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Chem Major Shatters Track Record

By Chris Lydgate '90 on February 21, 2012 12:35 PM

whittredge.jpg

Chem major Paul Whittredge '12 (right, black vest) shattered a longstanding Reed track record on Saturday, running two miles in 10:21.7 seconds, and demolishing the previous time, which had stood since 1956, by almost 17 seconds. His training partner, Jack Flowers '15, also beat the old record, finishing just four seconds behind Paul.

With the mercury reading a brisk 45 F, and the sky the texture of a wet towel, the two runners set off at noon on the track at Cleveland High School. (Unfortunately, the old Reed track that used to encircle the tennis courts is no more.) The official timekeeper was professor David Latimer [physics 2010-]; the cheering section included running enthusiast Johnny Powell [physics 1987-] and a representative of the fourth estate. The small turnout was no accident-- Paul did not want a lot of pomp and ceremony for the occasion. "I was feeling really anxious about it over the last several days," he admitted. "But when I woke up this morning I felt awesome."

On the track, he was an angular blur of determination, his brow glistening with sweat despite the chill of the gusting wind. On the third lap, the sun made a brief appearance and Paul caught sight of his shadow--a good omen. He picked up the pace and galloped like a gazelle down the final stretch.

Paul and Jack gave one another a triumphant Reed bearhug when Professor Latimer shouted out the time. "It's a great feeling," Paul said afterwards. "I can't believe we just broke a record that stood for fifty-six years."

Another person who can hardly believe it is George Barnes '58, who set the previous record of 10:38.5 on a sunny day in 1956. "I'm crushed," he told us from his home in California. "I always heard that records were there to be beaten, but I never believed it."

George's feat took place at an intramural meet on campus. The first event was the mile--he ran it in 4:50, ten seconds shy of the Reed record of 4:40 (which still stands), set by David Fischer '46 in 1943. The last event was the two mile run. George remembers that one of his competitors was a fellow student who had run for the French Oympic team. "Everyone said, 'Francois is going to win the two mile,'" he says. "But Francois came up to me before the race and said he thought I would get it. And in the end I did."

George was surprised to learn that his record had endured for so long and offered his hearty congratulations to Paul and Jack for their "outstanding" feat.

After soaking up the glory (and the drizzle) for a few minutes longer, Paul donned a hoodie and prepared to get back to his thesis on the NMR spectroscopy of a zinc finger. (Kudos to any chem majors who can explain what this is.)

Meanwhile, we look forward to watching more students challenge longstanding Reed track records, especially the oldest of them all: the 100-yard dash in 10.2 seconds, set by Millard Rosenblatt '22 in 1919!