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Dr. J. on Running

National Track and Field Hall of Fame

Inductees Named

Published November 1, 1999 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

Last month, USA Track and Field, the national governing body for track and field, racewalking and distance running, announced the induction of four athletes into the National Track & Field Hall of Fame, located in the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. The class of 1999 brings the number of inductees to 180.

The new inductees are Willie Banks of Carlsbad, Calif., Charles Moore of Washington, D.C., Bill Rodgers of Sherborn, Mass., and the late Larry Ellis. They were selected by a ballot of the Track and Field Writers of America, Hall of Fame members, USATF Association presidents and committee members.

Banks, 43, was considered one of the world's greatest triple jumpers during the 1980s. He set a world record of 17.97 meters at the U.S. outdoor championships in 1985, and was a member of '80, '84 and '88 Olympic teams.

Ellis was head coach at Jamaica High School for 13 years, then at Princeton University for 22 years. Among his athletes were Bob Beamon, the former world record holder in the long jump, and Craig Masback, the current chief executive officer of USATF. Under Ellis, Princeton won 11 heptagonal team titles in track and eight team titles in cross country.

Ellis was the men's head coach of the 1984 Olympic team and most recently the 1998 World Cup team. He served as president of USATF from 1992 to 1996. On the track, Ellis was an oustanding middle distance runner at New York University. Ellis died in Skillman, N.J., on Nov. 4, 1998.

Moore, 70, recently retired as athletic director at his alma mater, Cornell University. One of the greatest 400 hurdlers of all-time, Moore used engineering principles to reduce the number of strides between hurdles from 15 to 13. His innovation earned him four national titles and a 1952 Olympic gold, to name a few. At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, he was selected as one of the 100 Golden Olympians.

"Boston Billy" Rodgers, 51, won four Boston Marathons and four New York City Marathons. He was a member of the 1976 Olympic team and the former American record holder in the marathon. Rodgers was one of the prime movers in the American distance running boom of the 1970s. In 1975, he finished third in the World Cross Country Championships and dominated U.S. distance running for the rest of the decade. His showing of 2 hours, 9 minutes, 28 seconds that won the 1979 Boston Marathon remains fifth on the U.S. all-time list. In 1998, Rodgers was inducted in the inaugural class of the National Distance Running Hall of Fame in Utica.

I met Rodgers on several occasions, most recently at the pre-race exposition at the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, Pa. Rodgers spoke to the runners on the eve of the marathon, and shared with them stories from his early years. After a break from running during his college years, Rodgers was inspired by Frank Shorter's gold medal in the Munich Olympic Marathon. He returned to running and racing, and battled Shorter on the roads throughout the 1970s and early 1980s.

As Shorter and many of their contemporaries retired from serious competition, Rodgers continued to train and race, rewriting the record books as he moved from age group to another. Today, at 51, he remains a powerful competitor, demonstrating the staying power of fitness.

Ironically, Rodgers credited his successful racing career in part to the lack of funding and the economic depression of the '70s. Without real prospects for serious jobs, distance runners took to the roads and ran a relatively high mileage, providing them with a solid base and permitting them to dominate the roads. Today, in an era of national prosperity, the same success story replays itself in developing countries around the world.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains TrackMeets.com, the world leader in live track webcasting, and receives email at jabbour@syr.edu.


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