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National Track and Field
Hall of Fame

opened January 2004 at the New York Armory

Donna on the Side Special Edition on the Hall of Fame

Grand Opening of Hall of Fame
completes the transformation
of the New York Armory

by John Dye

NEW YORK NY 1/22/2004 -- A celebrity luncheon started the grand opening weekend for the National Track and Field Hall of Fame, relocated from Indianapolis and rebullt in the New York Armory. Glittering multimedia exhbits spread over three floors complete the transformation of the Armory from a homeless shelter to a remarkable showcase for the sport. Just as 5,000 high school athletes on a Saturday in January bring the old building back to life, the Hall brings to life all the great moments of the past in track and field. The New York Armory is in the Washington Heights neighborhood of upper Manhattan near 168th street and Broadway. Like Duke Ellington said, take the A train.

Three heroes of the past were present for the luncheon: Billy Mills, Chandra Cheeseborough, and Al Oerter,.

 

Here they are with their exhibits at the Hall of Fame.

Billy Mills - inspiring winner of the Olympic 10,000 meters at Tokyo in 1964 while a lieutenant in the US Marines with an incredible burst of speed in the last 100 meters. Asked if he ever wished he had come along later when world class runners started making money in the sport, Mills answered, "No, not at all. It's all about finding your passion in life. If that brings in money, all the better. But the most important thing is finding your passion."

 

Chandra Cheeseborough - Pan American Games 200-meter champion at age 16, Cheeseborough became the first woman to win Olympic relay gold in both the 4x100 and 4x400 in the same Olympics (Los Angeles 1984). Now a coach at Tennessee State, Chandra knew she was a sprinter when she started out beating the boys in middle school.

 

 

Al Oerter
4-time Olympic discus champion (1956, 1960, 1964 and 1968). He was a big hurdler and miler before he found his calling with the discus. "I was running a workout and a discus came out on the track. I threw it back further than the discus thrower threw it toward me." At the University of Kansas, he turned down the football recruiters and stuck to track. At 67, he looks like he could still go out and win.

 

The people who made it happen

from left, Craig Masback, chief executive officer of USATF; Allan Steinfeld, president of the New York Road Racing Club and race director of the New York Marathon; Michael Frankfurt, chairman of the board of The Armory Foundation; and Dr. Norbert W. Sander Jr., president of The Armory Foundation.

Dr. Sander, the chief architect of the revival of the Armory as a track and field center, said that more races had been run at the Armory than any other place in the world. He recalled that in the Armory's previous life the great Finnish distance runner Paavo Nurmi, winner of 9 Olympic gold medals in the 1920s, ran at the Armory in front of 8,000 people. "I am a physician, and I check people's health every day. I find that the pulse of the sport is good," concluded Sander, himself the winner of the New York Marathon in 1974.
Masback said, "This is an exciting day, the realization of a vision. This is the most vibrant place for track and field in the world."

Bud Greenspan

The great Olympic film maker produced a film for the Hall of Fame.

 

Mural in the Auditorium -- Legendary Villanova coach Jumbo Jim Elliott congratulates Marty Liquori
after Liquori beat Jim Ryun at Franklin Field in Philadelphia

 


Walk the New York Marathon
In one room, the floor is covered with a huge map of the New York Marathon, with 26 mile markers. When you walk across the map, the speakers come alive with crowd noise cheering on the runners. Penn Relays director Dave Johnson and TV track consultant Walt Murphy "walked" the course and traded high fives after "completing" the marathon.

 

Alberto Salazar -- One of those featured in the marathon room was present for the Hall of Fame opening day as a coach. His prize pupil, Oregon high schooler Galen Rupp, ran in the elite men's 2 mile race. Rupp could look in the marathon room to see how his coach did it when he won the New York Marathon three straight times and the Boston Marathon in 1982.

1982 New York - Salazar (left) outsprinted Rodolfo Gomez in the last quarter mile.
1982 Boston - Salazar had the last surge in a see saw race to beat Dick Beardsley by 2 seconds.
1980 New York - Salazar and women's winner Grete Waitz were given laurel wreaths.

 

Looking Back at the Armory and Its Thrills, Chills and Vibrations

Marc Bloom recalls the Armory of his youth

"When at 16 I entered the Armory Track and Field Center to run my first high school meet in the winter of 1963, this is what I found: a cavernous arena with a painted line on a splintered, wooden floor that served as the track, thunderous noise from spectators pounding the balcony guardrail, and opponents who were bigger and faster than I was and walked around as if they owned the place. And they did.

"It was the scariest moment of my youth.

"But it would turn out to be the most liberating as well, for the Armory, which has played host to track meets for
a century in northern Manhattan, is where I found my passion for running, and for life."

Full article appeared in the New York Times Jan 18, 2004.

[Marc Bloom, editor of The Harrier, is one of the most decorated track writers in the country. He has published many books, including the DyeStat-Harrier Books pair, Parents Guide to High School Track and Cross Country and Training Guide to High School Track and Cross Country.]

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DyeStat
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