Walt Murphy is one of the finest track geeks that I know. Walt does #ThisDayinTrack&FieldHistory, an excellent daily service that provides true geek stories about our sport. You can check out the service for FREE with a free one-month trial subscription! (email: WaltMurphy44@gmail.com ) for the entire daily service. We will post a few historic moments each day, beginning February 1, 2024.

This Day in Track & Field–March 12

by Walt Murphy’s News and Results Service  (wmurphy25@aol.com), used with permission

1925–En route to winning the 2-mile in 9:03.4 at the Greek-American A.C. Indoor Games in New York, Paavo Nurmi was timed at 8:26.4 for 3000 meters to break his own World Indoor Record.

Magazine cover of the era featuring Paavo Nurmi

1938—From Wally Donovan’s 1963 edition of his All-Time Indoor T&F Record Book:

“One of the greatest indoor races of all time was the Casey 600, featured event of the New York chapter Knights of Columbus Games on March 12th, 1938. A crowd of more than 16,000 shook the rafters of Madison Square Garden with loud cheers as the announcer introduced the starters. This is the race they had been waiting for all season.

On the track was Glenn Cunningham, the world’s fastest miler and winner of 12 straight races. Only a little over an hour before, Glenn had won the Colombian mile in 4:07.4, the fastest 11-lap indoor mile ever. His 4:04.4 mile made at Dartmouth a few days before was man’s fastest. While running his first big-time 600, Cunningham was attempting an unprecedented double and was challenging Jimmy Herbert, the king of the 600. Herbert, the sensational NYU sophomore, had won ten races in 12 starts, held the indoor 600-meter record, and was the national 600-yard champion. Herbert’s two defeats that year were administered by Howie Borck and Wes Wallace, who are also starting in this race. The fifth starter was Doug Raymond, Boston University’s great finisher (Who later became the long-time coach at Kent State).

Glenn Cunningham is probably at a race in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Please note the scars on his legs from fire injuries as a child. Photo courtesy of Peter F. Murphy, JR. Copyright 2024 by Kansas Historical Society, all rights reserved.

Tension mounted as whistles were blown, and the runners reached their marks. Johnny McHugh raised his gun and sent them away as the gun roared. Herbert was off fast and beat Raymond to the first turn. Borck was third, and Cunningham was getting a poor start and pinched off in fourth place. The noise of their pounding feet on the board track was drowned by the roar of the crowd as Herbert kept his lead through the first quarter. The frantic clanging of the bell, signifying the final lap, was barely heard. The crowd was in an uproar as Borck flew past Raymond and went after Herbert, with Cunningham in hot pursuit.

Around the final turn, they whirled, straining every muscle for that last pull down the straightaway to the tape. Borck seemed to close on Herbert with every stride, and then the crowd shook the rafters with a mighty cheer—Cunningham was coming on! Inch by inch, the mighty miler closed the gap between himself and the fleet of 600 men down the stretch. Down the stretch, they went…pouring it on…with the crowd by now in a frenzy of excitement.

Herbert came up on his toes and dug for the tape. With every ounce of energy he could get from his tiring body, the slim NYU runner slammed into the tape a winner. Borck held second over the fast-chasing Cunningham. A blanket covered the three runners.

The race seemed very fast, and the crowd eagerly awaited the official time announcement. The timers remained in a huddle for what seemed to be an eternity. Then the announcement came over the public address system…’ the time establishes a NEW INDOOR RECORD’ and the crowd’s roar drowned out the announcer… ‘one minute 11 and one-tenth seconds’. Herbert had proved his right to the 600 throne by breaking Chuck Hornbostel’s all-time mark of 1:11.3. Borck’s 1:11.2 also eclipsed the old mark, and Cunningham with 1:11.3 had tied it.”

1956–A young Ron Clarke, who would later become one of the world’s greatest distance runners, fell during a mile race at Olympic Park in Melbourne, Australia (the site of the 1956 Olympics). Fellow Aussie John Landy, the 2nd man to break the 4-minute barrier in the mile, hurdled Clarke, spiking him on the shoulder, then stopped to offer help. Clarke waved him on and Landy, who lost about 5 seconds, thrilled the large crowd by going on to win the race in 4:04.2. Landy’s act was praised as Australia’s greatest sporting moment of the 20th century and is commemorated by a statue in Melbourne.


A Look Back:






1965(Updated)–The brainchild of Don Canham, Michigan’s Athletic Director,  the inaugural NCAA Indoor Championships (3-12,13) were held on the 11-lap banked track in Detroit’s Cobo Arena. Missouri (14) won the team title over Oklahoma State (12) and Villanova (11). Scoring was 5-4-3-2-1.

The first NCAA Indoor Champions (all races in yards):

60—Charlie Greene (Nebraska) 6.1…1st of his 3 titles

440—Theron Lewis (LSU) 47.8…2.Jim Kemp (Kentucky State) 48.3

600—Leland Albright (LSU) 1:10.0

880—Tom Von Ruden (Oklahoma State) 1:51.8…3.Tom Sullivan (Villanova) 1:53.6

1000—Robin Lingle (Missouri) 2:09.9…2.George Germann (Seton Hall) 2:10.3

Mile—Chris Johnson (USC) 4:08.0

2-Mile—Herald Hadley (Kansas) 8:56.4

60-Hurdles—Gene Washington (Michigan State) 7.2

Mile Relay—Morgan State 3:15.5

2 Mile Relay—Oklahoma State 7:27.9

High Jump—Frank Costello (Maryland)  6-10 (2.085)

Pole Vault—Bob Yard (Washington State)  15-8  ¼ (4.78)…5.John Uelses (LaSalle) 15-4  ¼ (4.68)

Long Jump—Mike Cole (Maryland) 25-1  (7.645)…3.Phil Shinnick (Washington State)   24-11  ¼ (7.60)

Shot Put—Randy Matson (Texas A&M) 63-2  ¼ (19.26)

Since freshmen weren’t eligible for varsity competition at the time, Washington State’s Gerry Lindgren ran in a special mile, finishing 2nd to former Illinois star Al Carius (4:09.0-4:09.4). Carius was a highly successful coach at Div.III’s North Central College for 54 years.