This is Elliott’s second column, inspired by the 2023 Nike Pre Classic on the great Moments he has seen in track and field. Here’s a link for the first: 

THE GREAT DAYS OF TRACK AND FIELD,

AND HERE IS ELLIOTT DENMAN’S SECOND SEGMENT

September 1-7, 1960, Rome Olympic Stadium. Team USA men run into a series of difficulties, but Wilma Rudolph’s sizzling world record sprint triple (11.41, 23.30, anchoring 44.4 4×100) propels USA women into the largest Olympic headlines. (Thank you, Mr. Jim McKay and CBS.)

October 21, 1964, Tokyo Olympic Stadium. Poland, France, Jamaica, and the USSR take the early thunder as Team USA (Paul Drayton-Gerry Ashworth-Richard Stebbins) trail through the first three legs of the Olympic 4×100 relay final.

But anchor Bob “Faster Than a Speeding Bullet” Hayes – who’d already won the individual 100 at the Games – blasts past all of them in a WR 39-second flat triumph. Hayes’ unofficial clocking: 8.6 seconds, still considered history’s best. (Thank you, NBC.)

June 1967, the Long Branch, NJ High School Stadium. In the only girls event in an otherwise all-boys all-star meet. Manasquan HS senior Barbara Friedrich sends her spear on a journey (60.56, 198-8) that is longer than any USA woman (any age), junior (sub-20) or high schooler had ever reached, one of the very few times such an all-categories performance had ever been attained. Barbara goes on to win at the Pan-American Games to wrap a sensational year. (As personally reported/headlined in The Asbury Park Press.)

October 18, 1968, Estadio Olimpico, Mexico City. With thunderbolts threatening from a distance, Team USA’s Bob Beamon, Lee Evans, and Larry James deliver their own lightning at the Games. In this “light air,” Beamon speeds down the LJ runway and lands 8.90 meters into the sand. Only when it’s converted to him – WR 29 2 ¼ – does he go absolutely bonkers. (The wind gauge happens to read a to-the-limit 2.00 meters per second.) Soon after, the 400 final is similarly sensational. Evans crosses the line in 43.86 and James in 43.97, and they zoom to 1-2 on the all-time charts. Later in the Games, they’re joined by Vince Matthews and Ron Freeman on the 4×400 unit that sets a WR of 2:56.16 that endures 20 years. And Al “Lord of the Ring” Oerter brings a fourth straight discus gold back to Long Island. (Witnessed from the ‘Estadio’ press tribune.)

May 16, 1971, Franklin Field, Philadelphia. With 500 to go, Marty Liquori breaks away from Jim Ryun to win The Dream Mile, 3:54.6 to 3:54.8, in an epic encounter that makes large global headlines. Also sub-4, Byron Dyce (3:59.6) takes third. (Witnessed from the Franklin Field press box.)

March 4,1972, Jadwin Gymnasium, Princeton University. Scotch Plains-Fanwood HS senior Vince Cartier runs to sensational 4:06.6 one-mile triumph at NJ HS Meet of Champions. Not only does it demolish the meet record (4:14.7 by Union Catholic’s Bill Sieben), but it’s a USA national record and destined to endure 37 years as the best-ever in an all-HS race. Oh, too; it’s probably still the fastest-ever all-HS mile on a flat track. (Witnessed from Jadwin’s press section.)

April 16, 1972, the Ocean Township, NJ High School Track. Israel’s Dr. Shaul Ladany, miraculous survivor of the Holocaust and later in ’72 of the Munich horrors, circles the oval 200 times at an 8:50 mile pace to set the world 50-mile walking record – 7 hours, 23 minutes, 50 seconds – that endures to this day. (Personal observation of this writer, who doubled and tripled as the meet organizer, competitor lapped time after time after time in honorable pursuit, and chief publicist.)

June 3, 1972, New York City Hall. Englishman John Lees completes epic Trans-America Walk – LA City Hall to NYC City Hall – in a record time of 53 days, 12 hours, 15 minutes; faster than any walker or runner to that date – and I’m invited to be in the welcoming party. (Witnessed from the steps of NYC City Hall.)

September 1972 – The Munich Olympic horrors are still a blot on the history of the Games and the history of humanity, too. Enough said.

October 21, 1979, the streets of NYC. Bill Rodgers and Grete Waitz zip home as NYC Marathon champions and for the first time the event invites those who do not choose to run, too. The NYC Marathon hosts its first racewalkers, and I’m one of them, and it’s the start of a 33-year NYC walk streak. (As experienced from Staten Island to Central Park.)

August 19, 1981, Stadion Letzigrund, Zurich Switzerland. Still angered by the USA boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics – as he continues to be all these years later – Renaldo Nehemiah blazes into all-new territory with his 12.93 110 hurdles win at the famed Weltklasse Meet. The pride of neighbor towns Scotch Plains and Fanwood, New Jersey, and the University of Maryland, he is the first hurdler to break 13 in an epic duel with arch-rival Greg Foster and a performance for the ages. Given later changes in hurdles construction, Nehemiah still – and justifiably so – considers his 12.93 as good as any 110HH performance in track history. (Thank you, Associated Press.)

 

September 26, 1981, Fifth Avenue, NYC. The New York Runners inaugurated one more innovative event with the staging of The Fifth Avenue Mile, and Sydney Maree speeds to a 3:47.52 triumph for a record “On The Avenue, Fifth Avenue” that has endured for 42 years. (Witnessed from press row, the corner of 60th Street and Fifth.)

 

February 28, 1983, Brendan Byrne Arena, East Rutherford, NJ . Eamonn Coghlan breaks through the 3:50 barrier with a 3:49.78 triumph in the Vitalis/US Olympic Invitation Meet. Running on the steeply banked 176-yard track he helped design, Coghlan outruns Ray Flynn (3:51.20) and Steve Scott (3:62.28) in a race for the ages. (Witnessed from the press section.)

August 7-14, 1983, Helsinki Olympiastadion. The long-envisioned World Championships at last springs to life, and Eamonn Coghlan, Mary Decker, Carl Lewis, Sergey Bubka, et al, make it forever memorable. Mile great Coghlan “steps up” in distance to win the 5000; Mary claims the 1500- 3000 “Double Decker.” Lewis (tripling in the 100, LJ, and 4×100) and Bubka (soaring 5.70/ 18-8 ¼ for the first of six straight WC triumphs, stamp these very first Worlds as one of the greatest. (Witnessed from the press tribune.)

April 28, 1984, Franklin Field Philadelphia – Columbia High School (Maplewood, NJ) distinguished alumna Joetta Clark and her Tennessee teammates again triumph at Penn Relays, and it’s just one of the many milestones in her multiple Hall of Fame career: Four-time Olympian, multi-USA National, NCAA and Millrose Games champion, etc. etc. Her track career spanned 28 years and led the way, too, to her long array of successes off the track. (Witnessed from Penn’s press section.)

August 5, 1984, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – Arms high in victory salute, Joan Benoit completes 2:24:51 triumph over Grete Waitz and Rosa Mota to claim the first women’s Olympic marathon gold and power the surge that would become the global women’s running movement in the years ahead. And, yes, Carl Lewis, completing his re-enactment of the Jesse Owens ’36 quadruple, claims 100-200-LJ, 4×100 gold.- (Witnessed from the Coliseum press tribune.)

September 23-October 1, 1988, Seoul Olympic Stadium – Multi-medaled Carl Lewis, Roger Kingdom and Sergey Bubka are brilliant on the men’s side, but sisters-in-law Florence (Flo-Jo) Griffith and Jackie Joyner Kersee are even more so in women’s events. Flo-Jo sets 200m WR of 20.34 after winning 100, then adds gold and silver relay medals. JJK wins LJ and raises heptathlon WR to the still-standing 7291 points (Witnessed from the Seoul press tribune.)

August 30, 1991, National Stadium, Tokyo. Determined to hold off archrivals Carl Lewis and Larry Myricks, Mike Powell blasts out to 8.95 meters (29-4 ½) in round five in a shocker of all-time shockers. In “light air” conditions, similar to the “Bemoneqsue” 8.90 of 1968, Californian Mike long-leaps to one for the ages. Thirty-two years later, it’s still the WR. (Witnessed from the Tokyo Press-Tribune.)

November 2, 1992, the streets of New York. The archives list Willie Mtolo and Lisa Ondieki as champions of the 23rd NYC Marathon, but the real winners – to the millions watching – were Grete Waitz and Fred Lebow. “Grete The Great” accompanied Lebow, the marathon’s guiding light since day one, but now battling cancer, for every step through the five boroughs. Emotions tangled, both in tears, they reached Tavern on the Green at 5:32:34. (Witnessed as a participant in my own 14th NYC.)

April 28, 1993, Frankin Field, Philadelphia. Rod Tolbert, Sherwin Sterling, Larry Garnder, and Ian Jones of Shore Athletic Club ring down the curtain on the 96th Penn Relays with a 3:03.64 record-smashing “Olympic Development” 4×400 upset win. Utterly deflated in second place: the Florida Clippers, the “Boss” George Steinbrenner-backed club soon to be dissolved in the wake of that shocking loss to a “Rinky Dink team from New Jersey.” (Witnessed from the Penn press box.)

July 27, 1993, Helmantico Stadium, Salamanca, Spain. Javier Sotomayor of Cuba clears the high jump bar at 2.45 meters and Americans shrug. But when it’s converted to an astounding 8 feet and a quarter-inch they wake up to its greatness. He’d added a centimeter to his own PR and WR of 2.44 set in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1989. Thirty years have flown by and many have threatened Sotomayor’s lofty status – but no one has succeeded. Number two all-time remains Mutaz Essa Barshim’ s 2.43 for Qatar in 2014. (Thank you, Associated Press and World Athletics.)

August 26,1999 , LaCartuja Olympic Stadium, Seville, Spain. Capturing his fourth consecutive 400-meter gold medal at the World Championships, Michael Johnson does it smashingly. Not only does he leave runner-up Sanderlei Parella of Brazil at least 10 meters back, but he crosses the line in 43.18, decisively besting Butch Reynolds’ 43.29 as the best-ever. Only Wayde VanNiekerk of South Africa (43.03 at the 2016 Rio Games) has ever run faster. (Witnessed from the LaCartuja press tribune.)

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