"What are you going to do if 20,000 people decide to show up?" someone asked Vandenburg.
"Seat them, babes, what else?" he answered blithely. And then he went out and overpowered El Paso.
An hour before the meet began on Saturday, under a blazing sun and with only the promise of a sub-four-minute mile, a crowd of 15,486—14,437 through the turnstiles—showed up, about 5% of the town's population.
"Can you believe these beautiful people?" asked John Carlos, the powerful sprinter who is running as well as ever after a three-year layoff. "Come on, come on, let's run these races. I'm gonna do something for these people." For them Carlos ran a 9.3 100 into a 10.2 mph wind, and then a 20.4 220 into a 14.5 wind. "I wanted to give them a world record," he said, "but that wind was just too much."
Fred DeBernardi took the shot with a put of 70'3" and Steve Smith and Bob Seagren each vaulted 18'�". Both marks, along with Carlos' 20.4 in the 220, are world bests—pro or amateur—this year. "Now maybe people will stop asking me what pro track is," said hurdler-sprinter Paul Gibson. "They think it's a new sport. I keep telling them we are just track and field athletes who are getting paid."
Then after a brief appearance by the inevitable streaker, the mile went off with great expectations, which lasted just as long as it took Sam Bair to lead the pack through the first quarter in a dawdling 63 seconds.
"There won't be any sub-four today," said Tony Benson, the Australian who had just won the two-mile in a slow 9:01.8, which the public-address announcer called a tactical race. "It's the only kind I run," said Benson, laughing. "I'm not out there to play games. I was only out there to make money. People have been criticizing me for running just fast enough to win, but I haven't lost a two-mile or 3,000-meter race outdoors since 1967, and I thought that was the whole idea, to win."
After the first lap of the mile Bair faded and Chuck LaBenz went into the lead. The big four of Jim Ryun, Kip Keino, Dave Wottle and Jipcho laid back cautiously, waiting for someone to make a move. "If I don't fall asleep on the third lap, I'll win," Jipcho had said earlier. He stayed awake. He sprinted into the lead and took the field through a 59-second quarter.
"It's all over," said Benson. "The Kenyans kill the Americans the same way every time, with that fast third quarter. The Americans can run a 3:53, but the way they train it has to be a 60-60-60-53. It can't be a 60-60-53-60. It just kills them. It's the same time but an entirely different race."
During the third lap, Ryun, burdened by hay fever, pulled up. "I went as far as I could," said the disgusted world-record holder. "My lungs became so clogged I couldn't take another step."