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It is common knowledge among track and field fans, coaches and athletes that all finish-line judges are blind. Particularly indoor finish-line judges. There may, of course, be extenuating circumstances, such as the fact that indoor track meets are held indoors (where the lighting isn't very good) or that the gentlemen in question, by the very nocturnal nature of their work, must stay up later (and therefore get less sleep) than their contemporaries who work outside in the daytime. Anyway, they're blind.
On the other hand, there are finish-line judges who have been known on occasion to express sincere doubts as to the qualifications of any fan, coach or athlete for membership in the 20-20 Club. So it has gone down through the years, the lines clearly drawn and the two factions coexisting in a state of snarling armistice.
And so it goes in 1957. In the shorter races like the sprints and hurdles (and indoors they can be very, very short indeed), a rhubarb arises almost every week with the chest frequently proving that it is quicker than the eye, and the eye refusing to admit it. At Boston on Jan. 19, Olympic Hurdles Champion Lee Calhoun pulled up after his race, turned to Olympic Decathlon Champion Milton Campbell and said: "Nice race, Milt. You won." The judges gave Calhoun the medal. Minutes earlier, Villanova's George Sydnor had shrugged the finish-line string from around his chest at the end of the 50-yard dash and jogged back to pick up his trophy. It wasn't there. The judges had awarded it to Pittsburgh's Herb Carper. Not everyone in the crowd agreed that this was entirely just, but a check of the record books five years from now will show that Carper won the 50-yard dash at the Knights of Columbus meet in Boston on the night of Jan. 19 and none of your lip.
Last Friday at the Philadelphia Inquirer Games the question of who won what came up again. As the picture on the right and the one on the next page (taken a fraction of a second later) show—or do they?—Ira Murchison, a world record-setting sprinter, beat Dave Sime, another world record-setting sprinter, at 50 yards. Sime, among others, wasn't at all convinced and emphatically stated his opinion to the officials. As Yogi Berra could have told him, it didn't change nuttin'. This time neither Carper nor Sydnor was involved, since the former wisely remained home to study for exams and the latter was eliminated in a semifinal heat—which his coach will go to his grave believing that Sydnor won. Oh, well.
As for the hurdles that night, Campbell beat Calhoun and Charley Pratt—or did he? The picture on page 31 might shed some light on the matter, but Campbell has the medal tucked away in his pocket and since he is very big (about 210 pounds) and can run very fast, the chance of anyone taking it away from him appears very small.
By a strange set of circumstances, the Washington Evening Star Games the next night failed to turn up a single rhubarb. For one thing Campbell merely looked up in astonishment when the starting gun went off, and, by the time he began to run, the rest of the hurdle field was about to disappear over the horizon. He did well to finish fourth behind Calhoun, who set a world record of 8.2 seconds for the seldom-run 70-yard distance, Elias Gilbert of Winston-Salem Teachers and Olympic Bronze Medalist Joel Shankle. Gilbert missed the best chance of the evening to set the whole thing off again when, leading Calhoun by some 3/16ths of an inch, he stubbed his toe going over the last hurdle.
Washington's unique series of dashes at 70, 80 and 100 yards became a complete flop when Murchison won all three in such a way that there was no chance for anyone to howl at all. A year ago, as an unknown Duke sophomore, Sime swept this series over such runners as Andy Stan-field and Rod Richard, and most of the crowd thought he would do the same again. The big redhead, they figured, despite his notoriously erratic start, would have more time to overpower the bullet-quick little Murchison at these longer distances. Perhaps he would have, but by late Saturday afternoon Sime was so ill from an upset stomach ("Virus, I guess," said his coach Bob Chambers) that it wasn't certain he could run at all. When Sime finally went to the blocks he was no match for Murchison.
The little Olympian beat him by a foot at 70 yards, by two feet at 80 and won the 100 in a breeze after Sime, jumping the gun twice, was disqualified by Starter Arthur Miles. Murchison's winning times were 7.1, 8.0 and 9.9 (last year Sime did 7.0, 8.0 and 9.5, the latter an indoor world record). Little Ira, just out of the Army and quite pleased with the results of his first trip over eastern tracks, packed up his several pounds of silver and headed back to college days at Western Michigan. "This indoor track," he grinned, "is a lot of fun. I'll be back."
As the indoor season swings into the big month of February, however, the oft-disputed dashes and hurdles will take up only a small part of the picture. For if the first two big weekends were full of good, exciting races at the longer distances, the next few promise to be quite a bit better.
Charlie Jenkins, the young Olympic 400-meter champion, passed up the Washington meet, along with the rest of his Villanova teammates, to remain at home and study for exams, but only after winning the 600 at both Boston and Philadelphia virtually unopposed. Soon, however, bridegroom Lou Jones will be back on the circuit, and Olympic 800-meter Champ Tom Courtney will take a crack at this shorter race. It is then that bystanders will find out if Jenkins is really the finest indoor runner at this distance since the big days of Mai Whitfield. The chances are they will find out that he is.