A Kansas Boy with a Man-Size Task
This week in Los Angeles, 135 athletes will be competing for 60 positions on the U.S. Olympic track & field team. Some of them—such as Dyrol Burleson, Bob Schul and Henry Carr—have already clinched a spot on the team, provided they are still in good shape, by virtue of their victories in the Olympic Trials in New York last July. Others, like Tom O'Hara, Fred Hansen and Gerry Lindgren, are almost certain of making the team. Then there is a third group, those who may—or may not—be just a step behind the others. One such athlete is 17-year-old Jim Ryun, a 1500 meter runner who until two years ago had never run a race.
By Tom O'Leary, Sports Illustrated
Last June at Compton, Calif. Jim Ryun, a tall, quiet, loose-limbed youngster with a flattop haircut, finished eighth in a Mile race. This apparently unspectacular result nevertheless prompted the winner, Dyrol Burleson, to remark: "There was nothing unusual about my victory. The entire story was back in eighth place. There is simply no way to imagine how good Jim Ryun is or how far he will go after he becomes an adult. What he did was more significant than Roger Bannister's first Mile under 4 minutes."
What Ryun had done was run a Mile in 3:59 only six weeks after his 17th birthday. It was the first time in history that a high school boy had broken 4 minutes. In doing so he achieved one of the two goals that he and his coach at Wichita's East High, Bob Timmons, had set for him earlier in the year. The other was to make the 1964 U.S. Olympic team, running in the 1500 meters (metric Mile). This week young Jim Ryun will get his chance.
It will not be easy. Ryun has never beaten Burleson, nor has he beaten Tom O'Hara or Jim Grelle. However, when he ran the 1500 in the national AAU meet in late June, he finished fourth in 3:39, just a 10th of a second behind Grelle. Ryun has beaten Archie San Romani Jr. and Bob Day, who will also be trying for an Olympic berth, but they have beaten him too. It is obvious then to both Ryun and Coach Timmons that to make the team, Jim must run the finest race of his young life.
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