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This Day in Track & Field–February 19

by Walt Murphy’s News and Results Service  (wmurphy25@aol.com), used with permission 

1965—This was the first year that the Men’s and Women’s U.S. Indoor Championships were combined, requiring a 2-day format at Madison Square Garden (2-19,20).

On the first night of competition, Marine Lieutenant Billy Mills, the surprise gold medalist in the 10,000-Meters at the previous year’s Olympics in Tokyo, won the Men’s 3-mile and set an American Record of 13:25.4.

From his Road to Tokyo Report

“It is Friday evening, February 19, 1965, here in New York City.  There is an excitement that only a sports event held in Madison Square Garden can produce.

We are ready for the USA National Indoor Track and Field Championships three-mile race. It will be the first true test of my conditioning level.  For the past two months, I have been comfortable coaching myself, but I do miss Coach Tommy Thomson (who had coached Mills leading up to the Olympics).  His presence was always reassuring.  Frequently I am asking Patricia (Billy’s wife) for her opinion or to confirm mine.

I may as well call her my coach.  She said several times how mental training and competition seem to be. And added: “Please don’t call me your coach, but being your psychiatrist fits perfectly”.  My smile tries to hide how perceptive I think she is.

We are called to the starting line.  The starter gives the command as he raises the pistol.  He fires, and the USA indoor three-mile championship race is underway.

Wanting to start out under the American record pace, I sprint to the front.  Racing indoors on the shorter tracks, 11 laps to the mile, and banked curves makes the races very intimate as if the fans are on track with us.

My effort was comfortable and under the American record pace.  Dave Ellis from Canada took the lead but soon was passed by Frank Pflaging from Baltimore.  The pace was slowing, so I moved back in front, picking up the pace.  Two laps later, we were back under the American record pace, and Pflaging began to fade.

Ellis again makes several attempts to pass me, but each time, by gently increasing my pace ever so slightly, he backs off.  He is conveying to me he doesn’t want a faster pace.  With one lap to go, I start a hard drive, and my lead increases.  Breaking the tape, I glance toward the timer’s clock.  It reads 13:25.4, a new American indoor three-mile record.  My confidence for a six-mile world record in June and the 10,000-meter world record in July soars! (Mills would get the 6-mile WR in June, but not the 10k Record).

Other winners:

Men: 60y-Sam Perry (6.0), 600y-Jack Yerman (1:11.3), Mile-Jim Grelle (4:07.4); High Jump-Valeriy Brumel (7-2 [2.185?]), Long Jump-Igor Ter-Ovaneysan  and Ralph Boston continued their  rivalry, both jumping 26-2 (7.975?), with “Ter-O” getting the win with a better 2nd jump,

Women:60y-Wyomia Tyus (6.8), 880y-Canada’s Abby Hoffman (2:11.7/longest event for the women), High Jump-Romania’s Iolanda Balas (5-9 [1.755?]), Long Jump-Great Britain’s Mary Rand (20-4 [6.195?]), Shot Put-Soviet Union’s Tamara Press (57-2  ½ [17.435?]).

Sports Illustrated Vault:


“Women Invade Garden”


“Indoor track had never looked more fetching. At last week’s two-day AAU meet in New York, fans were treated to the spectacle of lithe young women leaping, running, and soaring in a colorful selection of Capri stretch pants, turtleneck blouses, Bermuda shorts, leotards, and bikini-short shorts.”


1966— Doris Brown (Heritage) became the first American woman to break 5 minutes for the mile when she set a World Indoor Record of 4:52.0 in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Doris Brown Heritage, circa 1967, by Wikipedia (public domain)

The race had been advertised locally as an attempt by Canadian Roberta Pico to break the indoor 5-minute barrier, while Brown had been invited merely to provide some competition for her.

Brown would return to Vancouver a year later (Feb.18) to smash her own World and American Records with her winning time of 4:40.4.

Video(w/commentary by Ron Delany, the 1956 Olympic champion at 1500 Meters!)