Miler Jim Ryun’s 50-year-old upset of Peter Snell still a magic moment in history
In an age when track & field was more popular in the U.S. than the NBA, NHL and what is now NASCAR, no one was a bigger star than high schooler Ryun
By Scott M. Reid, The Orange County Register
In early June 1965, Jim Ryun, an 18-year-old senior at Wichita’s East High School, and his coach J.D. Edmiston treated themselves to an afternoon of deep sea fishing off the coast of Long Beach after Ryun had competed at the Compton Relays at the Coliseum the night before.
The afternoon went by with Ryun or Edmiston barely even getting a nibble on their lines.
“Not a thing,” Ryun recalled this week.
It didn’t matter. Three weeks later, Ryun returned to the West Coast to land the biggest catch of them all.
Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of Ryun’s thrilling upset of New Zealand’s Peter Snell, the 1964 Olympic 800 & 1500 meter champion, arguably the greatest single achievement ever by an American high school athlete and a pivotal race in the career of a man many still believe is the greatest middle distance talent the world has ever seen.
Ryun, who had two newspaper routes back in Wichita, one in the morning, the other in the afternoon, made headlines around the world when he held off Snell and American record holder Jim Grelle in a dramatic homestretch run at the AAU Championships at San Diego’s Balboa Stadium, finishing in 3 minutes, 55.3 seconds to set a new American record and a national high school mark that would stand for 36 years.
The San Diego victory signaled a record-setting spree that remains one of the most impressive runs in the sport’s history. “Eventually he should break all the records,” Bob Schul, the 1964 Olympic 5000 meter champion, predicted in the summer of 1965. “He’s got more potential than any runner I’ve ever seen.”
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U.S. Mile record progressions HERE.