For the self-proclaimed Greatest Track Meet in America, the 22nd Compton Invitational in Los Angeles last Friday night produced a strange denouement. The usual carload of Olympians and assorted national heroes were on hand to guarantee success, but when the running and jumping and hurling were all over, everyone crowded around two high school boys, Bruce Kidd of Toronto and Tom Sullivan of Evanston, Ill. Kidd broke numerous records, including two held by Herb Elliott, with a 13:56.4 in the 5,000 meters. Sullivan, a slim, delicate-striding boy who has schooled himself almost exclusively in the 880, ran the Compton mile in 4:03.5, lopping five and a half seconds off the interscholastic mark. He finished second to Oregon's Jim Grelle, the fine runner who always wins except when he is posted against Dyrol Burleson or Jim Beatty.
Sullivan is an open-faced Irish boy with a shock of black hair. He has broad shoulders and gives promise of growing into an athlete perhaps as big and as strong as Burleson or Elliott. Because Compton officials couldn't afford to pay travel expenses for his coach at St. George Catholic High School, he was appearing in California on his own. This didn't bother him. Neither did the fact that he had not run a mile outdoors this year.
In the Compton race Sullivan had two ambitions. He wanted to stay close to Grelle, the almost certain winner, and he wanted to run 4:05 (his previous best outdoors was 4:11.5). The first proved attainable, the second easy. Sullivan hung behind UCLA's Mil Dahl through a fast three laps, then behind Grelle. He ran the last lap in 58.3 and pressed Grelle to the end, finishing second but well ahead of Archie San Romani Jr.'s prep record of 4:08.9. He also erased Elliott's claim to the fastest mile ever run by a boy under the age of 19.
Sullivan seemed bewildered by the postrace attention he received. One reason may have been the reporters, who were too busy to conduct interviews on the field and too busy to think up questions in the press box. After a few moments of nice-going-young-mans, one writer opened up with, "Well, Tommy, are you happy?" Sullivan has a long career ahead of him.
Bruce Kidd, at 17 an old hand at show-stopping, was unruffled by all the fuss. He acknowledged with an easy smile the crushing defeat he imposed on Max Truex and Laszlo Tabori and looked indifferently at the towering trophy given to him as the meet's outstanding athlete. He wouldn't admit it, but Kidd plainly expected to win.
When Truex set out at a wicked early pace, Kidd just bobbed along behind him, his hands flapping limply at his sides. The mile went by in a fast 4:27.5, the second mile in a very fast 9 minutes fiat. Tabori fell back and the crowd, sensing a stirring finish, fell into a steady roar behind the two leaders. With 660 yards to go, Kidd simply demolished Truex. He opened up a gap of 10 yards, then it was 20 and finally it was well over 30. Tommy Sullivan had lost his supper after the finish of the mile, but Bruce Kidd looked like he was ready to eat one. He pranced a few yards with his hands clasped at the back of his head, then trotted another lap to cool off. He was cheered all the way. His time was by far the best of his career. He broke Elliott's junior two-and three-mile records and set a new American three-mile mark of 13:26.6. In the flush of this record-gobbling performance he coolly parried all praise and let his coach, Fred Foot, talk track while he steered his own conversation into other areas—-education, journalism and Canadian politics.
He will not go to a California college ("It's much too hot down here") nor Harvard ("I passed the exams and was accepted all right, but I wasn't too sure of the track program"), but he does want to enter Toronto, where he expects to major in economics and philosophy, although Latin is his favorite subject. American coaches were swooning on the spot.