here's a true story you might want to ponder.
in 1947, Reggie Pearman was a Freshman at NYU. he was also a member of the New York Pioneer's club and in their name he won the AAU 880yds title in 1:50.9. he had also run well in the Penn Relays that year and earned himself the nickname "Photofinish Pearman" for his come-from-behind tactics. he also made the final of the 880yds at the NCAA's in Salt Lake City. Bill Clifford of Ohio State and Jack Dianetti, a Freshman at Michigan State, tied for 1st in 1:50.2. Pearman finished 6th with no time being recorded. Herb McKenley (JAM), twice an Olympic silver medallist at 400m, won the 220yds and 440yds double with the 220yds being run on a straight track. fellow Olympians Jerry Thompson and Curt Stone fought a tough battle over 2 miles in which Thompson only just prevailed in 8:44.9. the pair also finished 1-2 in the 1947 and 1948 AAU's and in the 1948 OT 5000m they repeated the feat with their positions reversed.
In 1948, Pearman entered both the 400m and the 800m at NCAA's and made both finals, but he made no impression on the results. he finished both, but not even his position has been recorded. this being an Olympic year, races were over the metric distances and Don Gehrmann, a sophomore at Wisconsin, won the 1500m in 3:54 from Michigan Junior Herb Barten, who both went to the OT's in Evanston, IL in July. Gehrmann won the OT 1500m while Barten came 2nd in the 800m, and an NYU Sophomore called Reggie Pearman toed the line in the 800m but for some unknown reason he got a DNF. both Gehrmann and Barten went to the Olympics in London that year, Gehrmann finishing 8th in the 1500m while Barten was 4th in the 800m.
in 1949 Pearman finished 2nd in the NCAA 440yds, giving the Cornell Freshman Charlie Moore a scare and running 46.8, just a tenth behind the winner. he also made the final of the 880yds, but both he and Bob Chambers, the So Cal Junior who had finished 3rd in the 1948 OT's in 1:51.4, failed to make a mark. Horace Ashenfelter, the Penn State Senior who is better known as a marathon man, won the 2 miles as he pleased in 8:25.
in 1950 the standard had gone up a notch with WR holder George Rhoden of Jamaica and Morgan State winning the 440yds in 46.9 and Reggie Pearman, now a Senior, made the final of the 880yds but yet again he failed to make a mark. finishing 8th he is the only man in the final not to have his time recorded. Don Gehrmann won his 3rd consecutive mile title in 4:12.4.
Reggie Pearman went to college as AAU Champion over 880yds, but he had essentially nothing to show for four years of college sports. 2nd in the NCAA 440yds is not nothing, but he had every right to expect more. there is no mention of Reggie Pearman in the various lists after he left college, until he turned up at the 1952 AAU at Long Beach, CA with his NY Pioneer's Club singlet and ran 1:53.5 to take the 880yds title home with him. at the Olympic trials in Los Angeles in June he ran 3rd to Mal Whitfield and John Barnes returning 1:50.6 and he was off to Helsinki where he finished 7th in the final of the Olympic Games.
for whatever reason, college sports did not suit Reggie Pearman very well. he was national champion when he went to college, and he qualified for the Olympics the year after he left college, but in college he achieved very little and it could be argued that he failed to realise his athletic potential. but outside of that very narrow window, he prospered. it's worth thinking about.