Witnessing history: Jim Ryun's historic run

05/28/2010 12:00 AM

08/06/2014 11:44 AM

There's little doubt that the most memorable image in 99 years of the Kansas high school track and field championships is Wichita East's Jim Ryun crossing the finish line in 1965 after becoming the first high schooler to break the four-minute mile exclusively against high school competition.

What makes The Wichita Eagle photo so memorable isn't just the exhaustion on Ryun's face after finishing, but the reaction of the people around him at the finish line. We asked three men who were there on May 15, 1965, to talk about their memories of that day.

Gary Karr was The Wichita Eagle sportswriter covering the meet that day. He's now a member of the paper's sports copy desk.

Naturally, it was a day I'll never forget. When Ryun ran the third lap under 60 seconds, we knew he would go under four minutes.

East coach J.D. Edmiston had been working hard with Ryun to get him to run the third lap faster. Ryun always wanted to save energy for his final kick.

A well-kept secret, I wasn't told until after the meet, was that Ryun had ran 10 straight 440s, all in under a minute, the week of the state meet.

I didn't even try to talk with Ryun after he ran the mile, unlike the Associated Press reporter who ran alongside of Ryun while he was cooling down.

Instead, I called Ryun at his home and got the best interview with him that I'd ever gotten. The second I finished my story, the AP called, wanting more and more on Ryun.

Terry Guidry is the man jumping as Ryun finishes. A member of the Wichita State track team in 1965, his job that day was to hold the tape at the finish line.

We were counting down and when he hit the tape, everybody just went crazy. I'm excitable, so when it happened, I just jumped up. It blew my mind. I'm in the picture and I'm as big as Ryun, and he's the one who set the record. I didn't remember jumping up until I saw it in the paper.

There was so much hollering and screaming, man. Everyone was excited. I'm just glad the guy on the stopwatch didn't get too excited.

Steve Sell was an East High junior teammate of Ryun's in 1965. Part of his body is visible in the photo as he rushed to the finish line. His job that day, since he didn't qualify for the meet, was to move hurdles on and off the track. Sell later coached at his alma mater.

It was pretty-well understood what he was trying to do (break four minutes). Mike Petterson (an East teammate) was right with him. They announced the splits and the crowd was just going crazy the whole time. They came through the three-quarters in I think it was 3:02. He ran a 55.9 with his last split.

In practice, I don't remember Jim ever losing a repetition. He was a hard worker on top of having so much talent.

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