Last time I write something here without doing my fact-checking first. The old-timer in this town that told me that story obviously made it up.
My original point was that talented athletes can compete well in a wide variety of activities, and the USA's long-standing weakness in distance racing is probably due to the low popularity of the sport as much as any shortcomings in training methods or the collegiate system. Distance racing was popular from the early 60s up to the early 80s, and that was the only time our men were consistently competitive on a world level. I noted on another thread that almost all of the USA's most successful marathoners (DeMar, Kelley, Shorter, Galloway, Rodgers, Salazar, Benoit) either went to high school or college in New England, and probably chose to become marathoners because of the Boston Marathon's status as a major sporting event. I'm sure Sid's experience of being forced in cross-country by his basketball coach was not unusual in the 1960s, but it would be now.