Dashing fellows Jack Flowers ’15 and Paul Whittredge ’12 (black tank top) broke Reed’s two-mile record.

Dashing fellows Jack Flowers ’15 and Paul Whittredge ’12 (black tank top) broke Reed’s two-mile record.

Chem Major Shatters Track Record

By Chris Lydgate ’90 | June 1, 2012

Chem major Paul Whittredge ’12 shattered a longstanding Reed track record in February, running two miles in 10:21.7 seconds, demolishing the previous time 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 David Latimer [physics 2010–]; the cheering section included Johnny Powell [physics 1987–] and a representative of the fourth estate. The small turnout was no accident—Paul did not want to jinx the day with pomp and ceremony. 

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 that doubtless fueled him on the final stretch.

Paul and Jack gave one another a triumphant Reed bear hug when Latimer shouted out the time. “It’s a great feeling,” Paul panted. “I can’t believe we just broke a record that stood for 56 years.”

Someone else who can hardly believe it is George Barnes ’58, who set the old record of 10:38.5 on a sunny day back 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, 10 seconds shy of the Reed record of 4:40 (which still stands) set by David Fischer ’46. 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 Olympic team. “Everyone said, ‘François is going to win the two-mile,’” he says. “But François 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 congratulated Paul and Jack for their outstanding feat.

After soaking up the glory (and the drizzle) for a few minutes longer, Paul got back to work on his thesis on the NMR spectroscopy of a zinc finger. (Kudos to anyone who can explain what this is.) 

Tags: Sports & Adventures, Students