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Distance running has been recognized as a formidable sport ever since Pheidippides raced 22 miles to Athens after the battle of Marathon in 490 B.C., cried "Rejoice, we conquer," and then fell dead of exhaustion. But even Pheidippides might well have been appalled on the starting line for the 17th annual running last week in East Lansing, Mich, of the National Collegiate Athletic Association cross-country championship. It was held in a near-blizzard of snow flurries whipped by a 37-mph wind and the thermometer hung only 12� above zero.
Before a handful of chilled spectators on the Michigan State baseball diamond, a race official wrapped comfortably in overcoat, galoshes, mittens and stocking cap barked over the public address speaker: "Disrobe." Eighty-four young men, the top distance runners of 27 U.S. colleges, pulled off sweat suits and parkas, and lined up in goose-pimply readiness in running trunks and shirts—about four ounces of light cotton. Cracked Michigan State Coach Karl Schlademan: "Invigorating, isn't it?" To his runners he added superflously, "Hurry back." At the crack of the gun, the runners bounded forward and promptly disappeared in the storm.
Michigan State's Selwyn Jones took an early lead as the tightly bunched runners loped around the diamond and two adjoining fields. He held on to it doggedly along the banks of the frozen Red Cedar River, past the football stadium and a dormitory and into the university's sugar bush, where the course looped over a mile of ice-glazed trails. Just after two miles of the four-mile race, George King, a lithe and wispy veteran from New York University, forged into the lead, but jogging close behind, biding their time, were the two new stars of the 1955 cross-country season: stocky Henry Kennedy, a Scotland-born Michigan State sophomore who won the IC4A and Big Ten meets this fall, and Charles (Deacon) Jones, a sinewy Negro from Iowa, also a sophomore.
At the three-mile marker, his breath steaming in the frigid air, Kennedy moved into the lead, with the Deacon following him like a shadow. At three-and-a-half miles—reversing the sequence of just nine days earlier at the Big Ten meet in Chicago, when Kennedy defeated him with a homestretch burst—Jones pulled even, then slightly into the lead. In the tightest stretch drive in the meeting's history, the two runners sprinted the last 370 yards in a shoulder-to-shoulder deadlock. The winner, by two feet: Deacon Jones. Despite the weather, Jones's time for the four miles was a remarkable 19:57.4, just 29.1 seconds less than the course record.
The runners were herded into the locker room where trainers warned: "No hot showers. Keep it lukewarm until your ears and fingers have thawed." Frostbite cases got emergency treatment on the spot, but none was serious. Said Ray Menzie, a drawling representative of Mississippi State: "Cold? Mister, I never knew it could get so cold."
THE OLD KLUB TIE
While a lot of U.S. golfers are wondering whether or not this winter will prove sufficiently mild for them to get in at least a couple of rounds, none of the 600 Norwegians who belong to the Oslo Golf Club—or Klub, as they call it—has been giving the matter a second thought. This year, as usual, the first snow hit Oslo in late September, and unless a glacier or the Gulf Stream does something unforeseen, there will be snow on the course, sometimes as much as 10 feet of it, until May rolls around. Oddly enough, though, quite a few members of the Foreign—or American—Chapter of the Oslo course have been thinking of their klub in recent weeks. Specifically, they have been wondering whether the batch of fungicides they shipped across this autumn will do the job they hope it will in preventing a reoccurrence of winterkill, a grass-destroying fungus that develops handsomely when the sun's rays hit a sheet of ice and the ice acts like a magnifying glass in transmitting the heat to the moist, un-aerated grass beneath it. Even in the unusual world of golf, the American Chapter of the OGK is a rare outfit, and perhaps the best thing to do is to begin at the beginning of the story.
The Oslo Golf Klub, the only 18-hole course in Norway—there are nine-holers in Bergen and Trondheim—was founded in 1924. Laid out by Olaf Heyerdahl, a veteran local golfer, its holes climb up and down the shady side of a mountain in the Bogstad section of the city. Provided you are in pretty good shape, it is a very pleasant place to play. The club prospered uneventfully until World War II when the Germans invaded Norway. Seeing no tangible gain in employing a golf course as a golf course, the occupying forces melted down the maintenance machinery for scrap, built barracks on some of the land, and used the rest for growing potatoes. When Germany was defeated and a Norwegian could think about recreation again, the members of the OGK found themselves stymied. They had no course, no equipment, and very little chance of doing anything about it inasmuch as their government had clamped down on using kroner in foreign markets to purchase other than necessary goods.
Into the breach stepped one Karl Krogstad, New York representative for several Norwegian shipowners. Mr. Krogstad's plan (sanctioned by the Klub's governors) was that a number of golf-playing Americans who did business with Norway and were generally interested in that country be invited to become life members of the OGK; a membership would cost $250 and the money collected would be spent for materials to get the course in proper operation again.
Krogstad met with a quick response from his American friends. About 60 of them became life members and, coincidentally, formed the American Chapter. In 1946 the first bundles for Bogstad were shipped across the Atlantic by the Norwegian-America Line and the Fjell Line: tractors, jeeps, gang mowers, grass seed and fertilizers. In more recent years, with the course once again back on its feet, the American Chapter has limited its gifts to relatively minor items like fungicides, Milorganite, new bed knives for the mowers, and, occasionally, golf balls, still a scarce item in Europe.