American Track & Field Chronology, 1960-75

OLYMPICS: ROME (Winter = Squaw Valley)

Ralph Boston of Mississippi !

  • John Thomas of Boston University sets world high jump mark at 7 feet 3 3/4 inches in Olympic trials (July)
  • “Tarzan” Don Bragg (US Army) soars to 15 ft 9 1/4 inches for outdoor pole vault record before huge crowds at Stanford University stadium; Cassius Clay, later Mohammed Ali, takes gold in light heavyweight boxing; Bill Nieder wins gold in shot put.
  • Ralph Boston makes long jump record of 26 feet 11 1/4 inches, toppling Jesse Owens 25-year-old record, the oldest mark in track (Walnut Creek trials) .
  • The United States sweeps men’s hurdles, the shot put and discus; gold and silver in men’s broad jump, and gold in the women’s 100 & 200-meter sprints, men’s 400 meters; silver and gold in the pole vault in Rome.
  • Rafer Johnson of Kingsburg, California wins gold in the Decathlon
  • Mrs. Wilma (“skeeter”) Rudolph wins; acclaimed as world’s speediest woman; receives a Fraternal Order of Eagles award with the Yankees’ Roger Maris in 1961 (see below).


  • Ralph Boston beats his own world record in the long jump, breaking the 27′ barrier.


  • At Madison Square Garden, Marine John Uelses becomes first to pole vault 16 feet using new fiberglass pole manufactured by the Silaflex Company, sold to Browning in 1962.


  • Bob Hayes lowers world record for the 100-yard dash to 0.09.1 in Amateur Athletic Union championships on a track of rubber, crushed stone, and asphalt in St. Louis (June).  He won this event in 1964 with Jesse Owens in the stands.
  • John Pennel of Northwest Louisiana State College breaks the 17′ barrier in the outdoor pole vault by almost an inch (17-3/4).
  • President Kennedy asks General Douglas MacArthur to arbitrate a cooperation agreement between the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in regard to recruiting practices, esp. in the area of track & field.


  • High school junior, Jim Ryun, runs 3:59 mile; becomes youngest American male track athlete ever to qualify for an Olympic team.
  • Never having won a big race, Marine First Lieutenant William M. Mills beats 38 competitors to set Olympic mark of 28:24.4 in winning the 10,000 meter (six miles) run; becomes the first American ever to win this race (Oct. 14)!
  • Americans win 42 medals by day six in Tokyo (Oct. 16), including 19 gold: 11 in swimming, 5 in track, 2 in rowing, 1 in shooting..
  • The United States breaks four Olympic records: pole vault (Fred Hansen of Texas, dental student), shot-put (Dallas Long of Los Angeles, dental student), 200-meter dash (Henry Carr of Detroit), and 400-meter individual medley swim (Donna de Varona of Santa Clara, CA)[Oct 18].
  • U.S. 400-meter track relay team sets world record of 39 seconds; also wins 5,000 and 10,000-meter races.
  • Leonard (Buddy) Edelson of Sioux Falls finishes sixth in the marathon – the best showing for an American since 1928. Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia wins the gold, as in Rome, and improves his time by over five minutes to 2:12.11 (Oct. 22).


  • Texas A&M Aggie, Randy Matson, who won silver in Tokyo in the shot-put, smashes the 70-foot barrier by 7 inches to break his own world record (May).


  • Bob Seagren of Glendale City College is first to pole vault 17 feet indoors (Albuquerque, March).
  • Jim Ryun sets world record in the 880-yd run at Terre Haute, IN (June 10), 1:44.9; a month later, he sets the world record for the mile run at 3:51.3 (July 17) in Berkeley, CA.


  • Ryun sets indoor 880 world record of 1:48.3; breaks his own world record in the mile by 2/10’s of a second, 3:51.1.


  • Jim Ryun of the University of Kansas sets a world record of 3:51.1 in Mile Run at A.A.U. Championships where first seven finishers came in under four minutes (June 23).
  • 32-year-old Grumman Aircraft Company analyst, Al Oerter, amazes the world with an unprecedented four golds in the discus competition in four Olympic Games from 1956 to 1968: Melbourne-Rome-Tokyo-Mexico.
  • Seagren captures pole vault gold for the United States at 17’8″ – almost a foot higher (!) than Fred Hansen’s vault (shown) that won American gold in Tokyo; Richard Fosbury wins the gold medal for the high jump with a “back-first” technique known as the Fosbury flop (at right).
  • After failing to qualify in Tokyo, Willie Davenport wins gold in Mexico in the 110-meter hurdles; John Carlos wins gold with a world record for the 200 meter run; Bob Beamon electrifies Mexico City with a long jump of 29-2 1/2; American trackman have 1-2-3 sweep in the 400 meters led by Lee Evans with the gold; an English teacher named Bill Toomey wins the Decathlon (Oct. 18-20).
  • Kip Keino breaks Olympic record in 1500-meter run; Jim Ryun second (Oct. 21).



  • Greek pole vaulter, Christos Papanicolou of San Jose State College, is first to surpass 18′ outdoors (Athens-Belgrade meet); uses American-made fiberglass pole.


  • Three Records: 28-year-old Baltimore hematologist, Delano Meriweather, hits 9 seconds flat in the 100-yard dash; Southern University (Baton Rouge) sophomore, Rod Milburn, breaks record in 120-yard high hurdles that had stood for a dozen years; Steve Prefontaine breaks 13 minutes in the three-mile run (AAU Championships, Eugene OR).


  • Dave Wottle (with signature golf hat) captures gold in 800-meter race.
  • American dominance of the pole vault ends after 16 consecutive Olympic wins. Controversy over poles disqualifies world record holder Bob Seagren (September). Since Munich, the United States has won the pole vault only twice.
  • Surprises: the US fails to win basketball gold for the first time since 1936; loses to USSR 51-50; American athletes fail to dominate the shot-put and 1500 meters.
  • Frank Shorter wins the United States’ first marathon gold since 1908.


  • Steve Smith sets world indoor vault record of 18-1/4; predicts will exceed 19′ outdoors (January).
  • Rick Wohlhurter breaks Ryun’s 880-yard American and world record of 1966 by 3/10’s of a second, 1.44.6


  • Al Feuerbach achieves world record shot-put heave: 71′ 7″ (San Jose, CA, May).
  • Ivory Crockett of Southern Illinois U matches Meriweather’s 9 second 100-yard dash record (without wind help).


  • John Walker of New Zealand runs 3:49.4 mile; becomes first man to run the mile under 3:50; seemed the culmination of a series of world marks in the modern history of the mile that began when, in 1954, the Englishman Roger Bannister ran a mile under 4 minutes.

THREE MILERS: 1954, 1968, 1975

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