50 years have taken their toll of physical and mental capabilities, but here a few key
- Hospitality. East Tennessee was one of the best places one could have lived in the early
- Track, What Track? It didn’t occur to me to ask about the track when Coach Rohe recruited
me from Northern Virginia. My high school, Bishop Denis J. O’Connell, did not have one
either. The 340 yard Shield-Watkins Field cinder track with an adjacent infield chain link
fence made for interesting workouts
- Dean Planters’ Tobacco Warehouse. A find! 440 yards indoors and 120 yards straightaway
for Hurdles. Kerosene heaters. I loved the smell of kerosene and tobacco in the morning!
Believe I hold the school record for indoor 120 yard HH.
- Oddities. Once ran the 120 yard HHs in about 12.9 sec. Vanderbilt University dual meet.
Whoops! One hurdle flight was left out. So I believe I hold a record for a 9 flight HH race!
- Trainers and Training Table. Mickey O’Brien’s “ice it down, and get back out there”
attitude. Mr. Jim’s mass quantities of food, including “mystery meat.”
- Wacky road trips. We’re lucky no one got killed, cars or planes. Remember, these were the
days before the Interstate?
- Weather. Seemed to be always raining. Walking from Gibb’s Hall to the Hill for classes
was a drill. Not for the faint hearted, loaded with books, slide rules (nobody knows what
those were anymore), and umbrellas. Cold and lots of snow in winter. Remember
Cumberland Avenue closed. Track meets in Memphis (cold), Kentucky (wet), Florida
(muggy), convinced me California was the place to be!
- Workouts. Repeat (lots of them) 330s with minute intervals, even for the hurdlers.
Straightaway 440s along the River: run one way, and then repeat the other. Are you kidding
me? Should have done more.
- Weights. Didn’t appreciate the value of upper body training at the time. We had very little
facilities to speak of, and it was a drudge to go to the only weight room under the Stadium.
Should have done more, but did so during my Air Force days.
- Kennedy. Yep, that’s where I was when he was assassinated. Remember early afternoon
workout when word came. Stood along Pennsylvania Avenue during his Inauguration few
years before. Frozen. Remember President Johnson tour through Campus sometime later.
- Civil Rights. Turbulent times in the South. We were in the middle of it. Observers mostly,
but shocked when first seeing “colored-” and “white-“ only signs in Alabama. Glad we were
first to rectify the athletics side later.
- Trains. Did not participate, but enjoy the stories. And nobody got hurt!
- Rabies. No I didn’t get them, but enjoyed the company of the little Terrier, whose name was
Rabies. Trips to the Smokies and overnights in the Dorm. I’m sure she had a pass!
- Sac State. While on my first Air Force assignment at Mather AFB, Sacramento, CA, I was
given free run of the weight and track facilities on base and at California State College
Sacramento (then called Sac State), but had to climb fences to use the track, train in the dark
on the asphalt track (too hot during Sacramento days), repeating hurdles in the dark (good for
timing). Had to convince my Squadron Commander it was all good. Mostly trained myself.
Aries Merritt doesn’t know how good he has it training at the World Athletic Center here in
- 1968 – a year of turning points. Pre-Olympic training and competition got into high gear
– MIT. Thanks to the powers-that-be, I was able to train at Massachusetts Institute of
Technology’s field house while doing the Boston and New York indoor circuit
– Berkeley. Thanks to Sam Bell, Athletic Director at the University of California at
Berkeley, the Armed Forces Track & Field Team was invited to train at the Berkeley
Facilities during the summer of 1968. We were housed at Hamilton AFB , Novato, CA,
then commuted daily to Berkeley where we spent most of the day training. As an Air
Force officer, I was asked to give seminars to the Air Force ROTC group on campus.
1968 was the year of campus riots, killings at Kent State, the assassination of Martin
Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, and the Civil Rights Act. It was also the height of
anti-Vietnam feelings and demonstrations. We had to wear inconspicuous clothing while
visiting the ROTC Buildings (hiding the short hair among the Hippie population was
another matter). The mayor of Berkeley declared a State of Emergency and the city was
shut down. We got to observe Riot Police and helicopters daily while trying to train for
our events. Surreal!
– High Altitude Training. By qualifying in the Los Angeles Olympic Trials, I was able to
spend the late summer in South Lake Tahoe, training at the 7377 foot Echo Summit, 28
feet higher than Mexico City’s track. Learned about Sickle-Cell Anemia and Breathing
Techniques learned still practiced to this day. Got some expert hurdle training with Bill
Bowerman of the University of Oregon (and founder of Nike™). Training with other
world-class hurdlers on a daily basis. Food was everything. Catering by same crews that
support Forest Fire Hot Shot Teams. Injuries during training persisted through Olympic
Trials. Vagaries of the sport convinced me having a second career was a good thing
when later offered one of the first Professional Track & Field contracts (which I
– Goodwill Tour of Africa. Eye-opener for our educational preparation (Euro-oriented)
being inadequate to understand African culture. Cold-war struggles between Communist
and Western interests. AK-47 pushed in my face by Malian soldier. Coup d’etat after
leaving Mali. Long flights over Africa from Senegal, to Mali, to Ghana, to Ethiopia, to
Somalia, to Kenya, to Uganda, to Tanzania. Not to mention time from New York to
Senegal and Tanzania to New York. Caught Asian flu from a real Asian (Chinese).
Safari in Uganda memorable. Cold showers in new dormitory at University of Dar es
Salaam. Housed in un-used hospital in Mogadishu. Walking back to hotel through dark
streets of Kampala at night. Gained respect for our Foreign Service Officers for whom
the US is only a vacation spot.