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Roy Terrell
July 09, 1956
That boy next door who ran or jumped so well may have been one of the 250-odd who fought for supreme athletic honor. Through the white heat of competition in Los Angeles, these 53 made the U.S. team
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July 09, 1956

Olympians Are Your Neighbors

That boy next door who ran or jumped so well may have been one of the 250-odd who fought for supreme athletic honor. Through the white heat of competition in Los Angeles, these 53 made the U.S. team

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"Charlie," warned Wilson, "if you do that and make it, eight guys will equal it next week. Make it seven feet and one-half inch."

So they did, and Dumas, after missing once and relacing his green kangaroo-skin shoes twice, sailed over the bar, leaving it shaky, but still there, at a measured height of 7 feet 5/8 inch.

In some ways, particularly to the track experts, Davis' race over the 400-meter hurdles was even more astounding. Here was a sophomore at Ohio State who had never run that event before this year (although, singlehanded, he once won the Ohio State high school track championship with three first places and a fourth) and had tried it only five times previous in 1956. "Why did I pick it?" he repeated a newsman's question, "Well, because I figured I couldn't make the Olympic team in anything else and because I think it's a great race."

It was fortunate he had both convictions to help him last weekend. Southern, the slightly phenomenal University of Texas freshman who was running the race for only the fifth time (but who had also done pretty well in high school: two national records at 220 and 440 yards), ripped off the blocks as if he had done nothing all week but study pictures of Bobby Morrow in action and, half way around the track, was clearly five strides ahead of Davis. "I knew I was so far behind right there," said the Ohio Stater, "that I felt like giving up."

Nobody gave up, but Southern got a little tired and Davis caught him going over the 10th and last hurdle. And in the run to the tape, Davis edged ahead by a yard, then two. His time was 49.5 seconds, Southern's 49.7, and third-place Josh Culbreath, 1955 National champion now in the Marine Corps, had 50.4. Culbreath's time was equal to the old world record set by Russia's Yuriy Lituyev in 1953. "Maybe these people don't appreciate completely what those two boys just did," mused a thoughtful coach, "but Russia will. In fact, they won't believe it. And I'm not sure that I do either."

The meet's third world record went to Lou Jones, the former Manhattan College quarter-miler, now in the Army at Fort Meade, Md., and his performance, though of tremendous brilliance, really surprised no one at all. For Jones has now run the two fastest 400-meter races of all time, and the record he broke was his own. The old one, set in the Pan-American Games last year, was 45.4. The new one is 45.2. At Mexico City, the onlookers said "impossible," and at Los Angeles they just said "impossible" again and let it go at that. Second was Jim Lea, world record holder at 440 yards who had also been second to Jones in the other big race, although then by a matter of inches. This time, although Lea ran a 45.8 himself, the margin was a rather conclusive five yards. Jones's first 220 yards was timed, unofficially, in a startling 21.3. He believes he sprinted the first 100 yards in 9.8. And this in a race they once called the 400-meter run.

No one was at all surprised when Morrow won both dashes, and while so doing, for the second time in eight days equaled the world record of 10.2 for 100 meters and for the second time in two weeks (he didn't run the longer race in the AAU at Bakersfield) equaled the American record of 20.6 for 200 meters around a curve.

In the 100 he ran his 10.2 in a heat, looking around to be certain no one was sneaking up from behind, which was a rather modest but useless gesture considering all the factors involved. "I wasn't really trying," he grinned later. "I didn't think I was going so fast." Murchison and Baker also ran 10.2, the chunky little Army man getting away to his usual rocketing start, and the tall Air Force man, who has been one of America's best dash men for half a dozen years, coming up with his usual blazing finish. Both admitted they were trying.

In the finals Murchison got away typically first and Baker came on typically strong at the end. But most typical of all, Morrow caught Murchison by the end of 40 meters and didn't let Baker get too close at the finish. His time was 10.3. Murchison, Baker and King finished in that order in 10.4.

The 200 meters was much the same. Morrow just outran everybody, including Baker and Stanfield who, in the opposite order, finished one-two in this event at Helsinki. And again, no one was ever close to catching this streaking young man from the Rio Grande who appears almost a cinch to become the first double sprint winner at the Olympic Games since Jesse Owens.

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