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.

(c)Copyright 2024-all rights reserved. It may not be reprinted or retransmitted without permission.

Walt Murphy’s News and Results Service  (wmurphy25@aol.com)


This Day in Track & Field–March  17—Happy St. Patrick’s Day

1876–Oxford University’s Marshall Brooks became the first man to clear 6 feet (1.83m) in the High Jump. Brooks would raise his record to 6-2  ½ (1.89m) 3 weeks later.


History of the High Jumphttp://www.iaaf.org/disciplines/jumps/high-jump

1925The seemingly unbeatable Paavo Nurmi fell victim to an unlikely competitor in the 5000-Meters at the NY Knights of Columbus meet. After setting en-route Records at 4000 yards, 4000 meters, and 2-1/2 Miles (yes, they kept records for those distances at the time), Nurmi stopped running with 4 laps to go, clutching his stomach in obvious distress. He gamely tried to keep going after being passed by fellow Finn Ville “Willie” Ritola but stopped before heading to the dressing room. It was determined that Nurmi felt the effects of having a hefty veal dinner just 3 hours before the race!

Joie Ray won the Mile and matched Nurmi’s 10-day World Record of 4:12.0, and Penn State’s Alan Helffrich set a new standard of 1:11.6 in the 600y.

An overflow crowd of more than 12,000 fans jammed into the original Madison Square Garden for the final meet before the building’s demolition.

(For Subscribers) https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1925/03/18/101649931.html?pageNumber=15

1968 The International Cross Country Championships were held in TunisTunisia, at the Hippodrome de Kassar-Said. Morocco’s Mohammed Gammoudi (35:25.4) edged Great Britain’s Ron Hill (35:26.8)  for the Men’s title.



1972–The U.S. and the Soviet Union had met in ten previous dual meets, but this was the first to be held indoors. The setting was Richmond, Virginia (11-lap banked track), and the U.S., thanks to a surprise victory by a women’s team loaded with teenagers, was the overall winner (131-112) for only the 3rd time in the series. It didn’t hurt that the Soviet team might have been tired after their long trip to the U.S.


            16-year-old Debbie Heald, a junior at Neff H.S. in LaMirada, CA, pulled off the biggest upset of the meet by winning the Women’s Mile in 4:38.5. Her time broke the American Record of 4:40.4, set in 1967 by Doris Brown, who finished 3rd here, and was also under her own record (4:40.1). Heald’s time stood as the National H.S. Record until Mary Cain ran 4:32.78 in 2013 (Heald is now #10 on the all-time prep indoor list). Cain then improved the mark to 4:28.25 at the Millrose Games. Cain’s reign as the record holder might eventually last longer than Heald’s 41-year stretch!

From Roy Mason, Heald’s coach at the time, “She ran the race in a worn-out pair of spikes taped together because the shoe sponsors didn’t think that she was good enough to merit a new pair!”.

            Other American records were set by Kathy Hammond, who won the 600y in 1:20.5, and Patty Johnson. Winner of the 60-yard Hurdles in 7.4; Martha Watson, winner of the Long Jump with a leap of 21-3/4 (6.42); and the runner-up 2-mile Relay team (8:42.0) of  Sue Parks (15, 2:12.7), Carol Hudson (16, 2:11.0), Doris Brown (2:08.5), and Kathy Gibbons (17, 2:09.8). The Soviet team won in 8:41.6.

             On the men’s side, American Records were set by John Craft in the Triple Jump (55-5 [16.89]) and George Frenn in the 35-pound Weight Throw (74-2  ¾ [24.625?]).

Sports Illustrated Vaulthttp://www.si.com/vault/1972/03/27/576444/theyre-sweet-16-and-deserve-a-kiss

Debbie Heald(2012):



1973Eastern Michigan’s Stan Vinson set a Collegiate Record of 54.8 for 500 yards on his home track in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Vinson would win the 600y at the 1974 and 1975 NCAA Indoor Championships.


Sergey Bubka print ad, 1990s, ad courtesy of NIKE comms


1987Sergey Bubka raised his own World Indoor Record in the Pole Vault by a centimeter to 19-7 (5.97) in Turin, Italy.