Long wins high hurdles in Estherville on day Bannister runs 3:59.4 in OxfordWORTHINGTON — As the calendar turns from April to May tomorrow, the “Blast-From-the-Past” takes a look back at several events — both world-wide and locally — which happened during the middle of spring in the years 1954, 1961 and 1962.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — As the calendar turns from April to May tomorrow, the “Blast-From-the-Past” takes a look back at several events — both world-wide and locally — which happened during the middle of spring in the years 1954, 1961 and 1962.
Thursday, May 6, 1954, was a historic day in the world of sports as 25-year-old medical student Roger Bannister — running on his “home” track in Oxford, England — did what no man had done before.
Utilizing training partners Chris Basher and Chris Chataway as “rabbits,” Bannister was attempting to run the first-ever four-minute mile.
It was his first race of the season, but he had undergone an intensive training regime, highlighted by rigourous “interval runs” for several months.
With Basher pushing the pace on the first two laps and Chataway breaking away on the third, Bannister ran quarter splits of 57.5, 60.7 and 62.3 before “shifting gears” with 300 yards to go.
Timed at 58.9 for his fourth quarter, Bannister broke the tape with an overall time of 3:59.4.
He had done it — the world’s first sub four-minute mile.
In breaking the nine-year-old world record of 4:01.4 — set by Sweden’s Gunder Haegg in 1945 — by two full seconds, Bannister had accomplished what nobody had been able to do.
But, he took it in “stride” as he downplayed the achievement.
Miler Withdraws to Shell After Crashing Four-Minute Barrier” was the sports page headline in the Friday, May 7, 1954 issue of the Daily Globe — which carried front page news about the fall of French-held Dien Bien Phu to the Communist Vietminh after “20 hours of uninterrupted combat” in northwest Indochina.
“I think the four-minute mile has been overrated,” Bannister said quietly after attaining his well-planned goal. “After all, it’s only a time. The essence of athletics is racing against an opponent rather than a clock.
“I think people have been frightened of this four-minute mile. Now that it’s been broken, I’m sure that other runners will break it, too.”
Roger was right on with that.
Six weeks later, Austrailia’s John Landy became the world’s second four-minute miler, running the four laps in 3:57.9 — and over the next decade, several others ran the event under four minutes, including Kansas high-schooler Jim Ryun, who ran a 3:59 flat as a junior in 1964.
Ryun ran a 3:55.3 as a senior in ’65, establishing national high school record which lasted for 36 years.
As an eighth-grader, aspiring to become a miler myself — I had broke the six-minute barrier, clocking a 5:59.6 in practice one day — Jim Ryun was a hero to me.
I had also been inspired by the story of Glenn Cunningham, the Kansas farm kid who had his legs badly burned in a house fire when he was eight years old and was told that he would never walk again — let alone run.
But, 17 years later in 1934, Cunningham set a world record in the mile with a time of 4:06.8.
Over the next 11 years, the world record time for the mile dropped — in increments — by more than five seconds, until it became stuck at 4:01.4
Then for nine years, nobody lowered the mark — until Bannister did the trick, 58 years ago this week.
Trojans had sprinters in ’54, young WHS golfers win District 8 team title
On the same day that Bannister broke the four-minute mile barrier on a cool day in England, Worthington’s Ronnie Long won the 120-yard high hurdles at the Estherville (Iowa) Relays, clocked at 16.1.
Long was the Trojans’ top scorer in the big meet, placing third in the 180-yard low hurdles and fourth in the high jump.
Long also ran a leg on Worthington’s fourth-place 880-yard relay team.
Worthington’s Jerry Navara placed third in the discus and St. James’ outstanding all-around athlete Norm Anderson won both the 100-yard dash (10 seconds flat) and the broad jump (21 feet, two inches).
Anderson, who later won the state meet in the 100, placed third at Estherville in an event which I never knew existed in high school track and field — the football throw.
Yes, the football throw, which I imagine may have taken the place of the javelin throw.
So, how far did the winner throw the pigskin at that 1954 track meet in Estherville?
The winning distance — by Stabile (no first name given) of Sioux City Heelan — was 206 feet, one inch, which would be about 65 yards.
Daily Globe sports editor Donald Trunk in his Sport Chatter column wrote about the depth and quality of Worthington’s sprinting corps, which included Randy Griffith, Jim Crockett, Jim Arneson, George Nasers and Bob Braun.
He also listed Trojan half-miler Gary Vaith as a top performer and mentioned how Worthington was missing top field event performers Jerry Kingery and Daryl Voss — both of whom had graduated in 1953 and were now competing well in track and field at Worthington Junior College, along with ’52 WHS graduate Don Basche.
A couple of weeks later, at the Southern Minnesota Conference junior college meet in Mankato, Basche had an outstanding all-around day.
Nearly duplicating a decathlete’s day, Basche won the low hurdles, finished third in the high hurdles, placed third in the high jump, scored a fourth in the shot put, finished fourth in the 100-yard dash and tied for fifth in the 220.
On top of that, Basche ran on two of the Bluejay relay teams, along with both Voss and Kingery.
Individually, Voss won the high jump, placed third in the pole vault and tied Basche for fifth in the 220.
Kingery won the pole vault and finished fourth in the high hurdles — right behind Basche.
On the golf scene, a young Worthington squad won the District 8 team title, paced by John Kilbride’s medalist round of 75.
Joel Goldstrand (77), John Mork (85) and Forest Meyerann (89) completed the Trojan scoring.
Three years later, Goldstrand and Meyerann would lead WHS to a team championship at the 1957 state golf meet.
On the baseball diamond, the day of Bannister’s world-record performance, the Trojans were defeated by Fairmont, 6-1.
Centerfielder Duane Noerenberg had a pair of singles in the game and leftfielder Ray Roetman scored Worthington’s run in the second inning as reached base on an error and “rode around” on singles by Noerenberg and third baseman Jim Ray.
Trojan catcher Jerry Roberts also had a hit for WHS, while Duane Diekman and shortstop Lee Barrier did the pitching, combining to limit Fairmont to just four hits.
Barrier, who was a running back for the WHS football squad in the fall and a starting guard in basketball, was named the Trojan’s “Outstanding Scholar and Athlete” at the VFW-sponosored Lettermen’s Banquet on May 24.
Basche, who was an end in football, the starting center on the Bluejays’ conference championship basketball team and an all-around “ace” on the track squad, was given the same honor by the junior college.
To complete a full year, Basche also played on the tennis team for the Bluejays.
At the District 8 track meet, Arneson, Griffith and Crockett proved Trunk to be a prophet when they helped the Trojans rally to overtake Pipestone in a close chase for the team title by finishing 1-2-3 in the 220-yard dash, giving WHS 12 key late-meet points.
An interesting item from the write-up of the District 8 track meet was a picture of Pipestone’s Jack Kelly doing the “western roll” over the high jump bar.
Kelly, a baseball star (also football and basketball), evidently also competed in track and field for the Arrows.
Kelly tied Luverne’s Bob Rogness for first place in the event, clearing the bar at 5-4.
After a stellar athletic career in football, basketball and baseball at St. Cloud State College, Kelly became an industrial arts teacher, baseball coach and basketball coach at Windom for more than three decades.
“Welcome to Mitford” and “Ricky Nelson Remembered” were two spring highlights for me
While I spend most of my “spare time” covering high school sporting events, I was able expand my culture base a bit in the middle of the month by attending the outstanding play “Welcome to Mitford” at the Fulda Elementary School April 15 and being one of many old rock’n and roll fans who was at the “Ricky Nelson Remembered” concert at the Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center in Worthington April 20.
Both were great shows.
Pastor Mark Yackel-Juleen and Linda Lund were brilliant in their leading roles in “Welcome to Mitford” and the rest of the cast, including my good friend Dale Sandberg, made the play an enjoyable experience.
Ricky Nelson’s twin sons Matthew and Gunnar did a fantastic job of bringing back Nelson’s songs from the golden years of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s.
It was indeed a night to remember.
One of Nelson’s biggest hits, “Travelin’ Man” was climbing to No. 1 in early May of 1961 just when Alan Shepard was making news with his first U.S. space flight.
Locally, in sports, when people were watching the news of Shepard’s voyage on television and listening to “Travelin’ Man” on radio, they may have been reading about Worthington’s 164-172 golf victory over Redwood Falls or Windom’s seventh-inning rally to edge the Trojans, 14-13, in high school baseball action.
In a wild bottom of the seventh, with Worthington holding a 13-10 lead, the Eagles loaded the bases with no outs and eventually scored four runs, capped by Ron Daggett’s game-winner to complete the thrilling comeback.
WHS won its seventh straight golf meet with a balanced performance as Larry Soderhold (39), Tom Hallin (40), Paul Mahlberg (42) and Tom Larson (43) combined for Worthington’s score.
At the Estherville Relays, Trojan Gary Ridge won the low hurdles, finished second in both the high hurdles and 220-yard dash, while placing third in the broad jump.
Blaine Baichtel won the 880, Jim Boddy placed second in the discus, Rod Olsen finished second in the 100 and Tom Buysse tied for second in the pole vault to highlight other top Worthington performances at the annual early-May track and field meet.
May of ’62 opens with many fine performances
Fifty years ago this week, the first Windom Inviational track meet was held with 11 schools, representing eight districts, competing.
Slayton’s Allen Woitaszewski had an impressive distance of 51-1 to win the shot put and Adrian’s Steve Rust ran a sparkling time of 2:06.4 to win the 880-yard run.
Rust would later be a double winner at (880 and high jump) at several other area meets, including the annual Ellsworth Invitational.
At a meet in Milford, Iowa, Worthington’s Pete Navara uncorked a discus throw of 126-10, which won the event and established a new meet record.
Leon Zevenberg finished first in the 220, tied for fourth in the pole vault and placed fifth in the broad jump for the Trojans, while John Stoka finished second in the low hurdles and fourth in the high hurdles and sophomore Tom Wing placed fifth in the 440.
Worthington won a quadrangular golf meet in dominant fashion, as Kent Ahlf (37), Tom Hallin (38), John Hallin (39) and Larry Soderholm (43) combined for a 157, while Fairmont (178), Redwood Falls (181) and Marshall (182) were far off the torrid pace set by the balanced Trojans.
In baseball, shortstop Rick Ireland scored a pair of runs and teammates Roger Nutt, Bruce Tamte and Buz Hoefer each had two hits, but Fairmont edged the Trojans, 7-6, in a game on the last day of April — exactly 50 years ago today.
Wayne Marcil, Ronnie Trunk and Vince DeBates also had hits for Worthington, while Dick Bjornstad drove in a run with a perfect bunt.
On the next day, May Day, Hoefer and Marcil combined to pitch a three-hitter as the Trojans defeated Slayton, 4-2.
A fourth-inning double by DeBates and a sixth-inning single by catcher Gene Oltmans highlighted Worthington’s four-run offense, which was aided by Nutt’s RBI bunt.
The following day, Lakefield sophomore Steve Rubis twirled a no-hitter through six innings in leading the Panthers to a 7-1 win over Westbrook.
Bob Field smacked a triple and a double to lead LHS at the plate.
Westbrook had just two singles — both in the seventh inning — as Rubis blanked the Wildcats until then.
Before becoming an area life insurance agent, Rubis was a mathematics teacher and the head boys’ basketball coach at Pipestone in the mid-1970s.
That’s just some of the many area highlights from the opening week of May from three years of the past.
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