June 10, 2014
By Geoff Thurner
This week, the nation's fastest, strongest and most explosive athletes will converge on historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon to do battle in the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Two Bulldogs will be there, too - long jumper Je'Nia Sears and hammer thrower Meagan McKee - and will follow the lead of one of the greatest teams in school history who made a similar trek 50 years ago.
Back on June 12-13, 1964, head coach Dutch Warmerdam and a 15-man Bulldog unit dusted the NCAA Track and Field College Championships field at Fresno's Ratcliffe Stadium en route to the department's first national title in any sport.
The team - prognosticated for a 65-point score - racked up 85 points instead, thanks to a crop of homegrown sprint and jump talent.
When the 20-event competition was over, Fresno State had easily outdistanced Long Beach State (second, 57), Cal Poly (third, 40), College of the Redlands (fourth, 37), North Carolina (fifth, 30), Ohio State (sixth, 26), Sacramento State (seventh, 23) and Grambling (eighth, 22).
Leading the way, senior Sid Nickolas of Vallejo, Calif., rattled off one of the team's greatest (and busiest) efforts in school history, and his 28 ½ points accounted for 1/3 of the team's final total.
Over the course of the two-day meet, he powered to wins in the 120-yard high hurdles (13.9w) and long jump (26-0) with the latter only 2 1/2 inches off his school record. He also added third place in the triple jump, and ran on the winning 440-yard relay.
Such a busy schedule was nothing new after he had also won four events a month before in the California Collegiate Athletic Association conference meet in the 120y hurdles (14.4), 220y (21.6), long jump (25-2) and 440y relay (40.8) in Long Beach.
Nickolas had been a key scorer the year before in the same NCAA college meet in Chicago after he took second in the long jump and third in the 100y and 120y high hurdles.
Also top-seeded in his event, junior Charles Craig of Fresno sailed to victory in the NCAA triple jump (51-9 1/4) en route to his second straight All-America honor.
The returning NCAA runner-up had entered the '64 slate with a then-best of 50-2 1/4 from '63 that ranked second among U.S. collegians. Now in his second year in the event, Craig was ready to take his marks to a whole new level as he refined his mostly self-developed style (and honed by books about the Russian, strength-based training method).
The Fresno, Calif., product went from a winning 45-8 early-season mark in a cool, overcast Stanford dual to blue ribbons in the Easter Relays (52-1 1/2), UCSB dual (51-4) and CCAA meet (50-7 3/4), then added a runner-up finish in the Coliseum Relays (51-9) with four jumps past the 51-foot mark. By the end of the year, his season and personal best of 52-4 had bettered the previous collegiate record.
As with his teammates, Craig's talent smacked of versatility with legitimate credentials in the long jump - and event he placed third in the conference - and the quarter mile. In the same meet, he sped to a school record in the CCAA 440y (47.3) after dual wins vs. Stanford (48.6) and UCSB (7.8), and was a key member of the mile relay.
Another cornerstone of the team was the `Bald Bullet' Darel Newman who took the U.S. sprint scene by storm in his first year as a Bulldog in 1964. The Reedley College transfer topped the NCAA 100y field in 9.3 seconds, while his teammates Sam Workman and Marvin Bryant were clocked in 9.4 seconds.
Newman, a junior from nearby Selma, entered the year with 100y and 220y bests of 9.5 and 21.0 and now had his eye on the world record of 9.1 set by Bob Hayes in 1963.
Soon to be known as one of the nation's most skilled at the start, he had won the 100 meters in the Mt. SAC Relays with a wind-aided 10.1 time (9.3-converted), and ran a wind-legal 9.4 to win the district meet among his highlight-reel season.
Another workhorse of the squad, junior Sam Workman, added fourth place in the NCAA 220 yards (21.1) in an event won by the great Florida A&M runner Hayes.
The Taft, Calif., product Workman was no stranger to the national level either, and had crossed the line second in the 1963 NCAA college meet in both the 100y and 220y. Now his deep training group had helped prepare him for a school record 20.7 during the 1964 campaign, and slightly faster than his win in the San Jose State triangular in March (first, 20.8). Afterwards, he won the NCAA District (21.6) and placed third in the CCAA (21.8) to set the stage for the national finales.
Bryant, the quiet high school teammate of Nickolas from Vallejo, was an equally vital member of the relay. The senior had won the 100y and 220y in the early season UCSB dual meet (9.4w/21.3) and tied a stadium record. In the CCAA finale, he placed third in the 100y (9.6) and fourth in the 220y (21.9) and also ran on the winning 440y relay (40.8).
Keeping to form, the quartet of Bryant, Nickolas, Workman and Newman, also posted a convincing NCAA win in the 440-yard relay.
That gold medal was no surprise either, especially to the 17,000 West Coast track fans who three weeks before had cheered Newman, Workman and Bryant to a 1-2-3 finish in the West Coast Relays 100y on the same Ratcliffe track in one of the nation's top relay festivals.
Sharing in the meet's first-ever event sprint sweep, Newman triumphed in the century dash in 9.3 seconds, and the latter two both clocked 9.4 (while Newman torched the track for a 9.2 prelim time). The quartet was equally consistent in its passing earlier in the year with victories in the Stanford Dual Meet (40.6), West Coast Relays (40.7) and CCAA (40.8), and a 0.2-second school record in the L.A. Coliseum Relays (40.4).
The team also picked up unexpected points in the three mile with fourth- and sixth-place finishes from Howard `Spike' Biggers and Rick Dahlgren.
Biggers had claimed a surprise win in the CCAA title a month before in the two-mile, while Dahlgren would later win the NCAA district cross country title later in the fall of 1963 en route to a sixth-place NCAA 5,000m finish the following spring.
Bill Allen also scored a top-six finish in the pole vault in the 1964 NCAA college showdown after setting a school record (15-3 1/2) earlier in the campaign under the watchful eye of the world's greatest in the event - Warmerdam himself.
NCAA meet points were awarded to the top six finishers in each event on a 10-8-6-4-2-1 scale.
After the meet was over, the season wasn't done for the Bulldogs that finished top six in their events, who were invited to face the rest of the nation's top teams in the NCAA University Division Championships in Eugene.
The seven-member group of Newman, Nickolas, Bryant, Workman, Allen, Craig and Biggers headed two days later to Eugene in the three-day event from June 18-20.
The size of the Bulldog squad didn't stop them from finishing third overall with 30 points, while the deep Webfoot host squad ultimately won with 70 points on their home track.
Becoming Fresno State's sixth-ever national champion at the university level, Craig positioned himself for the triple jump win the next day with his second attempt in the prelims (51-8 3/4).
That mark held up to win the competition after the finalists' last four attempts, and bettered the previous NCAA meet and Hayward Field records. Unfortunately the record wasn't verified because of a malfunctioning wind gauge. His still-impressive series consisted of four +50-foot leaps among the prelims (49-0 1/4, 51-8 3/4, 50-6 3/4, 49-10 1/4) and final series (51-0 1/4w, 51-1 1/2, and 48-10 1/4).
Fresno State nearly added a win in the long jump, too, after Nickolas led (26-1) at the halfway point after the opening round's prelims. He continued to top the leader board until the penultimate jump of the final round - a winning, meet record of 26-9 1/4 by Arizona's Gayle Hopkins - to drop him to second place.
Also qualified in the 110m hurdles, Nickolas did not advance past the semifinal after his sixth-hurdle lead was ruined when he hit the final three hurdles en route to a 14.2 time.
In the 100-meter final, a puddle along the starting line didn't stop Newman from finishing fourth in the final in 10.2 seconds - aided by a +2.9 win and only 0.1 shy of tying the American records, and also just off the NCAA and Hayward Field records set by the winner Harry Jerome of Oregon. The first-year Bulldog finished only a tenth of a second behind winner Jerome (first, 10.1), Ed Roberts of North Carolina (second, 10.1) and Trenton Jackson of Illinois (third, 10.1).
In the prelims, Newman ran 10.5 and advanced with Workman (10.6) followed by times of 10.2 and 10.5, respectively, in the semifinals, while Bryant just missed a bid to the semifinal in the prelims.
However, Newman felt a thigh ache after the 100m finale, so Coach Dutch Warmerdam inserted the always reliable Craig onto the 440-yard quartet. The Bulldogs led the first three legs of the final, but Nickolas couldn't hold off Jackson of Illinois in the final 50 meters. Fresno State still clocked a 40.3 school record for second place, while champion Illinois tied the national meet record (40.1).
Workman added two points in the 220y final (seventh, 21.3), and earned a bid to the Olympic Trials as a top-six American finisher. The steady performer had smoothly navigated the rounds after clocking 21.2 in the semifinal and 21.4 in the prelim.
The other two Bulldog entrants included Howard Biggers (5,000m, 15:07.9) and pole vaulter Bill Allen who couldn't convert after an opening round make (14-6) in an event suspended temporarily because of wet runway conditions that led to two injuries.
After the meet, the 440 relay, Nickolas (long jump) and Craig (triple jump) were tabbed All-Americans.
Although the collegiate season was now over, the Olympic Games in Tokyo still loomed in mid-October and a pair of Olympic Trials events were staged for the team selection in New York City in July and Los Angeles in September.
Craig finished third in the triple jump (51-10) in New York and Newman added sixth in the 100y (10.3w), only .2 seconds shy of the winner. Nickolas and Workman also competed in the event, but did not advance past the prelims.
In the final stop in Los Angeles, Newman raced to fifth place in the 100y in 10.4 and only .1 seconds shy of a top-three Olympic bid while another `Bullet', Bob Hayes won in 10.1. Craig finished fifth in the L.A. edition with a 48-6 1/2 best among his three jumps to also fall shy of a trip to Tokyo.
The 1964 college championship proved the pinnacle of a magical three-year run that also featured a second-place NCAA College Division finish in Chicago in 1963 (with 64 points). Among NCAA University Division efforts, its 1964 bronze-medal finish still stands as a school best, while the squad also placed 14th in 1963 and 29th in 1965.
Among other notable accomplishments, the 1964 squad also won its second of three straight CCAA team titles, and savored 10 school records and tied another. Freshman Bob Channell broke the oldest school record at that point in the high jump (6-10 1/4); Duane Reidenbach reset the school bests in the 330-yard and 440-yard intermediate hurdles school best (37.3 / 51.8) and was an AAU championship finalist; and other new all-time Fresno State bests went to the 880-yard and distance medley relays (1:24 / 10:05.5).
A year later, the 1965 squad had enjoyed another banner season in the final campaigns by Workman, Newman and Craig.
Indoors, Newman finished second in the NCAA indoor 60-yard dash after he tied Bob Hayes' world record (5.9) and earlier in the year in the Golden Gate Invitational in San Francisco.
Outdoors, Newman, Craig and Workman overcame early-season injuries to help the squad tie Long Beach State for the CCAA title with 56 points at Ratcliffe Stadium. Newman ran a 100-yard meet record (9.3) by 0.2 seconds, as did Workman in the 220 (20.9). The latter also finished second in the 100y en route to 16 1/5 points, while Craig took second in the triple jump.
In the NCAA College Division 100-yard sprint, Newman won the event (9.5), then took second in the University Division final (9.5) just behind Nebraska's Charlie Green (9.4). In the summer, he added second in the AAU meet to earn a slot on the U.S. squad that competed in dual meets in Russia, and subsequently won the 100 meters in the event.
Craig also left a lengthy legacy on the U.S. record books that included several top-three season rankings and a 1967 Pan-American Championships title.
Last fall, the team reassembled and was formally recognized with induction into the Fresno Hall of Fame, and proudly sported national champion rings purchased in recent years.
The 21-member 1964 squad - led by head coach Dutch Warmerdam and manager Larry Knuth - also included Bryant, Craig, Newman, Nickolas, Workman, Danny Thomas, Joe Herzog, Dennis Wombacher, George Koolery, Phil Johnson, Marvin DeCarlo, Rick Dahlgren, Howard Biggers, Jim Nielsen, Pat Clark, Duane Reidenbach, Bill Allen, Mike Elliott, Tom Poindexter, John Frame, Charles Hulce and Frank Pollock.
Warmerdam continued to coach the Bulldogs until his retirement after the 1980 season and was later inducted into the National Track and Field and Millrose Games Halls of Fame.
As an athlete, the Hanford, Calif., native first made his name as the world's first pole vaulter to clear 15 feet in 1940, and ultimately surpassed the barrier 43 times in competition (a feat no other vaulter achieved once in that period).
His all-time best of 15-7 3/4 - which came with a bamboo pole in 1942 - lasted until 1957 when Bob Gutowski finally bettered it with a metal pole.
The 1942 Sullivan Award winner as the nation's top amateur athlete in all sports, Warmerdam unfortunately never had the chance to compete in the Olympics because the 1940 and '44 games were cancelled due to the World War II, and he was ineligible in 1948 because he was coaching professionally.
Bulldog fans can now watch this year's duo of Sears and McKee chase their own NCAA ambitions on Wednesday, June 10 at Hayward Field in Eugene, and more meet information is available at the http://www.ncaa.com/sports/trackfield-outdoor-men/d1/2014-di-track-and-field-results URL address.
INTERVIEWS WITH VARIOUS MEMBERS OF THE 1964 NCAA TRACK AND FIELD TEAM COLLEGE DIVISION CHAMPIONS
Take us back through your start in the sport.
"I wasn't that interested in track initially in college. I went to Fresno State from Fresno City College where I was a three-sport athlete in track/basketball/baseball. When you compete at a small school like Central High School (west Fresno) it wasn't strange to compete in a lot of sports. I competed in track as long as baseball didn't interfere. I would even do the 660 yards because coach asked me to, and ran it four or five times. I ended up being the valley champion and not knowing what I was doing. "We also won the state junior championship twice in baseball, and I transferred to Fresno State with the idea of playing baseball. Coach (Pete) Beiden saw my lack of ability, and said I was not going to make the team. I had some track background and had placed second in the state junior college track meet in the long jump so I had some background."
Talk about that first year at Fresno State in 1963, and how this group of talented newcomers gelled early on with the older guys on the team.
"Back then, there was a 2-3 combination rule - if you competed two years in junior college, you could compete three years at a four-year college. My first year at Fresno, the old guard was in charge with Hugh Adams, Duane Reidenbach, Spike Diggers. They were the elders and they set the stage for us. Our group - Darel, Sid, Marvin and I - we all hung in there. As I got more experience I became more of a leader. I remember when Dutch first asked me to do the triple jump one day, and I didn't know what it was. He went on to explain it somewhat and I did it, along with the long jump, 100, 200 and both relays."
Describe Coach Warmerdam as a coach and mentor to you.
"He was a great friend and great coach. He was not an intense motivator or a `rah-rah' guy. His philosophy was that I'm here as a resource, and I expect you to handle yourself as a man with integrity and compassion. He was a good friend for us. He would give us workouts, and said that if follow it you'll be successful. We got our energy from each other, and he gave us our moral strength."
Talk about your background growing up and how that prepared you to be a national champion and NCAA meet record holder.
"My family was very poor and we worked in the fields - picking and chopping cotton, picking apricots, etc. My family was from a small community called Jamestown which was near Highway City on the west side of Fresno. I worked every type of farm job in the Fresno area. Because of that, I was in really good shape, so later doing 4-5-6 events in one meet didn't bother me. Track was more fun than work. My oldest brother J.C. went to every basketball game I had. My other brother Columbus brother played baseball at Fresno State and was one of my heroes. They gave me support and instilled my athletic side."
It sounds like the team was really close - how did the travel and trips help you bond?
"We took vans to various meets, and we were a close team. Sid, Sam, Bill Knocke and I were an inseparable foursome. We would always play a card game called Tunk. We joked a lot and ragged on each other. Trips weren't boring and went by fast. I remember the trip to the 1963 NCAA college championship in Chicago, and being there with Sid and Sam. That was one of the few times we flew to a meet. It was a huge city, and we visited State Street and the Loop. It was also great to visit New York and Harlem. Walking along the Long Beach boardwalk with those guys is another fond memory."
Talk about your evolution in the triple jump - an event you didn't start doing until college and two years later you were an NCAA champion and NCAA meet record holder.
"When Coach Warmerdam asked me to do it, I didn't get a lot of info but I was eager to learn. I had this book by the Russian triple jumper Vitold Kryer (1956, '60 bronze medalist). I looked at it a lot, and used his drills as a starting point, then developed my own drills. My first jump at the end of that first practice was 46 feet. By the end of the first year I had gone 50-2 and finished second in the NCAA college division at Albuquerque. Dutch didn't know much about it and expected me to become a student of the event. There was no one else to help me, so I coached myself, and Dutch gave me the go ahead to create my own workouts and drills. I was a student of the event, and eventually knew more about my event than most coaches did."
"In 1964 I had more experience and continued to add strength which was the foundation of the Russian triple jump technique. I also did a lot of weight work, and also had good speed - I was a 9.6 sprinter that could run the 220's in mid-21 seconds and 47.3 seconds in the 440 yards."
You had a lot of 51 and 52-foot jumps that 1964 season - was there a meet that you had a jump or series that you remember?
"At the Santa Barbara meet, I went 52 feet, 6 inches, and could have gone further but I ran out of the pit so I had to cut my jump off, or I would have landed on the grass."
Give us a feel about how exciting the West Coast Relays were, and how great a venue it was for track and field.
"The atmosphere was electric there. Besides the Mt. SAC and Penn Relays, it was a top three relay meet in the country. It was a clay track, and back then the sport had great participation and fan support. Dutch Warmerdam and Red Estes really worked hard to make it a meet that people really looked forward to. We had outstanding athletes like Tommy Smith and John Carlos from up north and others from all around California and other nearby places."
After the team won the NCAA college division championship at home, what did it think of its chances contending for the university division title the following week?
"We thought we were pretty good going in, and we knew we had an excellent team. Being from the college division, some of the other athletes looked down at us so it was rewarding to kick their butt. We had competed against big crowds before that year at the West Coast Relays and Mt. SAC Relays so that didn't make us nervous. We had some problems in personnel that day on the 440-yard relay, and had to run in lane eight against the wall, Marvin Bryant led off, handed off to me, I handed off to Sam Workman and Sid Nickolas was the anchor. We had it won. However, the sprinter Trenton Jackson from Illinois made up a four-meter disadvantage to Sid. We still ran 40.3, and it was really exciting. I was just trying to win the triple jump with a mark that wouldn't be surpassed for a while and thought I was capable of a mark in the high 52 feet or low 53 feet range."
What were the conditions like in Eugene for the NCAA university division championships?
"It was nice combination cinder-mixture track. It didn't rain so that didn't bother us. There was no pollen count either that week, and I've had athletes had problems with it when I was a coach."
Describe some of the personalities of the different guys on that national champion team.
"Sid and I were very much alike. We were part of the same fraternity, and we competed in multiple events. Sam was an easy-going, funny, upbeat, and sometimes wild person. If you had to go into war you wanted Sam on your team because he would never give up. He always gave his all. He was from Taft which was known as a racist town, but he came in with the opposite mentality and was a key part of a really supportive group. Marvin sometimes looked sullen, and it was hard for him to smile. He was very serious and a little introverted, but still a tremendous competitor and immediately accepted into the group, too. We would joke with him whether he laughed or not because that's what we did, and the same with Sam."
Talk about the overlap in workouts between yourself and the other sprinters and jumpers?
"I didn't practice sprinting much, because I was practicing the jumps and 400 meters. Dutch spent a little time with Darel, and our workouts didn't cross. I used to run 300-yard repeats with Sid, and Dutch would give us eight to do, and after three, Sid would want to stop. I would have to pull him to the starting line on the final one, and he would then do it. He was probably the best athlete on the team because he was so naturally talented. He could do the 100, 220, high hurdles, 440 and long jump."
You were the runner-up in the triple jump in 1963 in both NCAA meets, and Fresno State took second as a team in the college division in Chicago. How did those placings motivate you to do even better in 1964 in only your second year in the event?
"I told myself that I going to win it the next year. I practiced harder and lifted more, and was more dedicated in the fall. The mental part was there and I understood the training, and I just needed to get stronger."
Did having Dutch as a coach and mentor help you to eventually become a coach?
"I always asked questions of Dutch - about the pole vault and other events - and he would tell me the important qualities of the events and helped me to be a better coach. Because of that, I wasn't just a jumps coach later, I also understood the sprinters, and the high jump, and other events. I didn't just concentrate on my event. I saw myself as a track journalist - I could talk about each event and communicate about them at a high level."
Give us a sense of what it was like to be on the 1964 team and what set it apart.
"There was always an emphasis on camaraderie and being goal oriented. You could ask someone to run the relay, and they would always be willing at the drop of a hat. Those teams were very close. There was no superstar. Everybody knew what we had to do, and everyone supported each other. The team was always more important than the individual. Even though Darel quickly became famous as the `Bald Bullet', we wouldn't let him get a big head. The same for me or anybody else. We constantly worked out with each other. Guys like Duane Reidenbach, with a tough mentality to work hard - carried over to others. As a team, we knew our limitations and had great pride in what we could do. We would always focus on the team's needs until the final major meets when it became more individualized at the national championships."
After you finished you collegiate career, were you able to still compete?
"I was consistently ranked top three in the U.S. in the triple jump for several years. I was ranked as high as seventh in the world in 1967 at one point. I was a Pan-Am Games champion, and competed on a number of international track teams that competed in Europe and won indoor and outdoor AAU titles. I was also fourth in the 1964 U.S. Olympic Trials, and had the second-best jump going into 1968 Trials but didn't make the team. I got hurt jumping at the Olympic Trials preliminary meet and bruised my heel. They later had the final selection meet in Lake Tahoe, but they wouldn't let any doctors there administer any help during training camp so it effected my performances."
Although you didn't compete at an Olympics, you still were named to be a part of several U.S. and national team coaching staffs afterwards. Give us some highlights from your hall of fame collegiate coaching career.
"I coached at Cal-Berkeley for three years from 1968-71, then started the CSU Bakersfield program in 1971 and retired in 2004. I was the director of track and field and coached nearly everything at various points. I had high jumpers go 7-6 and 6-3 on the men's and women's sides. The only thing I didn't coach was the throws and that was handled by a pair of former Roadrunner athletes who served as assistant coaches."
Talk about your beginnings with the Fresno State track and field program.
"I was a San Joaquin Valley kid. I grew up in Selma and went to Selma High School and Reedley College before Fresno State. The main attraction to come here was that I really liked Coach Warmerdam. The way he dealt with people was impressive. If he believed in you, then you knew you could do it."
Did you know any of the runners before you arrived from area meet?
"No, I didn't know any of them and only found out about them after I got there. One reason I got so much better when I was here was because I could train and compete with/against Marv Bryant and Sam Workman. I knew if I didn't work hard that they would be up on me or beat me. They pushed me and were great guys to work with, and we always worked hard."
You were known for having one of the best starts among American sprinters, if not the world - how did that come about?
"Coach Warmerdam helped get my start down, and we also had a kinesiology professor out there who was measuring the angles of the body which helped me refine my technique. Later, when I was on the U.S. team running vs. Russia in Kiev, the Russians were videotaping and measuring every step I took for my starts. A few years later, a Russian Olympic champion had the same exact start as I did, and was the same exact number of inches from the starting line. We would take starts in the gym all the time in the offseason. In 1965 when Red (Estes) came on staff, Coach Warmerdam wanted him to design a shoe that I could use for those starts in the gym without slipping. If you drive too hard (on the polished wooden floor) you would slip because there wasn't any sole that would stick without spikes. Red came up with a sole that he glued onto existing shoes. It looked weird but it worked pretty good, and I think he got it from an old tire tread."
Give us an idea about your busy competition schedule at practices and meets.
"I was primarily a short sprinter and did the 220 yards sometimes, but usually only the 100y and 440y relay. Sam, Charley, and Sid scored more than anybody else and could both sprint and jump. I did the same workouts as the other sprinters (except Charley who only did it sometimes)."
Such a talented bunch of sprinters - describe the personalities of the group and how you worked together.
"All the sprinters were easy to work with. We never had any disagreements and were great individuals. We all congratulated each other during the meets. With the five of us we always did well and were happy to do what we were could to help the team. Sam was probably my best friend on the team. I remember we were at Long Beach for the league championship and there were six of us staying in this hotel room and someone broke in and stole our wallets. Sam jumped up and chased him down and tackled him in the parking lot before the rest of us got down there. We got all our wallets back because of that."
Talk about Coach Warmerdam and the approach and rapport he had with his athletes?
"Coach was always there for a calming effect and never got excited. When I tied the world record he didn't get overly jubilant and instead said he knew I could do it. I traveled more than the rest of the guys during the indoor season, and in my first year in 1964 Coach went with me to most of them. Whether it was New York City or Canada or wherever, the meet was usually on Saturday night and might go late. Regardless, on Sunday morning, Dutch would find the nearest Catholic church and there he was. He was one of two men that I admired the most in my life. Coach Warmerdam taught me a lot of things I used as a coach myself. He once told me if you get upset don't yell. Even if we dropped a baton, he didn't get overly upset."
Talk about your rapid progression that first season.
"I was learning a lot every meet. When I beat Bob Hayes indoors in `64 I was now supposedly somebody important. All the meet directors wanted me to run and it felt strange because I had only run 60 yards in six seconds, but I now had all this notoriety. I never got cocky, but Coach instilled that you had to believe you were the best or you would never be the best. Bruce Ferris, a newspaper guy from Fresno State, jokingly told me last year thanks for making him famous. "
From the newspaper accounts I've read, it sounds like Ratcliffe Stadium was an amazing place to run at. How did that 1-2-3 finish in the 100 yards set the sprint group up for the championship season?
"The West Coast Relays were pretty exciting, and we kept generating electricity from there. It was a really big meet and athletes ran there just because they wanted to be there - not because they were getting paid. With the WCR sweep and me tying the world record in 9.2, suddenly Fresno State became more known. Once we got to the national championships we were really clicking, and had a great home field advantage."
What do you remember about the trip to Eugene for the university nationals?
"I was excited, and when I won a prelim heat in Eugene, I got my picture on the front of national newspapers - and it's still hanging on my wall. Harry Jerome of Oregon beat me in the final and was later an Olympic medalist. He had a little bit of home advantage, but I beat him the next year a couple times. It had rained before the final and there was a puddle right there in front of the blocks so they had people standing on the back of the blocks so they wouldn't slip. The track was a red dirt-cinder combination back then and the footing was pretty good. It was cloudy almost every day but it didn't rain in the trials. After that meet, I was invited to my hometown of Selma because they awarded me the citizen of the year award, and the guest speaker was Ronald Reagen so I got to have lunch with him and Nancy when he was running for governor."
Talk about your running career after Fresno State.
"After I graduated I had a teaching credential so I got a teaching job in Santa Ana and got married to my wife of 48 years, Linda. I would have kept running but in those days, but there was no sponsorship, so I had to work. I made $4500 that whole first year - things have changed quite a bit since then. I coached at Santa Ana for 36 years and won one state cross country title, and got two second places and two third places. We won lots of league championships in track, and I coached track, cross country and badminton also because of Dutch. Badminton is a CIF sport and Dutch told me that I needed to sign up when I was a college student. He said that I needed to work on my quickness and agility, and I would use certain muscles like I had never before. I played him 4-5 times a week, and I never beat him. Even when I got really good, he was unbeatable even though he was a lot older. Red (Estes, assistant coach) also tried playing Dutch, but he couldn't beat him either."
What meets or accomplishments do you remember the most?
"Making the U.S. team that toured Europe and Russia, and competing in the dual in in Moscow and Kiev at the height of the cold war was a big deal. There was a lot of propaganda between the countries so to be there in person was a special experience. The U.S. had just put up the Telstar satellite so the meet was the first live transmission from one continent to another continent. My mom got up at 3 a.m. to watch me run. It was also the first-ever electronically timed meet. I ran the 100 meters in 10.03 seconds on dirt, which was the fastest time in the world. The award they gave me for winning said 10.03, but the papers published it as 10.1 since they didn't know about hundredeths of the second yet. I got to become friends with some famous American runners on that trip - Jim Ryun and Billy Mills. They and Gerry Lindgren went out for a run in Kiev, and back then it was surrounded by a thick forest, and they never came back. The Russians were really worried, especially since Billy had just won the Olympic 10,000m the year before. They sent out patrols looking for them, and they found them up a tree after being chased by a pack of wolves. They had to have guards with them on their runs after that."
What about the next year in 1965 - how did you training or focus change?
"I basically trained the same. The workouts were still the same. More was expected of me, so there was more strain on me personally because I was expected to win and do well. Everybody was out to get me each race, but it was still a fun year for me. I was the athlete of the year for Fresno State and the conference athlete of the year."
Were you able to attend Fresno State meets after you graduated?
"I would have liked to come back, but I got really busy with meets in Orange County so it was tough to get back to Fresno. Also because I was also a meet director for the Santa Ana Relays - the oldest outdoor track invitational west of the Mississippi - that started in the 1800s. Those years were an amazing part of my life."
You were part of such a great recruiting class - did you have any idea of how could the team could be?
"We were just a group of guys who came together who really want to prove themselves not just to be individual student-athletes. We didn't realized what we were about to accomplish as a team."
Talk about the recruiting process and what attracted you to be a Bulldog.
"Coach Warmerdam had talked to meet at the state meet in high school. I had won the state high hurdles, and he asked if I wanted t to come. He also asked my friend and teammate Marvin Bryant. Marvin wanted to go and so did I, however, then Marvin wanted to go to Nevada. I told him that I couldn't stand the cold and wanted to be able to warm up faster. I knew I was coming here, and eventually Marvin decided to come, too."
"It was special to be a part of the group with Marvin. He was my college roommate, and I had known him from the third grade on. He was my biggest competitor in elementary school through Vallejo High School. Then we became good friends and were on the same team."
You didn't enroll as a freshman, though, talk about your road to being a Bulldog.
"As a freshman, I went my first year to Solano Community College in Vallejo and played basketball, then came to Fresno State."
With so many guys and only one coach, how hands on was Coach Warmerdam during practices?
"Dutch trained the athlete to be the coach. He said whenever you're out there you need to know what to do whether he was there or not.
Besides the sprints, you did so many unique events like the long jump and hurdles - how did you balance your training during the week?
"Coach would give me a hurdle workout and then I would do my jumping after. Next day I would do my weight room workout. Other days I might go for a swim and then lift after. Even in the weight room we would compete, and Charley (Craig) would try to lift more than the rest of us."
How did having all that talent around you help you in practice?
"We had a bunch of guys who competed hard in every practice. Every day was like a track meet. Charley especially would keep us hot. If we were running 20, 220-yard repeats, on the last one he was always the one walking back fastest and then he would take off, so we would have to keep up with him. We were always in competition with each other but in a healthy way."
Give us a feel for some of the team's unique personalities.
"Marvin was always worried about everything in practice, but he would compete at a high level. Craig Pollock was a 15-foot pole vaulter and was a funny guy - he'd play cards with us and he would lose every game, so we always wanted to play him. Sam (Workman) was so funny. We competed against each other in junior college, and he was always telling me that he was going to win that race. He was a great guy to train with, and he was a hard worker like Charley. He would be laughing all the time, especially when I would say this was hurting. It was all about getting to where you wanted to be, and they helped me."
Even with such a busy schedule, you did really well at nationals in both the hurdles and long jump - how did you balance your schedule and focus in such different events in 1964.
"I had always competed in a lot of events so it was not hard to do it at Fresno State. I had also had gone 25-6 the year before and had a good 1963 national meet in Albuquerque, so I knew I could jump well at nationals that year. In competition I was really focused. I knew that no matter your talent, everyone is always equal. It comes down to your strength and technique and knowing what you need to do to beat them. We had also had such great competition in practice, we knew we always ready to do our best in meets."
Expectations were probably pretty high coming into 1964 after such a great year in '63 - did you feel any stress or expectations at the big meets?
"At nationals the pressure not as great as all the competitions and practice we had leading up to it. We were prepared to do well, and we were confident."
What memories do you still have of that NCAA university division meet in Eugene?
"I remember at the national championship having to run the 440 relay. Darel was supposed to run, but had an injury, so they switched everybody around and put me on the anchor. I just had long jumped (and also had high hurdled). I had a 4-5 yard lead at least on Trent Jackson from Illinois before the exchange, but he beat me pretty well, even though we were also close to the world record."
Were there any other memories of big meet trips that stand out?
"When we went to nationals in Chicago in 1963, I stupidly I went out by myself. I ran into some people who eventually started chasing me down the street. I got away and learned my lesson about going alone in big cities."
Charley (Craig) said that as he grew up, he did a lot of physical labor that gave him a lot of strength and dedication that he used as Bulldog on the track. Was that the case with you, too?
"I came from a family that had just enough, and the oldest in a family with 12 kids. I always had the attitude that you need to do what you can. I started working when I was 13 years old, so it wasn't hard for me to get out and hustle at practice. I did all kinds of jobs in the fields, liking picking prunes and peaches. Once I got to school, I wasn't busy as the summertime, so I needed things to do and sports were perfect for that."
You excelled at a lot of big meets, but were there any special memories from other events that you held dear?
"One of the most important memories in track and field involved my grandmother -my biggest fan and the one that always pushed me. We had an indoor meet in north San Francisco, and my 75-year-old grandmother, Agnes Nickolas, took the Greyhound bus from Vallejo to the Cow Palace, then took a taxi to get there. I looked up in the stands and couldn't believe that I saw her there. I asked her how did you get here, and she said that she had to see me before she left here. That was one of the things I'll always remember - just to make sure that she saw me run at least one time. That's the greatest thing that anyone could ever ask for. She is still my hero. I would never expect her to get on a bus to go anywhere, and yet there she was."
Was there anything you learned from those experiences as a Bulldog athlete that you still use today?
"Definitely. Coach Warmerdam always had a way of knowing that you had more in you then you think you had and reinforced the reason to keep driving. You have to put something in to get something out. Every place you work, you need to work hard. In every experience there's always someone there to give you something positive." "I admired Dutch, and anything I said I'd do, I did, because I wanted to keep my word to him. He was one of those guys that when he spoke to you, he told you what he was going to do, and repeated it to make sure it was clear. He you would then ask a follow-up question, and if it wasn't quite right, he said that's not what I'm saying and repeat it again."
After college, did you continue your track career as a post-collegian?
"I joined the Southern Cal Striders, and it was there I truly realized how hard it is to compete alone - you have to do it all by yourself. Eventually I said this is crazy. I don't have any competition. When you don't have someone to watch over you, it was easy to say I'll do it next week. A year after, it came to a conclusion, and I said I'm fine not doing this anymore."
Talk about the experience of running at Ratcliffe Stadium and how much of a home-track advantage it was for the big meets like the West Coast Relays and NCAA Championships.
"It was a great place to run, and I was always excited to run there. It was one of those tracks you loved to run on. It was red clay and even if it rained, it was quick to dry. They'd even bring helicopters in to help dry it off. For me, when it got hot I loved it. I didn't have to do as much stretching, especially if I had trials and finals. I held the 120-yard high hurdle high school stadium record for 10-15 years and that was a special honor."
The group still has reunions frequently - how great is it to see your teammates again and again?
"Every time I see them I say they all look so old and that they look like their dads. The camaraderie today is still the same, and I really appreciate being able to know these people for 50 years."
Takes us through your beginnings in the sport of track and field.
"At a young age, I was hard of hearing, so I didn't play sports like football. I did, however, run all the time. I was mediocre and average until my junior year, when I got in trouble at school, and I was sent to my granddad's place in the mountains. After all the physical labor, I came back at the end of that summer 20 pounds heavier and two inches taller, and went from a 10.2- to a 9.7-second sprinter the next year. I went from there to long jumping which was my high school specialty, and my best mark in high school was 24-3. Everybody was asking me to do that afterwards in college. Then I came to Fresno State and found out there were jumpers a whole lot better than me. Then I moved in to the 100- and 220-yard sprints. Darel Newman had the school record in the 100y, and I was right behind him."
"My mom was a good runner, and I took that ability from her. She never lost a sprint event in her life. She would go to picnics in high school and never win every race. I lived in the country growing up so if I needed to go somewhere, I would often run there. As a student, I went to Lincoln Elementary, Roosevelt Middle, Taft High School and Taft City College."
What was your running career like in high school?
"I did the long jump and 220 and we only had six people on our team so ultimately I did a little bit of everything. I even put the shot at a couple of meets, and that might be why my shoulders are still bad today. My coach was a football-baseball-track coach at Taft. He also did a little of everything."
How did you become a Bulldog?
"In high school, I got a scholarship offer from Coach Warmerdam. I didn't think I would be able to make it at any school, so I went to a junior college to see where I was at. After a year, Dutch came down and told me about the program. He said that had some pretty good athletes coming, and he wanted me to come, too. So I decided to come since they were athletes I already knew and had raced before - like Darel - and could now train and compete with."
The sprinters and jumpers did so many events in the meets - Coach Warmerdam must have had you on a strength-based program.
"Coach would always have you run your race distance or longer in workouts, so since I raced the 220 yards, I always ran 300-yard repeats in workouts. He used to keep records of everything, and I had the school 300y record back then. Sid was quite the scoring machine, too. We just had a team that clicked all the way around. We lost a relay in the national championship by a fraction of the second. Trent Jackson was well known from Illinois, and he had to try to run Sid down from behind to keep us from winning."
How did those talented 1963, '64 and '65 teams compare?
"I remember running well at nationals in 1963 but I remember pulling a hamstring, and somebody said they could hear it in the stands. In 1965, we didn't have Sid or Marvin who had graduated, so the relay wasn't as good because of that. Darel and Charley were still great, and I was right behind Darel in the 100 and took over the long jump."
"Charley was the brains of the outfit. He was smart. Whatever he said would happen, so we followed that. In practices, Darel did his thing with his starts and relays."
"Darel and I tried out for the U.S. team in a meet in 1965. In the 100, it was the first time I was ahead of him at 50 meters, but I blew out my leg. I was hoping to have two guys from the same college make that team to go to Russia but it didn't quite happen."
Talk about the travel and some of your memories of bonding with the other guys.
"There was a lot of traveling in small vans back then. In 1963, Bill Knocke always wanted to drive, and he thought he knew where to go for the best food, and instead we almost always got lost. Sid, Charley, Marvin and I roomed together a lot. We had a card game Tunk that we played a lot, and sometimes the table got flipped over because it got so heated (laughing). We got along really well."
What was training like for you after college?
"I ran for a team called the 49ers for a couple years but don't remember doing much. After my military stint and returning from Vietnam, I was coaching as an assistant at Seaside High School (near Monterey) leading up to the 1968 season and was beating a lot of talented guys. I later went to a meet at San Jose State, and ran a 9.4 or 9.5 100-yard time and thought I might have a shot to make the Olympic Team. However, I then had an operation that got messed up, and unfortunately I never ran again. There was a guy who made that '68 team - I beat him once in these lead-up meets and he beat me once - and later he got 10th in the Olympics and won a gold medal on the 4x100 relay."
Recount what it was like to compete at a major track and field meet at Ratcliffe Stadium back then?
"The West Coast Relays was a top-three meet in the nation. It was the most dressed up track stadium you could come to. Two days before there wouldn't be an available room at a hotel or motel in town. You couldn't get into the stands because there were so many people. The stands were also very steep and high so it made the experience that more exciting because of the volume and proximity of the fans to the track. If it rained they would bring helicopters over from the reserve Air Force to fan and dry off the field. We had people doing whatever they could to make it special."
What was it like to win an event in that type of setting?
"We won the relay in the college division in 1964, and I won the long jump section and the award for the most outstanding athlete in the college division. The next day was the open division. We either won the relay or got a close second, then swept the open division of the 100-yard dash - 1-2-3 - something that had never been done. Darel went 9.3 after running 9.2 in the trials. I was right behind him in 9.4 and Marv Bryant was right there, too, in third place in 9.5. I won a 100-yard dash in the high school division in 1961, and Darel, Tommy Smith and Billy Mackey are in that picture and all of them were behind me - it makes me feel good to be in that picture in front of them."
Talk about how exciting it was win the 1964 NCAA college division title at home.
"You don't get to see that these days. Our stands were full and it was a good feeling to be backed by your own fans and teammates on your home field."
What did those experiences on the track teach you that you could use later in life?
"Those experiences make me feel small now. Back then you get a swelled head. Now you have a family, wife, kids, and that's your focus. Athletically, I let my kids make take their own choices, and they were wrestlers or football players. After I was an athlete, I fought fires for seven years in the volunteer fire department as did my wife who was one of the few female firefighters in the country back then."
How did you stay involved with the Fresno State track and field team after the competition part of your career was over?
"I officiated at the West Coast Relays for over 30 years. At the Fresno State meets, I refereed the long jump and triple for more than 20 years and did it through Red Estes' career as a head coach, and then 1-2 years after. I then switched to the city college and did high school meets for a couple years before I eventually retired."
How fun was it to be an official at the same track you competed at?
"In my younger years, the long and triple jumpers from the Fresno area who knew about me and Charley would connect with us. Some of the best jumpers in the nation would come up to me and ask for help with their jump takeoff or landing. That made me feel good that they knew of me and wanted me to help them."
The squad had such a camaraderie back then - how does that flame still burn today?
"We still have reunions of the 1963, '64 and '65 teams at least once a year. It's really good to see them. We usually meet at Red's house, and it's good to know that I'm not the only one getting older (laughing)."
How nice was it for you to now have a championship ring to help you remember all those great years of your life?
"We got them four years ago when the school arranged for us to be able to buy them together. Those that did purchase them wear them proudly. It has our name, the Fresno State symbol, and the word `1964 National Championship' on there, too. It's something really special that I look at every day."
You were one of the team's top throwers and also a Fresno area native. Talk about how your Bulldog career and the impact Coach (Dutch) Warmerdam had on you.
"It is a lifetime honor for me to have competed under the coaching of a true legend, Dutch Warmerdam. I actually enjoyed some coaching from J.Flint Hanner who sometimes stopped by the shot ring and another Fresno State legend in waiting Red Estes my weigh coach."
"I was a lesser of this lot, a 180 pound shot putter, discus and javelin athlete. I did briefly hold the school record with a 54'1" put, I won my share of meets, almost always placed and achieved a third place in the West Coast Relays. Red called me one of the best pound for pound shot putters in the country and I delighted in beating the behemoths I competed against. Unfortunately track isn't golf. I got no handicaps."
"One of my highest honors was to be asked to be one of the speakers at Dutch Warmerdam's retirement and I was able, as Senate Republican Leader, to present him with a State Senate Resolution. Later I was able to present 'Red' a Senate Resolution at our induction into the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame."
Describe Dutch's approach as a coach, teacher and role model.
"He always was understated and unassuming. He'd come by and say, 'You did pretty well last Saturday.' With his stature such a statement lifted my spirits to the heavens.
"He and I related in another way. For me, being a farmer, I appreciated how he carefully tended his own orchard."
The 1964 team seemed like a truly unique one with so much individual talent that still had a team-first mentality. Talk about how special it was.
"That team was a special heaven blessed assembly of great athletes, and we won many CCAA championships along the way. Though Track and Field in an individual sport, we viewed ourselves as team of many with a greater purpose than our own athletic feats of glory."
"All of us on that 1964 squad realized we were touching history competing for Dutch. We wanted to excel and live up to the 'high bar' he set. That night we achieved the first NCAA National Championship in Fresno State history we knew we came close to the Warmerdam standard of excellence. I relive those moments still yet and often."
What did those experiences competing for Fresno State teach you that you have used later in life?
"Those years have had a profound impact on all of the accomplishments of my life. I learned discipline, competitiveness, how to overcome the odds, and how to press on when weary. I learned how to win and how to lose and how to learn from my losses. I learned excellence."
"In my (California State) Senate office right behind my desk my 16-pound shot and my discus are on display with the sign in front of them that reads, 'Heavy Lifting.' I explain 'Heavy Lifting' then was weight lifting for sports and my work on the farm. 'Heavy Lifting' now is the 'Splendid Loneliness of Leadership' I must enjoy and endure as the state senator representing over a million Californians."
"To this day I am a better person, I am more capable, more humble and more successful because of those days competing on the Fresno State Track and Field Team."
RED ESTES, Former Bulldog Assistant/Head Track and Field Coach (1965-96)
Give us your background in the sport as a former Fresno State track and field coach and before.
"I started coaching at Fresno State in the fall of 1964 after serving three years in the military and the 1964 season as a freshman team coach for Bill Bowerman at the University of Oregon. I was so lucky to have him as a mentor and then to have Coach Warmerdam - a man of high integrity. I was very lucky to land here when I did." "I was a grad assistant that helped put on the 1964 NCAA university championships in Eugene. With Fresno State winning the NCAA college division the week before, I knew they were coming up since the top six college division finishers advanced to the university division. I got to meet Dutch, too, and he was very quiet and stoic and thought I must have made a good impression because he only said five words to me (laughing). Luckily I think Bowerman gave me a great recommendation and that probably was the main reason I got the job. I did get to see Charley (Craig) and Sid (Nickolas) compete in person, and all those great Fresno State athletes. Many of them returned for a senior year in 1965 so I had a chance to work with them, too."
Charley (Craig) mentioned that some of the larger school athletes had a chip on their shoulder competing against the college division teams - do you remember that?
"Indeed for some, there was a stigma with the big university division vs. the podunk colleges, but Fresno State fared really well. Charley easily won the triple jump, and Sid was second in the long jump on the last jump of the competition. The 4x100 was third and did fantastic and certainly proved themselves worthy with fine track ability."
Talk about the team's work ethic - part of which was self-instilled and part from Coach.
"Dutch was coaching the whole team by himself - there's 21 events - so one guy can't work with all of them. When I came on in 1965 that only made two of us, and I took the throws and distance events. In those days, the dual meet was a big part of the sport and as well as placing high in the national championship. In dual meets, many of your athletes had to do 4-5-6 events and points scored was really important. There were a great group of guys always helping each other for the sake of the team. In some of those meets, guys never did fewer than five events - that's just what you did. It was like playing football both ways for 60 minutes."
You've seen a lot of great track and field teams in your career, how does the '64 team stack up against them?
"You take those marks and times on dirt tracks with lesser shoes and other equipment and training and nutrition, and I would put that team with most any great team you see today. I was naive and walked in and saw all this talent and thought this is a piece of cake. We had 26-foot and 52-foot long and triple jumpers, and had guys who could run 9.2 in the 100. Boy was I wrong - they were truly special."
It seemed like there was a unique blend of personalities.
"Some of the guys were quiet and others outgoing. Charley (Craig) had a fantastic career and made three Olympic Team coaching staffs. He was a great spokesperson for the team and the sport throughout his career. In contrast, Marvin (Bryant) was very quiet but selfless in his devotion to the team and just as effective. It was a variety of individuals who balanced each other out.
"You had Darel (Newman) - how could a squatty, bald, white guy be so fast? But people didn't beat him at 60 yards, while a 220 was a marathon for him. He had an amazing start, and you didn't beat him out of the blocks."
"I clearly remember in 1965 at the CCAA Championships at Ratcliffe Stadium. It came down to the last relay and Dutch anchored Sam (Workman) in his seventh event of the relay. Long Beach was winning the meet, and their anchor had a good 25-yard lead, but Sam caught him at the halfway point with a sub 22-second opening split. They both went another 20 steps then locked up. I think they ran the last 100 in 20 seconds - it was horrible. But Sam held on to win the meet. Sam did whatever it took, and that was part of the team spirit - to score as many points as you could for the team - just as Sid or whomever else."
Describe what a big meet at Ratcliffe Stadium was like.
"The West Coast Relays was always on Mother's Day weekend and you had to buy tickets in March because it would be a sell out. It was 13,000 capacity with large, enthusiastic crowds."
It sounds like the 1-2-3 100-yard Bulldog finish in the 1964 West Coast Relays was one of the stadium's greatest moments.
"That sweep in a sprint was unprecedented, as well as at any other major meet like the Modesto and Drake Relays. Very rarely do you see a team sweep an event, especially a sprint event."
You ultimately coached at Fresno State for four decades - what did this this 1964 team mean to the program years later?
"What a foundation they laid for us. Dutch was such a high integrity individual, and I couldn't be more blessed to learn from him. I was his assistant for 16 years, and we won 17 conference championships and 10 straight men's. The heritage I inherited was legendary because of that 1964 team. Jim Nielsen being a senator, Sid owning a bus company, etc. - they all had great professional careers, too. I could go on how they went on from their athletic lives to great things after."
How special are the frequent reunions you get a chance to host with those teams?
"Last fall the 1964 team got together when they were inducted into the Fresno Hall of Fame. At any of our gatherings, the first liar doesn't have a chance - you'd be amazed how faster the 70-year olds are now (laughing). This year in June it's a special get together with the 50th anniversary ,and it's also the state meet weekend. I think we'll have 12 come this year, and there's three deceased and three we can't track down from the 22 people - that's still a pretty good ratio after all this time. It's amazing we get to relive the memories so often, and they're a special group of guys."
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