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.
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