Hall of Fame Class of 2007 Interviews
INDIANAPOLIS - USA Track & Field announced on Tuesday that Jane Frederick, Calvin Smith, Glenn Morris, George Woods and Elvin C. "Ducky" Drake will be inducted in the National Track & Field Hall of Fame. Below are recent interviews with the inductees.
Q: What does it mean for you to be inducted into the National Track & Field Hall of Fame?
A: When I found out I got goose bumps and tears in my eyes, how's that? I had to sit down, and I remember that my mind started racing. I never thought I'd qualified. I had made peace with what I had done and who I was and how my career went and I'm living with that. I just never thought in terms of me qualifying for the Hall of Fame.
Q: How did you get started in track and field?
A: I think it was two-fold. My father had been a track official for Cal (University of California) and he loved track. Even when I was 3 or 4 years old he was down officiating the Cal track meets at Edwards Stadium, so we always had track around us and it was something that I was aware of and it was around me. When I was in junior high school there were some recreational events happening on the field and one of them was the long jump, so I went over there and just joined that and it turned out I was pretty good. The guy running that was a coach named Larry Piltcher and he told me that he was thinking of putting together an age-group AAU girls' team. He called my parents about it and of course my dad was delighted, and it just kind of went from there and that's how I got started.
Q: After getting your feet wet with the long jump and hurdles, how did you eventually become a combined events athlete?
A: That was a destiny deal, no question. Every time I'd go to practice as a kid I would try it all just to find out who I am and what's going on. So I'd see the high jump and believe that I could do it. At practice one day I walked around some bleachers and saw some boys throwing the shot put and I wanted to try it. So I picked it up and they kind of showed me how your supposed to stand sideways, and I remember when the coach came up he told me that I wasn't going to be a shot putter, let's go run. So after practice was over I went back and worked on it and threw over 30 feet. I called the coach over and when I threw it his eyes popped. Then the light bulb started going on, but you have to remember this is 1963 or '64, and that was the first time that a multi-event was considered for the women at the international and national level, and people didn't even consider it because it wasn't an event, it was just getting started. In 1965 they gave me a special exemption to compete in the women's national pentathlon championship because it was going to be in my home area, and I was only 13, and you have to be 14 to compete in an open women's event. That was just one of the first times I was encouraged to develop young talent in the pentathlon. After I did that one time I decided this is my thing and I really liked it. I liked doing all those different things.
Q: What were the qualities that made you as dominant in the U.S. as you were in combined events?
A: It was such a challenging thing and that made it so special, and that made me identify with doing something special and that gave me a handle to kind of hang my hat on in that whole thing of being a teenager and trying to find your way through. I went to Colorado (University of Colorado) because that's where I wanted to go to school, my family was from there and I loved the campus and I wanted to go out of California. When I got to college I worked out in the fieldhouse at night on my own. I scheduled all my classes in early in the morning and got my homework done so I could go to the fieldhouse early in the evening and run, and I even found my way to the weight room and did my own stuff. One night I was in the fieldhouse and this AAU team from Denver was there and we started talking, and that's how I hooked up with the, I believe it was called, the Colorado Gold that Lyle Knudson ran out of Denver. I joined them and they came up a couple nights a week, and I got a chance to compete a couple of times. Later I went abroad to Italy to go to school because I always wanted to go abroad, and over there I knew I could train and do some stuff. It was in my mind to go to Italy in my sophomore year because my junior year was the Olympic year and I must be home, and I must make the team. So, I went to Italy and around October I looked for a place to work out and on the wall by the track that I found it said national center for track and field training for multi-events and throws. I had gone to the city where this national training center was without even knowing it. So I walk in, and it didn't take more than five minutes until I met the coaches and I just fell in to it and I stayed through the following summer for 14 whole months of training. Down the road about a half hour away was the Olympic training center for multi-events and throws. It was just meant to be. They taught me all the weight training, all the technique and so many exceptional things. I came home in the fall of 1971 and I was on a roll and it just kind of goes from there.
Q:Following your time in Italy, what was next for you?
A: In the fall of 1971 I came back to college and in 1972 I had a bit of a struggle to make the (Olympic) team because unfortunately, most of my life I was very easily injured as something would always come up. I think I was really high strung, I would always injure myself right before the meet. I won the Trials, but I needed to make the standard and I struggled all summer, but I finally made the standard. I was on the team and that was great. Once I got to Munich that was such an extraordinary experience on so many levels. I found that there was a greater level of involvement and distance to have to go talent and experience-wise to break into those top medal contender ranks. So, I decided that I would be out of college soon and I would go back to Italy and get after it again, and that's what I did.
Q: You finished 7th at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. What was that experience like?
A: I was considered a dark horse to maybe get a medal. I thought Montreal was very depressing. Even though my family was there, I found it very difficult, honestly, to give a damn. I found Montreal to be a very difficult competition for me. After Munich, which had this incredible village, with everybody having one to two people to an apartment with an astonishing, festive atmosphere, to Montreal where it was 12 to a room. Yes! We had 12 athletes in one apartment room, where we were packed in like sardines. We were barbed wired in with the sense of being in a military compound with the guns and security, and the facility wasn't finished. For me, when I thought of the Olympics being the epitome of international experience, Montreal was just obliterated by everybody being packed into to two buildings, 12 to a room and walking to the practice facilities and the main stadium that didn't ever get finished. The oppressive sense of Montreal having gone bankrupt over it and what was left over of their fear from Munich was very keen. I had a lot of trouble. Although I think I finished well and hung in there, it was very hard for me. I didn't really know that I was experiencing all of that until I reflected on it. It was depressing. It was tough.
Q: How do you look on your own legacy in track and field?
A: I really, in my own heart, had a very strong commitment that I would be there for the long haul with this decathlon, making a legacy in that area for women. The decathlon had such a long history and women had no such anchor to that quality that existed in the sport for men and I related to that personality type that is that decathlon person. That was just who I was right away and that was who I was going to go ahead and keep being until I couldn't do it any more, which is what happened in 1989 with too many injuries and it was time to move on.
Q: What did you do after retiring from track? What are you doing these days?
A: I wanted to try coaching because I was offered a coaching opportunity. I had coached a little bit here in Santa Barbara and I really enjoyed it. So I took the opportunity when it was offered to go down to the University of Texas and coach with the women's team and it was wonderful. We won the national championship the first year and I ended up with four NCAA national champions under my tutelage and eight All-Americans. Things changed down in Texas and I came home to Santa Barbara and coached track up here, but honestly I couldn't really coach at a lower level, it wasn't really motivating, so I moved into the strength and training field. I've been doing strength and conditioning at UC Santa Barbara since 1996 and then I went to personal training at a private gym beginning in 2000, where 80% of my clients are over 60.
photos Janos Schmidt