Three and a half years ago Nick Rose was chopping coconut in the Cadbury chocolate factory outside Bristol, England. He would get up at 6:30 in the morning and run to work. During his 40-minute lunch break he would run four to five miles. After work he would run again. At 19 he was European junior cross-country champion, and he had bigger titles in mind.
Just before Christmas 1970, he got a telephone call from a man named Alan Launder, who explained that he was assistant track coach at Western Kentucky University. Launder was English, home for the holidays, and he had heard about Rose's cross-country success. He wanted to know if Rose would be interested in a four-year athletic scholarship at Western Kentucky.
"When you get offered one of those," says Rose now, "it shakes you. It's like a dream, too good to be true."
Rose had left school three years before Launder approached him, and at the time he had no intention of furthering his education. "I thought I'd had enough of school," he recalls, "and I wanted to make a bit of money. I turned the offer down at first. But then they put me on shift work at the factory, and I figured I'd give the scholarship a try."
Two weeks ago Rose finished second in the three-mile run at the NCAA championships in Austin. He was one of 11 foreign entrants in an initial field of 43 for the event. In the final, won by Paul Geis, a Texan who goes to Oregon, six of the first seven men who followed Geis across the line were foreign.
One of the American entrants was Brad Duffey, who holds the school record for three miles at the University of California. Duffey finished well back in his heat and failed to make the final.
"I could look at it selfishly," Duffey says, "and say that foreigners should be kept out of NCAA competition. It would help me. I'd have a lot less talented guys to run against. But it would keep them from coming to this country and benefiting from our institutions. If I'm allowed to compete, they should be, too."
And so they were, more than 70 of them at this year's championships. Garry Hill of Track & Field News estimates that between 200 and 300 foreign citizens are competing in track and field for U.S. colleges. In Austin foreign athletes made up 13% of the total entry. They won six individual events (hammer, discus, triple jump, 220, six-mile and decathlon) and accounted for more than 25% of the team points. At the NAIA championships in May (the NAIA is an association of smaller colleges with somewhat less stringent admission requirements than the NCAA), foreign athletes won nine of 21 individual events. The winning team, Eastern New Mexico, which has Olympians from Kenya, Ghana and the Fiji Islands, picked up 61 of its 67 points from overseas competitors.
A number of coaches at Austin were unhappy about all this. Mel Brodt, president of the U.S. Track and Field Coaches Association, said two-thirds of his organization's members want foreign athletes kept out of NCAA championships. "The American national championships ought to be for Americans," Brodt said. "At the last cross-country championships, half of the first 25 finishers were foreign. That means they become All-American. How can you be All-American if you're not even American?"
John Kipkemoi Ngeno of Kenya has been All-American in track and cross-country four times in his two years at Washington State University. At Austin, Ngeno won the six-mile in 90� heat and high humidity, and returned the next night to finish a creditable fourth in the three-mile, behind Geis, Rose and an Englishman named Ron Martin. Ngeno scored 14 of Washington State's 15 points. The other point was scored by his countryman John Kiplangat Ngeno, who was sixth in the 120-yard high hurdles. The two Ngenos are not related, though they come from the same district in western Kenya and went to the same high school. They enrolled at Washington State two years ago, after Kiplangat's brother, then a teacher of political science at the University of Puget Sound, told the WSU coach about them. The coach, John Chaplin, was skeptical, but he sent them a letter, and they came. "It was the easiest recruiting I've ever done," says Chaplin.