Tuesday, December 8, 2020

There's Always One

There's always THAT guy, right?

In this case, That guy is John Mack. As you recall, Mack was a 10-time Heptagonal track and field champion and a Roper Trophy winner in 2000.

TigerBlog wrote yesterday about universally beloved athletes, and he came up with Usain Bolt as an example of that. Of course it took until all the way to 9:37 yesterday morning for TB to get a text from Mack that said: "I rooted against Usain Bolt."

Mack's best 200 meter time, by the way, was 21.12, which is the fourth-best in Princeton history. The record of 20.69 was set by Steve Morgan at the 1986 IC4A meet, which makes it the longest-standing Princeton men's track outdoor record.

Augie Wolf's records in the field events of shot put and discus are a few years older.

As recently as the 1950s, Morgan's 200-meter time would have been the world record. The first time a runner went under 20 seconds was when Tommie Smith did so at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, shortly before the most important social justice moment in athletic history, when he and silver medalist John Carlos raised their clenched fists in what Smith called in his autobiography "a human rights" salute.

The current world record, by the way, was set in 2009 by none other than Bolt, who ran a 19.19. 

Mack's best event was the 400, and his best time there was 46.68. For the entirety of his Princeton career, he tried to chase down the record of 46.44, set by Dick Edmunds at the 1960 Olympic Trials. It was Tom Hopkins who would eventually catch Edmunds, when Hopkins ran a 46.23 in 2012, a mere 52 years after Edmonds first set the record.

That's a long run, as the record holder, if you'll pardon the pun.

It's amazing how small the differences are between a record that could stand that long and the challengers who came so close to it. Mike Eddy came within five one-hundreths of a second of the record in 2011, and Royce Reed came slightly closer than Mack did when Reed ran 46.57 in 1999.

Those time differences are not even real in normal human existence.

On the women's side, the longest standing outdoor track and field records both date to 1983. Not shockingly, they belong to two of the programs all-time best runners.

One of them is the 3,000 meter run, whose record is held by former Olympian Lynn Jennings. Her time? 9:01.70.

What is the next-best? 

Laura Cattivera ran a 9:18.60 in 1989, followed by Katie McCandless and her 9:19.45 in 1992. The best time this century was 9:20.74 in 2014. 

That's a huge gap still, considering all the great distance runners Princeton has had in the last 37 years.

The other record from 1983 was set at the AIAW championships that year in the 400 hurdles, an event in which Sally Anderson ran a 58.19. Sally Anderson is now Sally Willig, by the way, and she is a highly accomplished geologist.

Only one person has gotten within a second of the record that Anderson set, and that was fairly recently, when Carly Bonnet went 59.12 at the 2019 Heps.

There is also a record for a field event that dates to the 1980s. Not surprisingly, it's the shot put record that Deborah Saint-Phard set in 1987, a mark of more than 54 feet that nobody has approached (second-best is four feet behind, in a 2011 performance by Thanithia Billing).

If you're really looking for distance in a record, try the hammer throw. 

The second-best thrower in Princeton history is, by Kennedy O'Dell, who went 196-10 in 2018. That leaves her 34 feet (more than 10 yards) short of Julia Ratcliffe, whose 134 Princeton throws all were better than any one at Princeton - or in the Ivy League, for that matter - has ever done.

In conclusion, TB isn't sure if John Mack was serious about not rooting for Usain Bolt. Maybe he was.

When he asked him, Mack responded with a link to a story that said that of the 10 best 100-meter sprinters of all time, only three had never been charged with a doping offense, and Bolt was one of the clean ones.

So did Mack actually like him after all? His response was "nah."

There's always one.

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