But if there is an "if" in the mile picture, there is none in the indoor middle distances: those races at 500, 600, 880 and 1,000 yards. Two superb young Pennsylvania collegians are the favorites here: Arnie Sowell of Pittsburgh at 880 and 1,000, and Charley Jenkins of Villanova at the 600- and 500-yard distances.
The fact that these two have quite casually been cast as the men to beat is an impressive compliment, because the competition they have to face is probably the strongest in the history of indoor track. Jenkins, for instance, will have to face Lou Jones, who set a world record in the 400-meter run at the Pan-American Games last March, and who is working his way back into top form. Jim Lea, the casual Califor-nian who fought Jones to the tape in that race, may turn up at the eastern meets, and so might J. W. Mashburn, the powerful quarter-miler from Oklahoma A&M. Dick Maiocco, Joe Gaffney and Reggie Pearman, all shrewd and knowing board-track competitors are also in the running for invitations to the big races. It should be noted that such invitations are hard to come by, since meet promoters hate to start more than four men on the narrow indoor tracks in the lightning-fast 500-and 600-yard races.
Sowell's competition in the slightly longer races is equally impressive. It includes powerful Tom Courtney, whose 1:46.8 for 800 meters in Europe last summer was the fastest 800-meters run in 16 years. Ron Delany has beaten both Courtney and Sowell and has proved to be very much at home on the board track. Joe Deady, the stylist who anchored the great Georgetown two-mile relay team back in 1950 and 1951, came out of obscurity last Saturday to set an indoor world record in the three-quarter mile run and serve notice that he, too, would have a good deal to say about the indoor season. Lon Spurrier, the world half-mile record holder, may be able to make the eastern meets and so may Lang Stanley, who came within an ace of beating Mal Whitfield in the Compton Invitational half-mile last spring.
WHEN TO ACCELERATE
And, of course, in all the middle distances there is Whitfield, two-time Olympic 800-meter champion, who three years ago finally solved the puzzle of running indoors ("You should accelerate going into the turns instead of decelerating," he claimed) and with his silky-smooth stride operating perfectly won 13 straight races, among them three in indoor world-record time. He has his eye on an unprecedented third straight Olympic title and has no intention of letting Sowell, Jenkins or anyone else keep him from his goal.
For the rest, look as always to Horace Ashenfelter in the distance races and to Bob Richards in the pole vault, though brawny young Don Bragg, who has cleared 15 feet, is a threat to break all vaulting records if he can ever bring his enormous strength under the control of an efficient style.
Look to the nonpareil Harrison Dillard in the hurdles, despite challenges from such as big Jack Davis, who seems hampered by the short distances (45 to 70 yards) indoors. Dillard will be seeking his ninth indoor AAU title in 10 years, his 10th straight Millrose win and his 11th straight Cleveland K of C victory, a record of consistency without parallel in the precarious field of hurdling, where almost anything can happen to cause defeat: a bad start, a bump from another runner, a false step or one knocked-over hurdle.
THE LITTLE SPRINTS
The indoor dashes are, for the most part, strange, abbreviated things of 45, 50 or 60 yards that seem to end almost as soon as they begin, but the sprinters who enter them are the best in the world. This year's exceptional field includes Olympic Champions Andy Stanfield and Lindy Remigino, Pan-American Champion Rod Richard, AAU Champion John Haines and Olympian Jim Gathers.
High jumping, conversely, does not appear to have any particularly outstanding competitors, unless Ernie Shelton decides to leave California for a tour of the indoor circuit. Shotputter Parry O'Brien will put in an appearance in a few of the meets.