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  • Writer's pictureBetsy

Dipping into the Archives

Hi FitFooters! 🙋🏽‍♀️🙋🏽‍♂️

While perusing some old Runner's World Magazines from the 70s and 80s (someone lovingly preserved these issues for those of us that love reading about the history of running - thank you!!) I came across this article summarizing the 1975 AAU (Amatuer Athletic Union) national track meets (men and women competed at different locations). It is a straightforward write up about the events, but looking back at it from our 2021 perspective reveals some many interesting changes and gives evidence of how far we have come in this sport (and emphasizes how far we still have to go!)

For instance:

  1. The separate men's and women's meets all but guaranteed a split of spectators/media attention, etc.

  2. The women had no NCAA championships like the men. Their first national collegiate meet was held in 1982.

  3. The journalist more than hints that men's running was a lackluster sport at this point in time. Not sure why the harsh critique, but we see these ups and down in the track world.

Enjoy the run through history!

Here is the article in its entirety👇🏽

"The two AAU championship meets emphasized again - if it needed emphasizing- the separate and unequal nature of track and field in the United States.

The men competed in idyllic Eugene, Ore., the best track setting in the country. They played to crowds of 8000-10,000 in near-perfect weather.

The women ran in a continent away, on a high school track (one that reportedly didn't measure up to national meet standards) in White Plains, N.Y. Fewer than a thousand fans turned out on the hot, muggy days.

It's a sad comment on the men and an encouraging one on the women that the women had better performances - despite the track, weather and crowd handicaps.

The AAU is the meet for women. They don't have a collegiate championship two weeks before. They have few lucrative (as in $$) European tours to draw them away. Making a national team is still important to them. The women's nationals had almost all the top athletes in the country, while talent ran thin at Eugene by comparison.

The women's competition produced five American records. The men's yielded none.

Both in Eugene and White Plains, two-lap races were the features. Rick Wohlhuter hadn't had a serious challenge in more than a year. So this season he had looked to the mile for his testing. Meanwhile, Mark Enyeart sneaked in. The converted quarter-miler hadn't lost at his new distance, but both he and Wohlhuter expected that to change at the AAU.

Enyeart led from the start, as he always does. 'I thought Wohlhuter would pass me with 330 to go.' he said. Rick didn't, and Enyeart won with 1:44.9.

Wohlhuter said, 'I was surprised I didn't pass him. I assumed the half belonged to me. Now I have some competition.'

Madeline Manning won the 1968 Olympic 800 in then-world record time of 2:00.9. Between then and now, she has been married, had a child, tied the world half-mile mark, missed the 800 final at Munich, retired, gone through a divorce and returned to running.

Now 27, Manning ran the fastest of her life at White Plains - 2:00.5, a US record. She said, 'Next year, Lord willing, I'm looking to do 1:55 or better.'

She pulled the other five placers under 2:05 at the AAU, including Debbie Vetter of Ohio. Debbie and sisters Diane and Janis (plus Julie Stibbe) set an American two-mile relay mark.

Francie Larrieu chose to run in Europe, but three 1500 meter runners- international cross-country champion Julie Brown, Jan Merrill and Cindy Bremser - ran 4:15 or better without Larrieu.

Bremser was one of the bright finds of the meet. The 22-year-old nurse from Wisconsin had been running only a year. She also finished second to AAU cross-country winner Lynn Bjorklund at 3000 meters.

Bjorklund is a recent high school graduate, as is another winner, Debbie Esser of Iowa. Esser took 2 1/2 seconds from the American record in the 400 meter hurdles, and towed three others under it with her.

Last year in the AAU, Debra Sapenter tied the world record in the quarter-mile. This time, she tied the US mark for the 400.

Last year, Sue Brodock won the mile walk by 15 seconds. This time, she lost the 1500 to American record setter Lisa Metheny.

Back at Eugene, the best new talent to emerge besides Mark Enyeart came from the steeplechase Kansans Randy Smith and Kent McDonald ran away from such established steeplers as Mike Manley, Barry Brown and Doug Brown.

Otherwise, the meet was a series of encores for past winners Len Hilton (1500), Marty Liquori (who moved up to the 5000), Frank Shorter (10,000), Ron Laird (walk) and Ralph Mann (400 hurdles).

There was a time when Americans were given the sprint medals almost by default. It has passed. This year, they couldn't win any of the three shortest races in their own nationals. Don Quarrie of Jamaica took the 100 and the 200, and Dave Jenkins of Britain won the 400.

Could it be that the men have grown somewhat complacent, while the women are thriving on the uphill race to equality?"

Stay well, FitFooters!


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