Quadrennially the Jeremiahs of our society take a frightened look at the Olympics ahead and pronounce, "We're going to lose." The reasons why the United States is going to lose this time in track and field are the foreigners in our midst. They are all over the landscape receiving expert American training, and to hear some college coaches tell it, if we do not cut out this frivolous neighborliness soon we are going to feel as betrayed as the Trojans.
It is a mean view that denies the beauties of competition and the satisfactions of brotherhood—which sport is supposed to be all about—and as usual it is probably wrong. Never has the U.S. possessed so broad and deep a reservoir of track-and-field talent as it does today. As three good examples, take the qualifying standards for the 86th annual National AAU meet in Los Angeles on June 21-22. With three weeks to go, 60 sprinters had already run 9.4 in the 100-yard dash, the minimum requirement for the 100 meters (all AAU distances are in meters). It takes a 4:03 mile or better to get into the 1,500 meters; 51 Americans qualify. And if you cannot high-jump at least 6'11", you have no chance to compete against the 77 who have. Performances for other events match these. Even if pro track siphons off the best of these athletes, there will be plenty in reserve to assure the kind of runoff with medals in 1976 that this country so often has enjoyed in the past.
Sentiment is running high at Iowa State to name the new stadium for an ex-football player and not, as ordinarily happens, after the heftiest contributor. The player, Jack Trice, was no All-America. Except for one game—the only game he ever played for the Cyclones—he was not even a starter.
That was 50 years ago. In the noiseless footsteps of time since then, memory of Trice on the Ames campus had all but vanished. One day last year English teacher Alan Beals became curious about a plaque attached to the Old State gym. Under a coat of dust and bird droppings was a tribute to Trice. Beals assigned some students to find out why.
Jack Trice, they learned, was a sophomore in 1923. He was married, majored in animal husbandry with a 90 average and played football. He also was black. Because of that, he was kept out of the first two games of the season, but the team and coaches rallied behind him and he started against Minnesota at Minneapolis.
Ahead 14-10 in the third quarter, Minnesota ran a cross buck and the Iowa State defensive line crumbled. Trice rushed in to close the gap. He stopped the play but fell on his back, and three charging Minnesota players ran over him. As he was carried from the field Minnesota fans rose and chanted, "We're sorry, Ames, we're sorry."
Trice returned to Ames lying on a bed of straw in a Pullman railroad car. He was taken immediately to the college hospital, but two days later he died of hemorrhaging lungs and internal bleeding.
The day Trice was buried friends found in his jacket pocket a note that he had written to himself in a Minneapolis hotel room on the eve of the game. Headed "My thoughts just before the first real college game of my life," it read: "The honor of my race, family and self is at stake. Everyone is expecting me to do big things. I will. My whole body and soul are to be thrown recklessly about the field. Every time the ball is snapped, I will be trying to do more than my part."