very nice. As I moved up through the crowd I'd say, 'Excuse me, can I get by?' and everyone would move over. In Europe they'd probably have knocked me down and kicked me in the teeth. By the end of the first mile I'd worked my way up to about 15th and from there on I settled into my steady race pace, pushing myself just as hard as I thought would keep me going to the finish."

A disappointing no-show, especially to Shorter, was Oregon's bumptious Steve Prefontaine, who had successfully defended his NCAA title in Knoxville earlier in the week and said he felt too sore to run at San Diego. "Most of us are now friendly and relaxed with each other," said Shorter, "but not Prefontaine. He's a throwback to the old school who thought they had to be cocky and combative. I could have really gotten psyched up trying to beat him."

A dismayed midrace dropout was Jim Ryun, although 10,000-meter cross-country races are not exactly his forte. Ryun has left the pollen-clogged air of Eugene, Ore. where he was subjected to seizures of asthma and hay fever, and has settled in Santa Barbara, where he works as an industrial photographer for Raytheon. Ryun was distressed by the news that his infant daughter had sprung a 105� fever that morning. Plagued as well by an upset stomach, he left the course after 2� miles.

"Up until now it's been a great fall for me," he said, shuffling off through the dust to find a digestively soothing Coke, "but I guess I'll have to get in a good six-miler some other time."

Shorter finished in 29:19, easing up. Four of his clubmates came in not long after to give Florida the team title as well. Shorter's time was one of the fastest ever run in the national championships, possibly a harbinger of good times to come in Japan, Brazil, even Munich, so Moore was not overly despondent. "Sixth place wasn't bad under the circumstances," he said philosophically. "If I could be so stupid and still finish so well it at least shows I'm in good physical shape."

And second place wasn't bad for Stageberg. He won the trip to Sao Paulo. As defending champion in that race, too, Shorter already had an invite.

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