Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Ryun Project - 12

1972 brought Jim Ryun some of his highest highs and lowest lows.  Ryun returned home to Kansas after brief stints in Eugene, Oregon and Santa Barbara, California.  Jim's homecoming showed that the wounds from 1968 and 69 that had put him at odds with his coach Bob Timmons had started to heal.

I was lucky to see Jim Ryun a lot that year.  I saw his final triumph in the Glenn Cunningham mile at the Kansas Relays.  I saw his triple during a meet at Memorial Stadium, held at the same time as my first league meet.  As Ryun cranked out a mile, 880 and 3 mile triple, I was busy breaking 10 minutes for the second time in my life as a high school sophomore placing 5th in the Sunflower League.

Inconsistency plagued Ryun just as it had in 1971.  But by the time the Olympic Trials had rolled around Jim was in great form.  But the meet was not without disappointment.  He moved too early in the 800 pulling the field through 600 meters at world record pace only to fade to 4th place missing the team by one spot.  Upstart Dave Wottle startled the running world with a blazing final 200 to tie the world record in 1:44.3.

So the skeptics howled and fans wondered if Ryun could overcome the disappointment of the 800 by making the team at 1500 meters.  Still the field was relatively thin.  Injuries had taken Marty Liquori out of the competition.  That left the relatively unknown Wottle as Ryun's biggest concern.  The finals led to the most iconic moment of Ryun's career.

The race turned out to be a tactical.  Sitting in dead last with 300 meters to go Ryun unleashed his patented kick sweeping by the field including Wottle.  Just yards from the finish line Ryun broke out into a broad grin, throwing his arms up in the air.  It seemed at that moment that the demons of Mexico City and Miami had been excised.  Ryun's victory put him on track for a rematch with Kip Keino in Munich.

The final weeks of training took place in Lawrence.  I can remember vaulting over the barbwire at Memorial Stadium to run stairs or goof around high jumping with my friend Dale Culver.  There we would spy Ryun running an intense workout.  We would both shake our heads knowing that our Olympic hero was risking his legs to scale the barbwire to get in a training session.

The third fastest mile in history at a meet in Canada confirmed Ryun's great conditioning.  His final meet before Munich took place in Lawrence.  A special twilight meet was to feature an attempt at the world record for 2 miles.  Word came that evening that the then obscure Finnish runner Lasse Viren had taken a big chunk off the record the night before running 8:14.  I think that news and a day filled with family moving preparations took the wind out of Jim Ryun's sails.

Canadian Grant McLaren pounded the field running in the low 8:30's beating American great George Young and Ryun.  After a mile with little motivation, Ryun was sprinting the straights and jogging the curve.  Despite the half-hearted effort the crowd cheered their hero on.

Munich was an unmitigated disaster.  Running off the back of the pack Ryun was tripped with 500 meters to go by an inexperienced runner costing a chance at making the semi-finals.  The rules committee refused to advance Ryun who in my opinion had been fouled.  At age 26 and with a family to support, Ryun decided to join the brand new  professional track circuit.  The Olympic dream was over.

Winter/Spring & Summer 1972

Date       Event      Time       Place      Splits
1-22-72   Mile        4:06.8      1st            63.0-2:10.5-3:10.2-4:06.5
Sunkist Invitational            Los Angeles, CA
2-29-72   2 Mile     8:47.3      4th            4:19.0-8:47.3
Oregon Invitational             Portland, OR
2-11-72   Mile        4:13.2      6th            60.0-2:04.0-3:09.0-4:13.2                          
Los Angeles Invitational    Los Angeles, CA
2-19-72   Mile        4:06.9      1st            62.0-2:07.0-3:10.0-4:06.9      
                800          1:54.9      1st            60.5-1:54.9
All-Comers            UC Santa Barbara, CA
3-4-72     Mile        4:19.2      7th            NA
Los Angeles, CA
3-16-72   Mile        4:11.5      1st           NA
All-Comers            Memorial Stadium              Lawrence, KS
3-24-72   880          1:48.5      1st            (2 mile relay)        NA
3-25-72   1320        2:55.3      1st            (distance medley relays)   58.0-1:58.4-2:55.3
Florida Relays      Gainesville, FL
4-7-72     880          1:48.1      1st            27.0-54.0-1:21.0-1:48.1
Texas Relays         Austin, TX
4-22-72   Mile        3:57.1      1st            59.5-2:00.0-3:03.3-3:57.1
Kansas Relays      Memorial Stadium Lawrence, KS
4-29-72   Mile        4:08.5      1st            NA
Drake Relays        Des Moines, IA
5-6-72     Mile        4:07.7      1st            NA          
                880          1:51.1      1st            NA
                3 Mile     13:50.4    1st            NA
S.I.U. vs. K.U. Dual                Memorial Stadium              Lawrence, KS
5-14-72   Mile        4:14.1      7th            NA
King Games           Philadelphia, PA
5-20-72   5000        13:38.2    3rd            4:25.0-8:50.0-13:14.9-13:38.2
Bakersfield Classic             Bakersfield, CA
5-26-72   880          1:49.1      1st            prelim 55.3-1:49.1
USTFF     Wichita, KS
6-9-72     Mile        3:57.3      1st            28.4-59.0-1:30.7-2:02.6-2:33.5-3:03.2-3:29.8-3:57.3
Von’s Classic        Los Angeles, CA
6-29-72   800          1:48.7      1st            heats      25.5-55.0-2:23.3-1:48.7
6-30-72   800          1:47.3      1st            semi-finals25.5-54.9-1:47.3
7-1-72     800          1:45.1      4TH           25.5.-52.0-1:17.6-1:45.1
7-6-72     1500        3:45.1      1ST           heats      last 440 55.2
7-7-72     1500        3:42.3      1st            semi-finals  last 440 54.2
7-8-72     1500        3:42.5      1st            last 440 51.2
Olympic Trials      Hayward Field      Eugene, OR
7-29-72   Mile        3:52.8      1st            29.0-59.0-1:29.0-1:57.6-2:26.0-2:57.6-3:52.8
Police Meet           Toronto, Ontario Canada
8-16-72   2 Mile     9:13.4      3rd            NA
Jayhawk Twilight Memorial Stadium Lawrence, KS
9-7-72     1500        3:51.0      tripped
Olympic Games    Munich, Germany

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