Two great sprinters

Two great sprinters died within weeks of each other in the fall of 2017. You would have be close to my age and a real track nut to know who they were. These two sprinters had a huge influence on my interest in speed and how to get people to run faster. Their best years came within a four-year span from 1961 to 1965. Both were small in stature, if you saw them in street clothes you would never guess they were world class athletes. Their small stature disguised incredible power and explosiveness. Neither ever lifted weights. One was white and one was African American. They were both linked to the great Bob Hayes. Hayes was the physical opposite of both of them.

Who were these guys? Johnny Gilbert who graduated from Santa Barbara High school in 1960 and ran a close second to Bob Hayes world record 100 yards for 9.1 seconds years in St Louis in 1962 (First record ever set on an artificial track – rubberized asphalt). Johnny ran a 9.2 and later claimed the dubious distinction of being the first American to lose to a Russian sprinter when he finished third in the 1963 USA/USSR dual meet in Moscow.

The other sprinter was Darel Newman, AKA the bald Bullet, he was prematurely bald after a bout of valley fever as a child. He beat Bob Hayes in an indoor race. He won NCAA indoor 60-yard dash in 1964. His best 100 was a hand timed 9.2. He finished second in 1965 NCAA meet and was ranked number three in the world in 1965.

So, what is my connection? The summer after my freshman year in high school Gilbert was the recreation supervisor at Harding Elementary school across the street from my house. He used to let us challenge him to races of various lengths and give us a handicap and would always beat us no matter how short the distance. I remember him spotting bunch of us ten yards in a 60 and him beating us by almost ten yards! I just keep trying to figure how someone could be so fast, it started me trying to find the answer. Here is his obituary.

Darel Newman was senior at Fresno State when I was freshman. He lived in the same dorm. After freshman football ended I made it a point to watch him train any time I could. Nothing spectacular. He seldom ran over 120 yards in training. He was a pure “drop dead” 100-yard sprinter and his training reflected it. I quickly realized that sprinters needed to be trained differently. Here is his obituary.

It was sad to learn of their passing. They were good guys who represented their sport well and taught me more in than short time than I would have learned in years. Best of all their fueled my passion for learning about speed that continues today. RIP and God speed to you guys, hopefully you and Bob Hayes are having good races in heaven.

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