The flying eagle
As we move into track season, a little history from the area might be appropriate. I mentioned a while back that the main sport that my two brothers and I participated in during our school days was track. What I did not mention was the reason that we ran track.
To be a runner, there has to be some sort of motivation other than fame. Wryly commenting on why he had been a high jumper, Bill Cosby noted that there usually were not many girls clustered around the finish line to watch some runner throw up. Other sporting endeavors have a lot more glamor with a lot less work than is involved in running.
I suppose that all three of us brothers had somewhat above average speed and endurance, but it was not anything outstanding. So why did we run? The main reason was because we had an older cousin who had been a record-setting trackster, and his success inspired us to our modest achievements.
Gary Green graduated from Paris High School in the mid-1960s. He started running in junior high. He had lots of natural speed and at first concentrated on the short sprints (100 and 220 yards). Someone who saw him run told me that he had a smooth, text-book stride. He said, “If you had put a bucket of water on his head, he would not have spilled any while he was running.”
Toward the end of his freshman year, however, he timed himself in the quarter-mile (440 yards) at 55 seconds in some training repetitions. He told his coach, who told him he would enter him in the event in the district meet, and if he broke 55 seconds he would buy him a hamburger. He broke the district record with a time of 54.5 seconds – but never got the hamburger.
The second time he ran the event was the following week in the state track meet, and he set the state record at 53 seconds. I do not know how long it stood, but it was still in place when I graduated in 1971. Suffice it to say that breaking records in your first two attempts at a distance is an auspicious beginning to a career.
Gary continued his improvement in senior high. He got his time in the 100 yard dash down to 10.2 seconds and the 220 to 22.5 seconds. One of his best efforts was in the Meet of Champs his junior year, when he was third in the 440 with a time of 49.8 seconds. (By way of comparison, in 2019 the winner of the Class 3A state title in the 400 meters ran 50.4 seconds, according to Coach Randy Bryan of Magazine; and the 400 meters is about three tenths of a second shorter than the quarter-mile.)
Gary’s best event may have been the long jump, however. He jumped 21 feet, 6 inches while he was at Paris, which was good enough to attract the attention of the University of Arkansas. Unfortunately, an injury effectively short-circuited his career after his junior season, and he never really found out what he could accomplish. Since he was a National Merit scholar it was probably just as well, since he spent his career in more intellectual pursuits.
Needless to say, Gary set the bar very high for us younger relatives. We never did match the sort of marks he had, but he no doubt made us extend ourselves beyond what we otherwise would have run.
The Paris Eagles have had some good runners over the years, but this one could really fly.