Dave Roberts, the world-record holder in the pole vault, catapulted 18'1" and another world-record holder, Dwight Stones, high-jumped 7'1" to win their specialties at the Texas Relays last weekend. These were fine efforts so early in the outdoor season, but they were not what these relays are all about. You had to look deeper into the ruck of the 1,500-odd athletes of both sexes and all shapes, sizes and ages to find out what makes a track meet a happening, not just an event.
Chip Guesman is a stocky, mustachioed freshman at the University of Texas, who hails from Hereford, Texas, where he was something less than a mediocre pole vaulter (13'6"). But if any athlete at this meet, including Roberts and Stones, was happier than Guesman, he concealed it well.
Guesman ran the third leg in the intramural 440-yard relay, limited to students attending Texas. When he finished his leg and passed the baton to anchorman Lee Line, he gave Line a solid 10-yard lead. After he had completed the handoff, Guesman jumped high in the air, shaking his fists and yelling. He did not bother to watch Line go on to win but sprinted across the infield of Texas Memorial Stadium to receive a congratulatory kiss from his girl friend in the stands, then hurried back to embrace his three teammates. Guesman, of course, runs for fun. And, at his modest level, running is fun.
"We call ourselves the OTIS track club," he said. "We were riding in an elevator in the dorm when we decided to run in the intramurals, so we picked Otis for the name, then figured out what it means. What it means is Organized Terrors of Intramural Sports."
His colleagues on the OTIS 440-yard relay team, freshman all, are Andy Wingert, a 50-second quarter miler, Bucky Payne, a not-very-good hurdler, and Line, a not-very-good sprinter. Line, tall and slender with an ineradicable smile, said, "Now we're going to run in the intramural meet for all the conference schools. And I figure, with a little more work, we'll win. Our handoffs were a bit ragged today."
"But we won," said Guesman, "we won!"
He looked toward the end of the track, where Roberts was preparing to make his first pole vault attempt at 17 feet.
"Excuse me, sir," he said. "I got to watch this dude."
He and his friends sat in the infield, watching, as Roberts vaulted faultlessly until he tried to break his world record of 18'6�", set only a week before at the Florida Relays. He failed three times at 18'8". Guesman, the 13'6" high school vaulter, shook his head in admiration. "How about that?" he said. "He must have been six inches over the bar at 18'1", huh? I wonder how it feels to be that good."
Margaret Ellison, who coaches the Texas Track Club of Abilene, figures that being that good does not really matter. She brought nine girls to the Texas Relays, none of whom did anything spectacular, but all of whom had fun.