EMU’s Jones Hurdled Into NCAA History
The last 220-yard hurdle race at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships was one to remember.
The prime contenders had decisively won titles in back-to-back races less than hour earlier at the 1959 NCAA meet at Lincoln, Nebraska.
Charlie Tidwell of Kansas won the 100 yards in a wind-aided 9.3, equal to the meet’s fastest under any conditions. In the 220 hurdles, he won the 1958 NCAA title in 22.7, a world record he matched in 1959 at the Big 8 meet.
Hayes Jones of Eastern Michigan followed by equaling the NCAA meet record in the 120-yard hurdles at 13.6 to win by three-tenths of a second. He led by almost two yards when defending champ Elias Gilbert of Winston-Salem pressed hard, falling after the eighth hurdle.
In the 220 hurdle final, Tidwell drew lane 3 while Jones got lane 5 as lane 4 was empty with Gilbert (runner-up in the 1957 NCAA race) scratching. Even without Gilbert it was “one of the greatest footraces of all time,” as Cordner Nelson wrote in Track & Field News.
The 220 hurdles was often run as a straightaway event, to which Jones was more accustomed. Here, though, the race was held with the start on a curve and Tidwell and Jones entered the homestretch even. Jones then took the lead, but Tidwell fought back.
Tidwell tipped the ninth hurdle, allowing Jones to approach the final barrier leading by about a yard, but his final clearance gave him cause for concern.
“I tightened over the last hurdle and he caught me,” said Jones afterward. He saw an official point to Tidwell and thought he had lost.
Actually, Jones won by the slimmest of margins as both he (22.5) and Tidwell (22.6) bettered Tidwell’s world record of 22.7. An aiding wind of 2.4 m/s negated any records.
As a post-collegian, Jones found plenty of success in the high hurdles. He won gold at the 1964 Olympics in the 110-meter hurdles. Indoors, he was undefeated at various hurdle distances in 55 finals from 1960-64.
The 220-yard hurdles was discontinued at the NCAA Championships after the 1959 meet, permanently replaced by the 400-meter hurdles.
The NCAA and collegiate track & field will mark a momentous milestone in the spring of 2021 -- the 100th anniversary of the NCAA Championships and with that, the NCAA Track & Field Championships. In June 1921, the University of Chicago hosted the first track & field championships in NCAA history.
This point can’t be emphasized enough: Not only was the event the first for NCAA track & field, but the first championships for any sport under the sponsorship of the NCAA.
To celebrate, over each of the next 365 days, the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) will celebrate moments, student-athletes, and coaches that have made a century’s worth of championships special. From humble beginnings to important historical milestones to the modern-day, collegiate track & field has evolved with the American society.
The 2021 edition of the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships begin with preliminary round action on May 27-29 in Jacksonville, Fla., and College Station, Texas. The championships final site and culmination of the celebration is slated for June 9-12, 2021 at the newly rebuilt Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.
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