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Coles Phinizy
June 03, 1957
Tireless Jim Elliott of Villanova is now getting his indoor Champions ready to go against the track Goliaths of the West
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June 03, 1957

Busy, Busy Jumbo

Tireless Jim Elliott of Villanova is now getting his indoor Champions ready to go against the track Goliaths of the West

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Then a moment of gloom. Quarter-miler Al Peterson approaches, favoring one leg. Miler John Kopil has already been lost for the year with a bewildering foot injury. Quarter-miler Gene Maliff has a slight pull. Now Peterson. "It's not much, Jumbo," Peterson says reassuringly.

"You got it trying to throw the javelin," Jumbo says.

High Jumper Phil Reavis approaches Jumbo with a personal problem. Jumbo puts an arm around Reavis' waist, and they take a slow walk down the infield. Dixie Dunbar, who ran on relays for Jumbo 15 years ago and now uses the Villanova track to coach Bonner High School boys, notices Jumbo and Reavis taking a slow walk and recalls that this is an old habit with Jumbo. "I was a worrywart," Dunbar says, "and Jumbo would walk me around to calm me down as he might a race horse—and the terrific thing about him as a coach is that he did not tell you, he advised you."


Having given some advice to Phil Reavis, Jumbo next stops for a moment at trackside, horrified at the sight of Delany and Jenkins warming up by boxing. A double spiking would really do it, but Jumbo notes they are in rubber-soled warmup shoes and lets them be. George Sydnor, the hard luck man of Villanova, who has missed the outdoor season for three years because of muscle pulls, is loosening up. "So just how does the leg feel?" Jumbo asks (the words "so just" are an Elliottism, indicating concern). George's leg feels good, so Jumbo advises him to do 220 straights maintaining a good body angle, then turns to Distance Men Delany and Alex Breckenridge.

"I have found a nice girl for Alex," Jumbo reports.

Breckenridge grins. "If she is good-looking," Delany says, "Alex is interested. If she has money, both Alex and I are interested." The distance men go about their work, nine in-and-out quarters at four-minute mile pace, and Jumbo notes cheerfully that Delany seems to be reaching the great peak he hit before the Olympics.

There is now gloom in the pole vault pit. Bragg is staring moodily down the new pole. His competitive trail over the past three years is littered with some 15 poles that have bent under his 190 pounds. Now on the first day he has bent this new pole. Jumbo has a short talk with Bragg. They will order a new pole, longer and stronger still.

Jumbo Elliott gets home at 6:30, turning into his driveway slowly in case his older boys are "doing laps" around the house. The kids are at baseball on the front lawn. Jumbo is greeted warmly by the family dog, Prince (a sampling of many breeds), and by Wife Kay Elliott, a striking, hazel-eyed brunette. There are phone messages. A man called about a dirt scraper. There is another request for Elliott, Delany and Jenkins to speak at a dinner. On his way to the phone, Jumbo passes the den window overlooking the lawn as 10-year-old Jimmy Elliott slashes a liner through the pitcher's mound and almost through 6-year-old Tommy's head. "Kay," Jumbo cries. "They're using the hard ball. Tommy's too young for hard ball with Jimmy." Tommy is yanked from the game. Jumbo settles down at the phone but is interrupted by a shout through the window. Jimmy wants to know if Tommy can play if he stands behind a maple tree and emerges after the ball is hit. Strange baseball, but safe. Tommy goes back in the game. The Philadelphia Inquirer calls Jumbo to advise him that the 15-foot Arizona high school vaulter, Jim Brewer, is probably going to Kansas next year. "A school our size shouldn't try to compete for everybody," Jumbo tells the Inquirer. "We have to count on finding the sleepers."

Being a young, growing university without a great many old booster alumni to beat the drum and rally a track team, Villanova has counted on a more compelling force to draw good men. One good undergraduate has tended to interest another. Sophomore High Jumper Charlie Stead followed Charlie Jenkins from Cambridge, Mass. Freshman Vaulter Ron Brady followed Don Bragg across the river from Jersey. The migration of Irish trackmen began the same way. After the 1948 Games, Olympian George Guida persuaded a barrel-chested cheery Irish rival, Jim Reardon, to come to Villanova's sod. Distance Runner Browning Ross was also at the '48 Games and urged Runner John Joe Barry and a latter-day Irish whale, Cummin Clancy, to come to Villanova. Competing in Europe in 1954, Miler Fred Dwyer met the young half-miler Ron Delany. In deciding whether to come, Delany asked the opinion of Jim Reardon's father. Senior Reardon, a most proper Irish civil servant with a scandalously merry eye, remembers the moment well. "This Ron Delany looked at me with those cowlike eyes of his, and I said to him, 'When my rascal son Jim went I certainly was not for it, but from letters, I came to like this coach of his, and my son Jim has had some success, and I say, boy, go and don't waste time.' "

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