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Original Issue

A classic foursome in the Vale of Tempe

At Arizona State, Coach Baldy Castillo has the fastest and most easygoing mile-relay team ever

The Vale of Tempe (pronounced Tempee, with the accent on the first syllable) in ancient Greece was devoted to games and the arts. A scholarly English gentleman, Darrell Duppa, gave this name to the small town of Tempe (pronounced classically) in the Salt River Valley 15 miles from Phoenix, Ariz., because the site reminded him of the Greek original. Duppa also named the city of Phoenix after the phoenix, a bird which rises from the ashes of the fire that consumes it. He probably did this after a summer in Phoenix.

Tempe, like its forebear, is now devoted to the arts and games, too. It is the home of Arizona State University. The school, which has an enrollment of 13,800, boasts excellent engineering and education colleges, football, basketball and baseball teams that all rank high nationally, and now it has the finest mile-relay team anyone has ever assembled anywhere. Arizona State University fits neatly into the Greek ideal.

None of the members of the relay team hail from either Tempe or the Vale of Tempe, however. Two of them are Californians, one comes from Detroit, and the fourth is from Phoenix. All four were gathered together by Senon Castillo, who looks like a former shotputter but actually was a sprinter. He is a gentle man with a talent for inspiring affection in his athletes. Two weeks ago his mile-relay team, feeling loved and relaxed, ran a mile faster than it had ever been run before (SI, May 6). It seems very likely to run even faster than that in the weeks to come. The remarkable thing about the team is that it belongs to Ar√¨zona. Not since 1941 has a school been able to break the record—one of the most esteemed in track. The previous holder was a U.S. team composed of the four finest American quarter-milers of the time, among them Otis Davis, the 1960 Olympic 400-meter champion.

The team achieved its record with a minimum of interference from Baldy, as Castillo is called. He is not bald, but a grammar school friend in Phoenix once thought he saw an emerging desert in the bushy, black hair of Castillo and stuck him with a nickname he has never been able to get rid of. What do you call a man named Senon?

"I used to be very eager," Castillo said the other day. "I worked the boys very hard, stayed up nights giving them bed checks, watched their diet. But I found out in the last few years they run just about as good on hamburgers as anything else. All of these boys come from broken homes; none of them was rich, so they probably weren't raised on perfect diets. But look how they run."

How they run, of course, is the best. Castillo, who has been at Arizona State for 12 years, ever since he graduated from the school, has arranged his mile-relay team to take the best advantage of both the physical and the psychological potentials of his runners. Among other things, Castillo has discovered that sprinters and middle-distance runners do better with less work.

Lead-off is Mike Barrick, a quiet, rather unemotional senior who is the Phoenix man on the team. He is the slowest of the runners, but the most consistent and least perturbable. Barrick will enter the Marine Corps when he is graduated this spring; he has no ambition for running after he finishes school. He is capable of a little under 47.5 in the quarter and, unlike most relay runners who are conscious that the lead-off man is always timed slower than the rest, does not mind running the opening leg. Barrick has considerable confidence in himself—which is a help for the first runner. A few weeks ago, when he was told that he faced Mike Larrabee of the Los Angeles Striders, one of the best quarter-milers in the country, Barrick was unimpressed. "Who's he?" he asked.

"When I tell the other boys they're going against a tough opponent, it gets them fired up," Castillo said. "I told Mike, and all he said was, 'That's his tough luck.' "

Barrick ran the first quarter-mile lap in 48 flat during the course of the 3:04.5 world record run in the Mount San Antonio Relays in Walnut, Calif. The time was a little less than his best but it was good enough to keep the Arizona State team in front. He handed the baton to Henry Carr.

Carr is a tall, strongly built runner who this spring set a world record in the 220-yard dash around one curve.

"I run him second because I know he will pick up any yardage that Mike may lose," Castillo says. "There isn't any team we face that can match Henry."

A superb athlete, Carr was an all-state football and basketball player at his Detroit high school. He is only a sophomore and just now beginning to blossom as a sprinter. It is always chancy to predict Olympic winners, particularly a year and a half in advance, but if the magnificently competitive Carr continues to improve, he is sure to be one of the American stars in Tokyo. In Mount San Antonio he ran 45.1 on the second leg, widening the lead easily, as he always does, and finishing easily, as he always does, too. Of the four men on the team, he is the only one who is not present as a result of the blandishments of Castillo, an enormously charming man. Much to the delight of Castillo, he came to State as a byproduct of football. He had been playing at Burlington Community College, a junior college in Iowa.

"I had lots of people after me," says Ron Freeman, who ran the third leg for the team, taking the baton a few yards in front after Carr's blazing lap. "The rest of them, they wrote me letters and things. Baldy, he came to see me. I figured here was a man really interested in me. I was right."

It was fortunate that Freeman got the baton with a lead; he runs third because Carr always gets a lead and Freeman runs best in front.

"I don't know why it is," he says. "But I see someone next to me or hear their footsteps, I got to run their race. I'm not as big or as strong as Henry. Everything I do, I got to do just right. I got to think about how I'm running. I got to run according to Hoyle until I get where I'm going. I see a guy like Bob Hayes, a big strong man runs like a mule—he runs 9.9 in the 100 meters—and I wonder. If me and Mike were bigger we'd run a 3:02 mile. But we can't run the first 330 easy, then pour it on and eat everybody up. I got to run the first 330 hard and do the best I can from then on. That's what I did at Walnut. I thought when I got the baton, 'I'll run as hard as I can to the end of the curve.' Then in that long backstretch, I said to myself, 'Now I got to stride but not lose any speed.' Then I got around the last curve and I wondered if I had anything left. I did. But that's the way I got to run, thinking all the time."

This thinking man's quarter was run in 45.6, almost a second faster than Freeman has ever run his leg before. He handed the baton to Ulis Williams, a sophomore from Los Angeles, with a substantial lead. Williams, who has a tendency to loaf as a front-runner, did not. He didn't rationalize his race as he ran it, but he ran hard all the way.

"All I remember," he says, "I thought I should hug the inside of the lane on the curves. Then I hit that long back-stretch. That backstretch pained me. The track has tight curves and long straightaways and it threw my timing off a little. When I came off the last curve, it looked a long way to the end."

Williams came to Arizona State purely because of his friendship for Castillo. He was a great quarter-miler in high school, hungrily admired by almost every track coach in the country.

"I lived with him for a long time," Baldy says. "He came here I think because of the friendship I created with him."

Myopic but speedy

Williams wears glasses when he runs; his vision is very poor and this has handicapped him as a student. He is an articulate, intelligent man who does very well on his oral examinations; on written examinations, however, he reads so slowly that his grades suffer. Williams and Barrick are the best dressed of the four relay runners. Williams particularly affects sharp clothes and sometimes carries an umbrella to finish off the picture. All of the runners, with the exception of Barrick, want to go into recreation work when they finish school; Barrick has not decided whether or not he will make a career of the Marine Corps. Carr is not so much concerned with what he does as he is with security.

"Mainly I want a good job," he said recently. "It doesn't have to be in teaching, just as long as it is a good, steady job." He undoubtedly will be given the opportunity for a good, fairly steady job in pro football when he finishes at Arizona State. He averaged nearly 10 yards a carry last season and is considered a very good defensive back.

Williams and Carr have never run against one another at 440 yards and there is considerable argument about who would win if they did. It is doubtful that they will ever face one another in a college meet, although the time may come in the Olympic tryouts. Carr usually drops down to sprints, leaving the quarter to Williams. Castillo obviously does not want them to run against one another. He wants them to run together, and he believes his four can run a 3:03 mile. They very likely can, and they may before the year is out.