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Hall of Fame

Misplaced Priorities

Published May 26, 2003 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

Last month, the National Distance Running Hall of Fame in Utica announced its 2003 class of inductees, Jim Ryun, Mary Decker Slaney and George Young. With the accomplishments of all three athletes occurring on the track, one questions the logic of inducting them in a distance running hall of fame.

For the record, Ryun became the first high school runner to break four minutes in the mile, and went on to set the world record for the mile at age 19. He represented the US in the 1,500 meters in the 1964, 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games, and earned a silver medal in the 1968 Mexico Olympics. His 1965 mile of 3:55.3 still stands as the US high school record.

Decker Slaney set world records in the 800 and 1,000 meters in 1974, in the 1,500 meters and the mile in 1980, at 5,000 and 10,000 meters in 1982, and two more world records in 1985. She dominated the track in 1985, holding every US record from 800 to 10,000 meters, and earned the International Amateur Athletic Federation's designation as the top female athlete in the world.

Young became the first American to compete in four Olympic Games, from 1960 in Rome through 1972 in Munich, winning a bronze medal in the steeplechase in the 1968 Mexico Olympics. He set 2-mile and 3-mile world indoor records in 1969, and became the oldest man to run a sub-four minute mile at 34 years 11 months.

The National Distance Running Hall of Fame in Utica was built on the success of the Boilermaker road race, and received its designation in 1998 from the Road Runners Club in America (RRCA). Established to honor the sport of distance running, it seems to have lost sight of its mission by duplicating the redundancy of other halls of fame.

For example, Young was inducted in the United States Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1977, the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1981, the RRCA Hall of Fame in 1994, and the National Distance Running Hall of Fame in 2003, all four inductions for the same track performances.

The first three classes of Utica inductees included twelve marathon runners. The depth of recent classes dropped rapidly, with the newest class of track athletes overlooking several distance runners who have contributed much to our sport. From the coaching passion of Arnie Briggs and the world record of Cheryl Bridges, through the inspirational writings of Geoff Galloway and the cutting-edge research of Jack Daniels, to the visionary works of Kenneth Cooper and Nathan Pritikin, our sport has no shortage of heroes who can bring honor to the Distance Running Hall of Fame.

© 2003 The Post-Standard.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. Dr.J. created TrackMeets.com, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at jabbour@i2sports.com.

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