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In an average day, James Francis Elliott, resident of Ardmore, Pa., alumnus of Villanova and salesman for the Frantz Equipment Company, drives about 40 miles through the tidy green suburbs of Philadelphia. Jim (Jumbo) Elliott is almost continually on the move, as befits a salesman. He is on the road by 8 o'clock at the latest, and he is seldom done with all he feels he should do before 9 at night.
As almost everybody who reads the Philadelphia Bulletin may know, Salesman Jumbo Elliott keeps moving seven days a week because he leads several successful lives. He is, to accept the word of people in the business, the leading salesman of construction equipment in his area. He is also a remarkable sup-par golfer, though he scarcely has time for one round a week. He is also coach of the Villanova track team, whose recent successes will be remembered for quite a while. Last February, 20 Villanovans, a squad barely adequate to fill a dual meet, won the U.S. indoor championship and a week later the eastern indoor collegiate title. Last fall, Villanova led all the U.S. colleges, large and small, by fielding three trackmen in the Olympics. As almost anybody who reads any sports page knows, Villanova's Irishman, Ron Delany, won the Olympic 1,500 meters, and Villanova's Charlie Jenkins took the 400 and a second gold medal on the 1,600-meter relay.
At 42, Coach Jumbo Elliott of the winning Villanovans walks with the light, quick step of a young middleweight. This time of year his face is wholesomely sunburned and peeling in spots high on his forehead where his hair is fighting a losing battle.
A TIRED GRAY CADILLAC
The pace he sets for himself through his public lives and a fairly private life as husband and father of four seems to be doing Jumbo Elliott a world of good, but the two-year-old ash-gray Cadillac that he drives could stand a day of repair. One rocket fin of the Cadillac is dented, a window is cracked and the right door won't open. Jumbo Elliott uses his overworked car as a mobile office, piling onto the seat beside him the letters, journals, pamphlets and memoranda of his several lives. The pile is now four inches deep, and some of it has slipped through the seat crack into the back, so today as Elliott zips along suburban through-ways, bits of paper flutter about behind him—whispering reminders of things Jumbo Elliott still has to do. Jumbo occasionally works the pile of mail like a compost heap, digging through it for particularly rich items, thumbing Golf World to see how friend George Fazio did at White Sulphur, then scanning a copy of Rock and Dirt for a report on how surplus graders, cranes, tractors and dozers are moving, then turning to Track and Field News to see what rival athletes are up to across the U.S.
Some of the news in the next issue of Track and Field will be made by 17 of Jumbo's Villanova men who this weekend hope to edge past Manhattan College in the IC4A championships to become undisputed track lords of the East. Two weeks hence Elliott and a team of eight will be at the NCAA championships in Austin, Texas. In the 26 years since the first meet, the national collegiate title has been all but monopolized by Southern California. It has been won only once by an eastern school, by Navy in wartime when teams elsewhere were in shambles. For eight men from a college so small as Villanova to go among the track Goliaths of the west requires the faith of a shepherd boy. It is this sort of nervy faith that Jumbo Elliott seems to have, faith conceivably buoyed up this year by the tantalizing prospect that at Austin the Goliaths might be cutting each other up. Two West Coast powers, Southern California and UCLA, will not be there, banned from the track meet, strangely, because their football teams sinned a year ago. The University of Kansas, drawing from a squad deep enough to win two dual meets a week, is a logical choice, but the meet this year actually is wide open.
With the Austin meet still two weeks away, as he sits in his car scanning the form charts, Jumbo Elliott shrugs, "Whenever I used to add up points, somebody would pull a muscle and I would have to add again. So I quit adding." Jumbo drops the copy of Track and Field back on the seat, opens the good left door of his car and steps into another day of practice.
Jim Tuppeny, who also leads a double life as assistant Villanova coach and teacher in the Philadelphia school system, greets Jumbo on the infield. "Any mail?" Jumbo asks. There is mail. The Signal Corps asks if Jumbo and Champions Delany and Jenkins will speak at a dinner. There is a bill from Plastic Laminates of California—$59.68 for one new pole for Vaulter Don Bragg. A 4:22 California high school miler writes asking if he might work his way through Villanova. Jumbo is impressed by the 4:22 time and the word "work," but he says: "We shouldn't be after a California boy."
It is a cheerful, warm day, but on the finest day any track coach with a small squad has scattered moments of gloom. On the vault runway Don Bragg is having an unusually sunny moment, trying a pole of the new plastic type for the first time. He misses once at 14 feet, chicken-stepping on his approach. As he reads his mail, Jumbo hears the stuttering cadence of Bragg's feet, looks up and shouts advice. On his next try, knees flashing high, like the forefeet of a horse, Bragg goes over 14, then 14 feet 6, then 15. "It's a great pole, Jumbo," Bragg shouts. "I really feel like I'm vaulting again, man."
Jumbo nods. "Let's just sit here," he advises Tuppeny, "and he'll talk himself into liking it."