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Dash from the Past

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Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the Indiana Gazette on January 31, 2014. See the original on the Gazette website: “100 Years Ago Today, Carroll’s Record-Setting Dash Made Headlines.” The story is reprinted with permission.

Raymond Carroll

Raymond Carroll was guilty of thievery the evening of January 31, 1914, but he was no lawbreaker—just a record breaker.

Carroll, a fleet-footed sprinter for Indiana Normal School, the forerunner of IUP, stole the spotlight from dozens of more-heralded performers at the Middle Atlantic Association track and field championships and wowed the crowd of 3,000 at Duquesne Gardens by setting a record. Not just any record—a world record.

The Coraopolis native breasted the tape in a 60-yard dash preliminary heat in 6.2 seconds, shaving two-tenths of a second off the existing indoor record, then equaled his newly minted mark in a semifinal heat.

In doing so, Carroll effectively upstaged the premier track stars in the region.

“In the eyes of the spectators there appeared the sturdy figure of but one athlete, and he overshadowed all others,” noted the Pittsburgh Dispatch. “R. A. Carroll, popularly known as ‘Red’ Carroll, and one of Pa Pitt’s own products, brought rounds of tumultuous cheers and handclapping when Announcer Donnelly made the fact known that he had succeeded in shattering the world’s record for the 60-yard dash.”

Carroll captained a stellar INS track team coached by Bill Jack, a former Yale standout. In addition to his individual exploits, both indoors and outdoors, he ran on mile relay teams that claimed national Normal School titles at the Penn Relays in both 1914 and 1915.

Whether sprinting on wooden boards or on cinders, Carroll possessed the kind of blazing speed that thrilled spectators and demoralized opponents. An explosive finishing kick enabled him on numerous occasions to win races that seemed hopelessly lost.

“On the [mile] relay team, for which Indiana is noted, he is an invaluable member,” noted the 1915 Instano, the INS yearbook, “and in a recent meet in Pittsburgh when Indiana, having been handicapped fifteen yards, was running even with Carnegie Tech, he made up fourteen of the fifteen yards running his quarter. Numberless times he has done things of this sort which make Indiana proud of him.”

Carroll fairly rocketed down the track in a heat of the 100 during the Tri-State Track and Field Meet at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field in June of 1914. Penalized a yard for a false start, he still managed to leave the opposition in his wake, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

“In one of the heats, Carroll made one of the fastest sprints ever pulled off in the history of athletics,” the Pittsburgh Press reported. “With the crack of the pistol he was off like a deer, bounding over the course in almost super-human leaps. When a short distance from the finish line, he was still a yard or two behind his rivals. With a burst of speed that must have surprised even himself, he leaped to the front across the tape ahead of the field. When it was found he had covered a distance of 101 yards in the remarkable time of 9 4-5 seconds, the great crowd gave such a demonstration as has seldom taken place in this city.”

Carroll lost by inches in the final, unable to overcome yet another false start penalty. He did, however, win the 220 in 22.6 seconds.

His performance that day at Forbes Field, exceptional though it was, paled in comparison to his record-breaking tour de force five months before at nearby Duquesne Gardens, Pittsburgh’s chief sports arena in the first half of the 20th century. Built in 1890 in the city’s Oakland section, it originally served as a trolley barn and was later home of the NHL Pittsburgh Pirates (1925-30), NBA Pittsburgh Ironmen (1946-47) and American Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Hornets (1937-56). Duquesne University basketball games, boxing and tennis matches, concerts and, of course, track meets also took place there.

Wooden boards were laid down to create a track for the 1914 Middle Atlantic Association “carnival,” as the Pittsburgh Chronicle Telegraph called it in a preview story. The newspaper’s banner headline proved positively prescient: “Expect records to be broken when stars compete in indoor contest.”

Carroll wasted little time shattering one. In his first heat, he eclipsed the 60-yard dash record of 6.4 seconds, set only weeks before in New York City by Alvah T. Meyer of the Irish American Athletic Club, a 1912 Olympic silver medalist in the 100 meters. Then, as if to prove his feat was no fluke, he ran another 6.2 in a semifinal heat.

The final, in contrast to the electricity generated in those record-breaking heats, seemed practically anticlimactic. According to the Indiana Evening Gazette, “Getting away to a slow start, Carroll ran away from his competition at the finish and broke the tape in :06 2-5, equaling the former record.” J. M. Burwell of Pitt earned runner-up honors, and Gila Gano of INS placed third.

Carroll’s world record, it turns out, wasn’t certified until after the meet concluded. According to the Press, referee Pauling, the president of the Middle Atlantic Association, called for a tape and personally measured the distance Carroll had covered. Satisfied the finish line stood exactly 60 yards from the start, he declared the record official.

By the time Carroll wrapped up his INS career some 15 months later, he held school records in five events: 60 yards indoors (6.2), 100 (9.8), 220 (21.4), 440 (49.2) and, with Gano, Lawrence Holland, and John Trainer, the mile relay (3:30.4). The speedster “rated as one of the cleverest short distance runners in the country,” according to a 1914 Gazette story, gained national acclaim during his time at INS, and even made his mark internationally with a spectacular performance at the Middle Atlantic Association championships 100 years ago today.

In a brazen example of thievery before 3,000 witnesses, Raymond Carroll stole the spotlight from the meet’s headliners and a world record from Alvah Meyer. 

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