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"Bobby," he says, "is a born sprinter. All you had to do was take one look at him even as a junior in high school, and you couldn't miss it. He's big—he stands 6 feet 1 and he weighs 175 when he's right. He has long legs. Unlike most men built that way, he's got terrific power in his thighs and he's got leg speed as well as big stride. He runs right—he leans a little and pushes the ground back rather than reaching out and putting extra strain on his legs. I'm certain that's one reason he doesn't get hurt. He's tough, too, though—a strong man. He didn't get hurt playing football. Last year some of our big football players were lifting a bar bell in the locker room, and Bobby walked over and lifted more than they could. He's a great competitor; he hates to lose.
"But he still had to learn. He didn't know how to start. In high school he didn't drive out—he'd just sort of stand up and start running. He didn't relax enough. His arms were wrong; he carried his elbows out wide and tightened up at the end of hard races. But Bobby has a great faculty—tell him something once, and he gets it."
As Bobby recalls it, his time of transition was not quite that simple. Relaxation in a sprint is a curious act of self-communion—a man must run his hardest, but must hold back the natural tensions of combat. Bobby learned to run with his lips slightly parted—if the lips are parted, the jaws are not likely to be clenched, nor the arms and shoulders strained. He learned to keep his hands loose, to check himself 40 yards out, to see if he could feel the flesh below his cheekbones moving slightly to the rhythm of his running—if so, he could count on being relaxed. And to augment his natural strength and stamina, in training he ran a 220, walked one, ran one, walked one—beginning at a 24-second pace and ending up, after four or five, by attempting to do 21 seconds. He learned to ease off in the middle of a furlong without really losing speed and then to drive for the tape.
By his sophomore year he was—in the opinion of Clyde Littlefield, the University of Texas coach—the "most consistent sprinter I have ever seen." It was a goal toward which he had been laboring hard. The hundred can be lost by any split-second mistake and, like every other U.S. sprinter, Morrow could practically feel the fresh, dazzlingly talented youngsters developing all around him. Duke's Dave Sime was the prime example. "Bobby gets nervous like everybody else," says his close friend, the ACC hurdler Ken Fannon, "but the day he raced Dave Sime at the Drake Relays was the only time I've ever seen him show it. He couldn't hold still. I've never seen him lose his temper either, but after Sime got the jump on him and won that hundred—well, he was certainly determined. 'I can beat him,' he kept saying. 'I can beat him.' "
In the weeks that followed, Morrow worked, hour after hour, on starts. "A start shouldn't be a tense thing," says Coach Jackson. "It should have quickness—like a good welterweight throwing a punch." Morrow was already a good starter, but now he toiled to make everything involved in the first split second of the race—the angle of his back on the blocks, the exact motion of his left arm—so automatic that he would not go wrong under the severest pressure. He did not consider outguessing the starter. He felt, for one thing, that the practice was un-Christian. He also felt he would be much safer, in the long run, to simply let the sound of the gun trip him into action.
He was vastly reassured by his double victory in the Olympic trials, went back to San Benito, worked hard on his farm for a month and a half, and then, in August, began training again on the high school's dirt track. He felt sick. He grew sicker every day, but stubbornly kept on running, although his legs felt like rubber. After two weeks he drove to Abilene. "He had some kind of virus infection," says Coach Jackson. "He had lost 20 pounds and he couldn't eat. I took him to a doctor, and after that he began feeling better but you just couldn't work him."
In California, during training meets with the Olympic team, he lost—and lost—and lost. Australia seemed "like Alaska. It rained every day. It was cold. I was afraid to work and afraid not to. My weight was coming back, but I'd go out and try short bursts with Milt Campbell [ New Jersey's big Negro decathlon winner] and he'd pull away every time. I got shin splints [a painful distortion of tendons which hold calf muscles to the shin bone] and it hurt to run."
For all the excitement they stirred in spectators, the Olympics meant weeks of boredom and tension to the athletes. "Sit in your room," says Bobby. "Eat. Go out and work. Come back. Eat. Sleep. That was about it. You really couldn't go anywhere or do anything." He was so discouraged at Bendigo—where the U.S. team competed shortly before the Games—that he refused to enter the hundred. "I just couldn't stand getting beaten again." But he did run the 200 meters and found, to his vast relief, that his painful and difficult training grind in Australia had paid off. He felt competent again. After the qualifying heats of the Olympic 100 meters—during which he twice equaled the Games record of 10.3—he felt certain of winning. "He was a wonderful sight in the final," says Jackson, who was on hand to watch his pupil. "Bobby just seems to rise a little, out about 40 yards, and sort of float." But Bobby was mortally afraid that Andy Stanfield, winner of the 200 meters at Helsinki, might beat him in the longer race.
He lay on a mattress beneath the stands before the 200-meter final, wet with cold sweat and queasy with nervousness. He had to push through spectators as he walked in from a warmup track to compete; it seemed an imposition too great to bear. "Sometimes," he says, "you feel as though you want to run out of the stadium and never come back." But the field, staggered for the start, ran immediately into the turn and, says Bobby, "I love to run on a turn. I had Stanfield just ahead of me and I watched him and gave it everything I had, and when we got into the stretch I knew I could do it." He did, and broke Jesse Owens' Olympic record by a tenth of a second with a 20.6 race. After that, his winning 100-meter relay lap seemed to follow almost as a matter of course.
Morrow was hardly back in Texas, where he was welcomed with bands, cheers, speeches, parades and a big barbecue on the football field at San Benito, before he was looking ahead to more running; he expects to compete for two more years in college, for two years in the service, and then hopes to represent the U.S. once more at the Rome Olympics. He has high hopes of running even faster, of bringing himself to new peaks of physical efficiency until he is 25, and he obviously dreams of the nine-second hundred.