"I guess I've liked to run since I was a boy," explained track coach Bill McCurdy. And he must have liked it because his record as a competitor equals his success as a coach.
By now McCurdy's powerful track teams are well known, but few people realize the excellence and length of his career as a middle distance man. In his final year at Tamalpais High School in California, McCurdy won his first race against topflight competition and became the state's 880 champion. The following year, as a Stanford freshman, he entered the front rank of the nation's runners, duelling his teammate Ben Eastman, an Olympic star, in what McCurdy calls the most gruelling races of his career.
Besides the challenge of taking on Eastman, he was under the tutelage of Dink Temple, whom he considered "the best coach in the world." Under Temple's guidance, McCurdy eventually lowered his time in the 440 to 0:47, and in the 830 to 1:53. Though he scored these clockings over 15 years ago they compare very favorably with the efforts of present-day stars such as Villanova's Charlie Jenkins and the varsity's Dave Alpera.
In his senior year, as the Indian's captain, McCurdy led his team to an upset victory over its traditional enemy, USC, and when he graduated, continued running for the San Francisco Olympic Club. But though he continued to compete, he had no thoughts of becoming a coach.
It was in the army, where he served from 1941 to 1945, that McCurdy, as a member of the armed forces special services group, first instructed athletes. He also did enough running to win his old specialties, the 440 and 880, at the Hawaiian AAUs, in 1944. But the wartime race he remembers best was a ten mile road run, something he'd never tried, and its memory "still gives me sympathy for our cross country men."
With the return to peace, an army friend who was going to become professor of Physical Education at Springfield, persuaded McCurdy to join him and study for a Master of Education Degree. While there, he formed the basis of his present coaching method: "anyone can work with runners, but too many people are neglecting the field events." Proving his rule, McCurdy, in the last four years has developed the most vaunted middle distance runners in the Ivy League and in Al Wilson, Carl Goldman, and Bob Rittenburg some of the East's best field events men as well.
In 1950, the University chose McCurdy to assist famed Jaakko Mikkola, whom he recalls as being "a great gentleman whose passion was track." When Mikkola died in 1952, the year he was to retire, the University made an understandable choice, naming his colleague and good friend Bill McCurdy head track coach.