- USA Track & Field announced on Tuesday that Jane Frederick,
Calvin Smith, Glenn Morris, George Woods and Elvin C. "Ducky" Drake
will be inducted in the National Track & Field Hall of Fame. Below
are recent interviews with the inductees.
Q: What does it mean for you to be inducted into the National Track & Field Hall of Fame?
When I found out I got goose bumps and tears in my eyes, how's that? I
had to sit down, and I remember that my mind started racing. I never
thought I'd qualified. I had made peace with what I had done and who I
was and how my career went and I'm living with that. I just never
thought in terms of me qualifying for the Hall of Fame.
Q: How did you get started in track and field?
I think it was two-fold. My father had been a track official for Cal
(University of California) and he loved track. Even when I was 3 or 4
years old he was down officiating the Cal track meets at Edwards
Stadium, so we always had track around us and it was something that I
was aware of and it was around me. When I was in junior high school
there were some recreational events happening on the field and one of
them was the long jump, so I went over there and just joined that and
it turned out I was pretty good. The guy running that was a coach named
Larry Piltcher and he told me that he was thinking of putting together
an age-group AAU girls' team. He called my parents about it and of
course my dad was delighted, and it just kind of went from there and
that's how I got started.
Q: After getting your feet wet with the long jump and hurdles, how did you eventually become a combined events athlete?
That was a destiny deal, no question. Every time I'd go to practice as
a kid I would try it all just to find out who I am and what's going on.
So I'd see the high jump and believe that I could do it. At practice
one day I walked around some bleachers and saw some boys throwing the
shot put and I wanted to try it. So I picked it up and they kind of
showed me how your supposed to stand sideways, and I remember when the
coach came up he told me that I wasn't going to be a shot putter, let's
go run. So after practice was over I went back and worked on it and
threw over 30 feet. I called the coach over and when I threw it his
eyes popped. Then the light bulb started going on, but you have to
remember this is 1963 or '64, and that was the first time that a
multi-event was considered for the women at the international and
national level, and people didn't even consider it because it wasn't an
event, it was just getting started. In 1965 they gave me a special
exemption to compete in the women's national pentathlon championship
because it was going to be in my home area, and I was only 13, and you
have to be 14 to compete in an open women's event. That was just one of
the first times I was encouraged to develop young talent in the
pentathlon. After I did that one time I decided this is my thing and I
really liked it. I liked doing all those different things.
Q: What were the qualities that made you as dominant in the U.S. as you were in combined events?
It was such a challenging thing and that made it so special, and that
made me identify with doing something special and that gave me a handle
to kind of hang my hat on in that whole thing of being a teenager and
trying to find your way through. I went to Colorado (University of
Colorado) because that's where I wanted to go to school, my family was
from there and I loved the campus and I wanted to go out of California.
When I got to college I worked out in the fieldhouse at night on my
own. I scheduled all my classes in early in the morning and got my
homework done so I could go to the fieldhouse early in the evening and
run, and I even found my way to the weight room and did my own stuff.
One night I was in the fieldhouse and this AAU team from Denver was
there and we started talking, and that's how I hooked up with the, I
believe it was called, the Colorado Gold that Lyle Knudson ran out of
Denver. I joined them and they came up a couple nights a week, and I
got a chance to compete a couple of times. Later I went abroad to Italy
to go to school because I always wanted to go abroad, and over there I
knew I could train and do some stuff. It was in my mind to go to Italy
in my sophomore year because my junior year was the Olympic year and I
must be home, and I must make the team. So, I went to Italy and around
October I looked for a place to work out and on the wall by the track
that I found it said national center for track and field training for
multi-events and throws. I had gone to the city where this national
training center was without even knowing it. So I walk in, and it
didn't take more than five minutes until I met the coaches and I just
fell in to it and I stayed through the following summer for 14 whole
months of training. Down the road about a half hour away was the
Olympic training center for multi-events and throws. It was just meant
to be. They taught me all the weight training, all the technique and so
many exceptional things. I came home in the fall of 1971 and I was on a
roll and it just kind of goes from there.
Q:Following your time in Italy, what was next for you?
In the fall of 1971 I came back to college and in 1972 I had a bit of a
struggle to make the (Olympic) team because unfortunately, most of my
life I was very easily injured as something would always come up. I
think I was really high strung, I would always injure myself right
before the meet. I won the Trials, but I needed to make the standard
and I struggled all summer, but I finally made the standard. I was on
the team and that was great. Once I got to Munich that was such an
extraordinary experience on so many levels. I found that there was a
greater level of involvement and distance to have to go talent and
experience-wise to break into those top medal contender ranks. So, I
decided that I would be out of college soon and I would go back to
Italy and get after it again, and that's what I did.
Q: You finished 7th at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. What was that experience like?
I was considered a dark horse to maybe get a medal. I thought Montreal
was very depressing. Even though my family was there, I found it very
difficult, honestly, to give a damn. I found Montreal to be a very
difficult competition for me. After Munich, which had this incredible
village, with everybody having one to two people to an apartment with
an astonishing, festive atmosphere, to Montreal where it was 12 to a
room. Yes! We had 12 athletes in one apartment room, where we were
packed in like sardines. We were barbed wired in with the sense of
being in a military compound with the guns and security, and the
facility wasn't finished. For me, when I thought of the Olympics being
the epitome of international experience, Montreal was just obliterated
by everybody being packed into to two buildings, 12 to a room and
walking to the practice facilities and the main stadium that didn't
ever get finished. The oppressive sense of Montreal having gone
bankrupt over it and what was left over of their fear from Munich was
very keen. I had a lot of trouble. Although I think I finished well and
hung in there, it was very hard for me. I didn't really know that I was
experiencing all of that until I reflected on it. It was depressing. It
Q: How do you look on your own legacy in track and field?
I really, in my own heart, had a very strong commitment that I would be
there for the long haul with this decathlon, making a legacy in that
area for women. The decathlon had such a long history and women had no
such anchor to that quality that existed in the sport for men and I
related to that personality type that is that decathlon person. That
was just who I was right away and that was who I was going to go ahead
and keep being until I couldn't do it any more, which is what happened
in 1989 with too many injuries and it was time to move on.
Q: What did you do after retiring from track? What are you doing these days?
I wanted to try coaching because I was offered a coaching opportunity.
I had coached a little bit here in Santa Barbara and I really enjoyed
it. So I took the opportunity when it was offered to go down to the
University of Texas and coach with the women's team and it was
wonderful. We won the national championship the first year and I ended
up with four NCAA national champions under my tutelage and eight
All-Americans. Things changed down in Texas and I came home to Santa
Barbara and coached track up here, but honestly I couldn't really coach
at a lower level, it wasn't really motivating, so I moved into the
strength and training field. I've been doing strength and conditioning
at UC Santa Barbara since 1996 and then I went to personal training at
a private gym beginning in 2000, where 80% of my clients are over 60.
Q: How did you react when you learned that you had been elected to the National Track & Field Hall of Fame?
I was very surprised and honored to be picked as one of this year's
honorees to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. I felt that one day it
would come and I'm just happy that the time is here.
Q: Could you talk about the beginning of your track and field career?
I started in school in Mississippi. Basically I was in a P.E. class
playing football with my classmates and the coach saw me running with
the ball and he asked me to come out for track, and so I went out for
track that year, and I went into it in the eighth grade not knowing
much about track. With all the silliness and all that kind of stuff I
quit and then I went back the next year. I had an excellent high school
career. I won at state four years in a row in the 100 meters and three
years in a row in the 200 meters.
Q: What was it like being recruited to compete in college?
A lot of schools had not heard about me coming out of high school.
Basically during that summer year I went to some post high school meets
is when a number of schools heard about me. At that time I was
interested in schools like Mississippi State, Old Miss, Alabama and
Auburn, and I had a cousin that ran for UCLA, so I did do a visit
there. But in the end I decided to choose Alabama, which was not too
close to home, but just far enough away. It turned out to be a pretty
Q: The 1983 season was one of
your most memorable, and it included bettering the 100m world record
that had stood for 15 years. Did that come as surprise to you when it
A: Actually I was very surprised. I was
having a great season and it was my senior year and I had been running
a lot of events, which included the 4x100 and 4x400m relays and at that
time in college there were many rounds, not like today. I had a very
tiresome collegiate season, yet a good season, and when I went to the
national championships I went there somewhat tired from the collegiate
season and I placed third at the nationals. Unfortunately, the two
people that beat me at nationals, Carl Lewis and Emmit King, were all
from the south as well, so actually I didn't make the 100m team (for
the 1983 Olympic Sports Festival). Fortunately both of them decided
they didn't want to go. So, I decided to go to Colorado Springs to run
and basically, from having a long season, I took a week off and the
following week I just did very light workouts because I felt my body
needed to rest. I went to the meet, and I feel with all the rest and my
body being in great condition, that I was ready to run fast, as I did.
The key to the world record was the rest I took prior to going to the
Q: What was it like to hold the 100m world record?
It was a great feeling because I had done something that no one else
had done and that brought a lot of joy and excitement to me, because
setting a world record was always a goal for me. Many times you set out
to do things that you know are hard and may not happen, so for me to
reach that goal it was very exciting and one of those things I'll never
Q: At the inaugural World Outdoor
Championships in 1983 you won the gold medal in the 200 meters and the
silver medal in the 100 meters. Tell us about that.
I had a lot of confidence that I was ready to run, and I was in great
shape. I knew the competition would be great and I went out to run my
race, and basically that's what I concentrated on each round was not to
put out an all out effort in the rounds, but to save something for the
finals and basically that's what I did. I was having a great year and I
was in great condition, and everything fell into place. I knew the 100
meters would be tough, and the key thing for me was the start and I was
inconsistent. Basically I was just trying to make sure that if I got a
good start then it would be a good race for me. I also knew that if I
got a not so good start that I could beat most of the guys in the race
because my finish has always been one of my strong points for the 100
meters and the start has been a weak point. I was pleased with the
Q: Which did you think was your strongest event, the 100m or 200m?
Overall I was pretty much equally good in both. I just liked the 100
more because it was a shorter than the 200. At different points in the
season I would have more confidence in one event. During the later part
of the season I would have more confidence in the 200. In the early
part of the season, although the speed was not there, I would have more
confidence in the 100 meters until I was in the shape and condition
that I really need to be in for the 200.
Many world class sprinters are known for being over the top in terms of
bragging about their abilities, and you were never like that. Why?
I would say it was just my nature. I just wanted to go out and have a
good time and just run, and whatever happens, happens. There were those
who wanted to talk and I used some of that as motivation for me to go
out and beat them because of the talk. Some people need that to try
psych other people out or psych themselves up. I just wanted to go out
and run, and that's what I did.
Q: So many of
the great sprinters we've seen through the years have muscular builds
and you were built more like a greyhound. How did your physical make-up
give you an advantage over those physically stronger competitors?
My running and training was different from many runners. I did a lot of
longer and close to mid-distance type running, especially in the fall
and in to mid-season. My concentration was more geared toward doing
more speed type work around May when a lot of the runners concentrated
on indoors into the outdoor season. For me, indoors was important, but
not important, so I didn't concentrate on indoors that much. The early
part of the season I was concentrated on speed because I was working on
endurance and getting in great condition type work in March and April.
At that time I just wanted to be in the best condition, and for me,
winning wasn't everything, so when I was getting beat in April and May
it only gave me motivation to work harder on certain things. I knew,
based on my training, that I was not geared to be winning against some
of those athletes, but I wanted to gear up for later in the season when
I would be running faster. Throughout my career after college I was
self-coached, and I did what I thought was needed to be successful.
Your best years coincided with the prime of fellow Hall of Famer Carl
Lewis. With all the attention he received during his career and with
all your many accomplishments, did you ever feel that you never
received the attention you deserved?
A: I could
have gotten more attention, but that was all based on what the media
wanted to do. I was just out to do my thing and enjoy running and to
perform and that's basically what I did. I didn't worry about all the
hype, or whatever, because I just wanted to line up on the track and
let things take care of them selves.
Q: What did you do following your athletic career and what are you doing these days?
I taught school for many years in middle schools and I coached at a
number of high schools in the Tampa Bay area. At the present time I'm a
supervisor of a housing program for ex-offenders (Gulf Coast Community
Care) as well as coaching high school athletes.
Q: What were your initial thoughts when you learned that you had been elected to the National Track & Field Hall of Fame?
As far as honors are concerned this is the most you can ever receive. I
was very honored and I was very surprised and delighted. There were a
lot of emotions. I can't say I was looking forward to it because I
didn't know that it would ever happen. It's a very big honor. I guess
my career, at least to some extent, was noteworthy.
Q: How did you first get involved with track and field, and how did you choose the shot put?
It's kind of an interesting story. Claxton, Missouri, is where I grew
up and it's a small to medium size town in southeast Missouri where
football is king, and if you weren't a football player you were
nothing, so I went out for football my freshman year. I admired
strength at that time and our coaches wanted us to go out for a spring
sport to stay in shape for football, so I chose track and field. I
started throwing the 12 pound shot and threw it a grand total of 33
feet my first year (laughter). Then the next year I started coming into
my own. This one kid from another town kept beating me and I was
getting second at all the track meets at about 42 feet was the best I
could throw with the old side method. I saw a kid doing something
different, where he put his back to the throwing area and the direction
he wanted to throw the shot and he would hop across the ring and throw
around 44 to 45 feet. One day I was kind of tired after a hard workout
and I just decided to play with it, and my very first throw went over
46 feet. Of course, that was the O'Brien technique (National Track
& Field Hall of Famer Parry O'Brien) and from then on it was an
upward climb for me.
Q: How was your experience as a collegiate athlete at Southern Illinois University?
I think I started out in the 52 to 53 foot range and worked up to about
62 feet. I got second place in the NCAA Championships in I believe 1964
and I won an NCAA Indoor Championship along the way.
Q: You won two Olympic Trials competitions during your career.
A: For a while I did have the Olympic Trials record of over 70 feet.
Q: How difficult was it for you in facing the pressure of an Olympic Trials?
To be honest with you, there is pressure, but I had pretty good control
of the situation going into each of them, except for the last one.
Going into 1976 I qualified, but I was starting to slip a bit and
getting too old to throw the top throws like I had been. In 1968 and
1972 I had control of the situation, it was the pressure of the Olympic
Games themselves that is just enormous and it's hard to explain. First
of all there's the idea that if you don't do your best then you have to
wait another four years before you get another chance, and that alone
adds a lot of pressure. The pressure of the Trials was there and you
wanted to do your best and you were psyched up to do your best, but
like I say I had been doing very well in '68 and '72, and as a matter
of fact in '68 I'd beaten Matson (National Track & Field Hall of
Famer Randy Matson) two times prior to the Trials, so I had pretty good
control of the situation at the time.
Q: Is there still some frustration that you won two silver medals in Olympic competition?
I hate to dwell on these things because at this stage of the game it
sounds like sour grapes, but I was injured in '68. I had a hurt wrist
from a bone chip that happened in Tahoe in training for the Trials and
the Games I was doing a lift and chipped a bone in my wrist. Every time
I threw it would slide down into the joint there and cause me a great
deal of pain. That one is not the one that disappointed me. In '72 it
was a whole different ballgame.
Q: What happened that year in Munich?
First of all, during the shot put they had wet the turf down and the
shot puts were sinking deeply into the ground and not bouncing out of
the holes. If they were leaving out of the holes they were rolling.
They decided to put a metal flag pole with a little metal flag at the
farthest throw to show the audience where the farthest throw was during
the competition.. I was in second place and on my very last throw my
shot hit the stake in the air and at the time I suspected what had
happened, but I was trying to stay in the circle and I had my head
lowered when I heard the clank when the shot hit it, but I really
didn't know, so I just kind of let it go and went with what the referee
said. But the referee said the shot hit before the stake and bounced
into it and bent it and rolled away and didn't leave a hole. My shot
clearly showed in film after that, that it hit about six inches high on
the stake, which would've put the throw around 69-8 or 69-10, something
in that neighborhood. You have to put in a protest within 20 minutes of
the end of the event, but I didn't know what had happened, and by the
time I started to realize that I might've won this thing, it was too
late to even protest it. Maybe instead of giving me a medal for the
farthest throw they should've given me a medal for the most accurate
throw for hitting the stake (laughter).
Q: Could you talk about being a member of that great U.S. team at the 1968 Olympics?
It was a great honor, but that was my first Games and I had stars in my
eyes, and I didn't realize until years later how great that team was.
In 1998 they had a reunion in New Orleans and they were saying that it
was the greatest team in history with so many world record holders and
everything else. There were so many great names and it really was
unbelievable. It was an honor for me to be included with that group.
Q: You set a number of world records competing indoors. Did you prefer competing in indoor track meets?
I enjoyed indoors more because of the nearness of the crowd. You could
really psych up and get the adrenaline flowing, and I really enjoyed
indoor track. Usually the shot put was right on the inside of the track
and the people sitting there watching were very close.
Q: What did you do following your athletic career?
I retired from SIU-Edwardsville, I was an admissions counselor and
academic advisor there until I retired in 2001 after 32 years. I like
to hunt and fish, and I like archery. Those are just a few things I
Elvin C. "Ducky" Drake
(Interview with National Track & Field Hall of Fame member and 1960 Olympic Games decathlon gold medalist Rafer Johnson, who was coached by Ducky Drake. Coach Drake who died December 23, 1988).
Q: Did Coach Drake recruit you to UCLA?
Yes he did. I had looked at a lot of schools around the country and had
narrowed it down to schools in California. Cal (California) I liked a
lot, Stanford I looked at, and USC and UCLA. Coach Drake was probably
the instrumental factor that turned it for me. I decided that UCLA was
the place for me and I ended up enrolling in the school and I couldn't
put into words what Ducky Drake meant to me and to a lot of other kids,
of course. I came from a very small town in central California,
population 2,000, coming down to UCLA and being part of a great
institution and in what turned out to be a wonderful track team with
some wonderful track years. I look back on that time with Ducky with
all those teammates of mine and assistant coaches with a great deal of
pride, and obviously very fine memories.
competed in the decathlon that features 10 separate events. Did Coach
Drake specialize in coaching any of those events in particular?
I'm not sure there were any in particular. He knew the events very
well, and obviously he had some great distance runners and he had a
real good feel for all the events, along with the fact that Craig Dixon
was an assistant coach, who was an international high hurdler. I got
all the events covered in a way where I improved in almost every single
event every year due to the tutelage of Coach Drake and Craig Dixon.
Q: How would you describe Coach Drake as a teacher?
He was a great teacher. He used poetry and he had been around the
university for a lot of years. He understood the psyche of young
athletes trying to achieve and be the best that they could be, and I
think his idea in terms of working with the young men was that they do
the things they needed to do from a physical viewpoint to help them
become mentally strong, and he had a strong spiritual base that I saw
as an important factor. Both on and off the field of competition he was
like a father to me. I can't say enough about what he brought to our
workout sessions and what he brought to each of our conversations and
what he thought about each of the young people under his wing as he
taught all of us about our individual track and field competitions.
Q: Did he have special ways to motivate his athletes?
I think Ducky's main motivation as it pertains to all of his young
people was that this time when we worked out and trained, we thought it
was the greatest times of our lives as all of us worked hard and
trained to be the best we could be. Ducky continually reminded us that
this is a very brief moment, although it lasted four or five years,
that it's a brief moment in terms of the numbers of hours, weeks,
months and years that we would have to remember what we went through.
He always said to us that a few moments to train, but a lifetime to
remember, and that's exactly what it turned out to be. We had some
great achievements with his help and those on his staff, but in all
those years subsequent to between 1954 and 1960, I've had time now to
reflect back on and remember it with a great deal of pride,
particularly the wonderful words, direction and words of coach Elvin C.
Q: In coaching you and C.K. Yang (1960
Olympic decathlon silver medalist and Johnson's UCLA teammate) did
Coach Drake work with you two together, separately or was it a
combination of the two?
A: It was a little bit of
a combination of both, but mostly we were a team. C.K. and I worked out
together under the tutelage of Coach Drake and C.K.'s coach in Taiwan,
and we discussed what we needed to do and worked out together almost
every single day. Coach Drake continually told us that he wasn't
pulling for either of us individually, but he was very interested that
we both be the best we could be. It turned out to be just a great team.
We knew that on any given event on any given day, C.K. could be the
winner as easily as I turned out to be the winner. We were both looking
for high achievement and looking to be the best that we could be. C.K.
and I have talked about this years subsequent to our competition, that
neither one of us would have been the kind of athlete and had the
performances we had, particularly in 1960, if it hadn't been for Coach
Q: What is Coach Drake's legacy to you and the athletes he coached?
Coach Drake's legacy spans a lot of years. It included hundreds of
young athletes. It meant that Coach Drake spent hour after hour on the
field of competition in being sure that his boys were ready for
competition and ready to meet the challenge. His legacy is not only the
years of track and field, but he was also a trainer. There is not a
single athlete that you could talk to that had the privilege of working
with Coach Drake, either in the sport of track and field or in another
sport at UCLA where he was the trainer and he was the trainer for all
sports, that don't look back on those moments with just an unbelievable
amount of pride. His legacy is one of showing the way to young people
when they were at a moment in their lives when there was a tremendous
amount of uncertainty. He made very clear that there was a way to go
and a great opportunity if we could just prepare ourselves and be
willing to do the work to be the best that we could be. At that point
he would always say that no one could ask more than you be the best
that you can be. His legacy is that he did provide the opportunity, the
leadership and the challenge to all those athletes that he was with,
and who he worked with and for. He left that legacy that knowing full
well that you left him fully prepared and that you had the opportunity
to be fully the best that you could be.
Q: What does it mean to you to know that Coach Drake is joining you in the National Track & Field Hall of Fame?
To be honest, it's a long time coming, and I thought this honor should
have come Ducky Drake's way many years ago. I would've loved to have
seen it happen when he was alive. But nonetheless, it is here and I
think I, along with all the athletes he coached, we're all proud at
this moment to see one of the great coaches in track and field and
America be recognized for the job that he did in many ways changing and
challenging the lives of literally thousands of athletes. We're all
pleased and we couldn't be happier with the choice that the committee
made to name this gentleman, Elvin C. Drake to the Hall of Fame.
For more information on the National Track & Field Hall of Fame, visit www.usatf.org.