On another thread a media source was cited purporting that a famous actor/singer (Michael Crawford) ran a 4:23 mile after three weeks training in preparation for a film role. I dismiss the claim as patently absurd and impossible.
But it got me to wondering what IS possible on first efforts and what notable first efforts folks might have seen. For example, years ago when I was coaching cross country, a 10th grader showed up saying he was bored with the marching band and he thought he could run distances because he had his friend time him run a mile. I was sucker enough to ask him all about it and he told me he had run 4:42 all by himself in his first ever mile in tennis shoes on the lumpy old dirt track at our high school. I knew the kid well enough to think he wasn't lying, so I assumed his friend had mistimed or maybe he had only run three laps by mistake. But he eventually made me a believer... by the time he graduated he won the California State Meet 1600m in 4:08 and ran a 14:38 5k on on the track.
So, anyone else have similar stories about extraordinary first efforts on the track or in the field?
Statistically, best "first efforts" are marathon debuts. But I hope some stat freaks out there can come up with 'best debuts' at other events - might be interesting. (What's more interesting than someone 'coming outta nowhere' with a mega-performance?) (though, sadly, such is met with cynicism these days. If it happens at all..)
I disagree on both your points, Steve. Extraordinary debuts seem intrinsically interesting to me... what's not to like about someone coming out of no where to post an impressive performance? As for the usefulness of the posts? Which posts on this message board are the really important ones that serve some urgent public need? We are all just a bunch of track nerds wasting time staring at little computer screens and throwing stats and bs opinions around Really, you can find links out of here to websites with world records for running events by lane number. Interesting, yeah, for doofuses like us... useful or important? If you think so you have been spending way too much time here !
jhc68, ease up, no offense intended. I think I was perhaps incorrectly interpreting "first efforts" to be a true novice competing for the very first time, such as a large strong NFL football player who has never thrown the shot put, practicing for a week then showing up at a meet, or a very fleet soccer player that never ran in high school showing up at a college track meet. These things do not happen very much. That's all I meant.
A quick story from my Alma Mater that has been told before:
Dave Sime went to Duke on a baseball scholarship. He never ran track in high school.
He wandered down to the track one day in 1955 while a freshman on the baseball team, told coach Bob Chambers " I think I can run some." He then is reputed to have run 100 yards in a sweatsuit, with Chambers timing him, by his account, in "under 10 seconds."
A great story, must have some degree of truth, and then of course, the rest is history....
Another Dave Sime story. Sime was given a tryout by the Philadelphia Phillies. The scouting report indicated he had a decent glove, could hit but not for power (not good for a first baseman), as well as "can't run."
Bforsyth wrote, "Statistically, best "first efforts" are marathon debuts."
Emil Zatopek's Olympic record victory in the marathon at Helsinki on 27 July 1952 comes to mind. He was reported as telling his fellow runners during the race that he was unsure of the pace because he had not previously run a marathon.
In the 1952 Games, Zatopek had already set Olympic records for the 5000m on July 24 and the 10km on July 20. Triple Olympic victories, with Olympic records in each, in eight days!
No worries, Steve, no offense to you, either. We are all doofuses here and, especially, old hi-jumpers need to stick together. Sime stories are great. Seems like he was one of the most overlooked and unlucky athletes in our sport. From the sounds of it, though, he has done very well in the rest of his life.
He is a very successful Ophthamologist in Miami, lives on Key Biscane, has a daughter that was an outstanding collegiate soccer player who is now married to Broncos WR Ed McCaffrey. I do not know him personally, he graduated 7 years ahead of me. But he was still around town in the early 60's after graduating from Duke Medical School doing his internship. Every now and then he would drop by the track, not to run but just to kick a football around. And he sure could punt !
I recall Jimmy Brown posting an impressive score in his first decathlon. I have long thought that, had he solely focused on the decathlon, he would have been a very good sprinter (in Browns' camps he ran dead heats w/ former Illini hurdler Bobby Mitchell),talented long jumper, a very good weight man, and maybe a superior scorer to Milt Campbell and Rafer Johnson (Jim was faster and stronger than both men)
In all, he won 13 varsity letters at Manhasset. He averaged 14.9 yard per carry as a running back in leading the Indians to their first undefeated season in 29 years, and averaged 38 points per game in basketball. Almost as a lark, at the suggestion of friend and advisor Ken Molloy, he entered the 1956 national decathlon championship in Atlantic City.
With a limited amount of practice using a discus and a heavier shot put borrowed from the Merchant Marine Academy, wearing a pair of track shoes donated by Hofstra coach Howdy Myers after his own had been stolen, competing in a few events for the first time, the high school graduate finished 10th. In a subsequent trip while in college, he earned All-American status by claiming fifth place.
Let's not do for Jim Brown what we've managed to do for Wilt Chamberlain, Johnny Mathis, et al.
Brown's first appearance in the AAU decathlon was, indeed, in Atlantic City. But that was in 1954, and it was following his freshman year at Syracuse. Brown did finish 10th (5029). The next year, 1955, Brown finished 5th in Crawfordsville, In. (5563).
As for the favorable comparison to Rafer Johnson, that's a stretch. In 1954, Johnson was a high school senior and finished 3rd (5874). But he was beaten by another high schooler, Aubrey Lewis, who was 2nd (6118). (Bob Richards won, 6501.)
Here are the marks for Lewis, Johnson and Brown:
AL \ RJ \JB
11.0 \ 11.1 \ 11.4
21-1 \ 20-7 \ 19-8 3/4
39-7 \ 39-7 1/2 \ 39-7 1/2 (yes, these are correct!)
5-5 1/4 \ 5-9 3/4 \ 5-9 3/4
49.1 \ 51.5 \ 56.3
15.9 \ 15.5 \ 18.4
152-4 \ 122-7 1/2 \ 132-8
9-0 \ 11-4 \ 10-0
164-9 \ 163-9 1/2 \ 154-11
5:00.6 \ 5:29.6 \ 5:01.6
Brown spent the spring (probably) playing freshman lacrosse and spring football rather than running track. Oddly, the events I would have expected him to be best trained for from lacrosse and football - the 100, 400 and LJ - left him behind both high school kids.
There's nothing here to suggest that Brown was faster than Johnson in the sprint-type events, even if one discounts the hurdles as a technical event. And if he's not faster than Johnson, he's certainly not faster than Campbell.
Brown stronger than Johnson and Campbell? Yes, it looks like you can make a good case for that.
By the way, two other finishers (relating to other threads): 5, Joel Shankle (a Duke teammate of Dave Sime in '55); 11, Stan Huntsman (Tennessee coach in '70s and '80s), as well as 4, Jim Podoley (later a running back for da Bears.)
You cannot compare the time aspiring Olympians Johnson, Lewis and Campbell devoted to the decathlon than that of Brown. And the '54 event was his very first, no h.s. background like the others (or Bobby Mathias before him).
I bet if C.K. Yang was giving Johnson all he wanted in 1960, a Jim Brown who was strictly a track man from '57 to '60 (or '54-'60)would have been a Daley Thompson-type competitor. His lack of NFL injuries demonstrated he had the stamina. His times and distances would have improved, and w/ coaching (those guys later had "Ducky" Drake, technique would have made him a better jumper/thrower.
I can't compare them? I thought I did, at least to the extent your earlier comments elicited.
Obviously we're disagreeing about potential. But you said Brown was faster than Johnson and Campbell. I don't think you can back that up. The link to Bobby Mitchell isn't sufficient to make the stretch to beating Campbell or Johnson.
Okay, Johnson was an Olympic aspirant as early as 1954. But the fact is, the 1954 AAU decathlon was the first dec for either of them. (It was the second dec - 1953 AAU being the first - for Lewis.) And let's not discount the fact that Brown is a year older and more developed physically than the two high school guys who beat him.
Great as he was in football, let Brown rest, content with the feeling that he was the best running back ever. He may well have been the best lacrosse player ever, as well. But I certainly won't go so far as to say he would have outscored Rafer Johnson, who may have been the greatest decathlete - or most talented, you pick - ever (see other threads).
Nor did I say he would have beaten him. I said it was a great first effort, and many have wondered what he could have accomplished with complete dedication to the decathlon, with individual event coaching. It's just a speculation like the dream relays on these posts, the match races that never were, the '40 Olympics, et al. Just fun.
"Emil Zatopek's Olympic record victory in the marathon at Helsinki on 27 July 1952 comes to mind. He was reported as telling his fellow runners during the race that he was unsure of the pace because he had not previously run a marathon." ......
You left out my favorite part of the story. emil asked one competitor if the pace was quick enough (they were already on record pace), and the other guy though he was kidding and replied (sarcasticaly) "No, its awful slow" and so Emil picked up the pace and left everyone else in the dust.