Reprint - 5-19-03
For seventeen years Frank Wykoff was the fastest man on earth.
He'd run the 100 yard dash in the National Collegiate at Chicago
in 9.4 seconds and no mortal touched that record until
when Mel Patton, also from the University of Southern
California, came in at 9.3. A year later, Hayes did it in
But in the meantime, Frank Wykoff, a three time Olympic champion
had established himself as one of the great sprinters and
athletes of our time, and engraved his name in gold letters in
the annals of American and International track history.
He's here now on Holiday with his wife, Ethel Mae, and looking
forward to his retirement next year from his post as Director of
Special Schools of the County of Los Angeles, a job he's been
doing for the past 21 years.
The Wykoff' are part of a group of Californians staying at the
Hotel Playa de Palma through the offices of the American agency,
Continental Express and its local agent, Viajes Compaas.
They find the climate pretty much the same as Los Angeles, but
the air much better --they can breathe it.
Frank Wykoff started off his brilliant track career at Glendale
High School by winning the State Championship in the 100 yard
sprint in his junior year. His time was 9.6.
In his senior year (1928) he was with the American team at the
Olympics in Holland where he not only placed
4th in the 100
meter dash (109 3/4 yards) but was the anchor man on the
American 400 meters relay team which set a new world and Olympic
record by doing the distance in 41 seconds flat.
A record promptly smashed at the next Olympics in Los
Angeles (1932) when the American
400 meter team did it in 40
seconds. The American team consisted of
Bob Kiesel, and the and their anchor man,
Frank stopped running for a while to take up a post as
Superintendent of Schools in Carpinteria Santa Barbara, but in
1936 he went back into training and competed in the notorious
Berlin Olympics in 1936.
He placed 4th in the 100 meter dash -- that was the year
Owens won it with a time of 10.2 but the
American relay team
again broke the world and Olympic record by having two tenths of
a second off the '32 mark. The American team had Jesse
Owens, Ralph Metcalfe,
Foy Draper and their anchor man, Frank
Wykoff, 39.8 seconds.
Frank and his good friend Charlie Paddock, (who had held the 100
yard sprint record at 9.5 till Frank broke it) are the only two
men to have competed in three Olympics.
Naturally track had changed a lot since the
days when Frank and Charlie Paddock ran...
...Then, as Frank points out, there were
starting block in the thirties, dash men had to "run out of a hole." Trackmen's
shoes lighter now, there are only four spikes instead of six and
the "artificial tracks they run on these days are faster and
smoother than the old cinder job.
Training ideas have changed too. They used to think that
weight lifting was bad for a sprinter and dash men would confine
their track exercises to the traditional jog and walk, sit-ups,
push-ups, chinning, but now the sprinters life weights regularly
to strengthen their stomach and leg muscles.
But the basics are pretty much the same. "You need a fast reflex to start off
and then to think what you're doing, knees up, pivot from the
Frank's work as director of Los Angeles county's special schools
puts him in charge of a staff of 157 teachers and about 28,600
children and youths, all of whom are in the custody or the
probation department, juvenile wards of the court.
Frank does not think juvenile crime has increased over the past
year: he points out that the population rise naturally makes for
greater numbers but "percentage wise
it's about the same."
What is different is the gravity of crimes. Most of the
cases now are narcotics, "pills"
as Frank says, and there is a greater incidence of more serious
offences, not like your petty thievery of yesteryear.
Frank's department boats a very good teacher to student ration
one for every 20 kids, a lot better than the national average of
course, and his charges range in age from kindergarten to high
school level although most are at junior high school age (12-14
Next year Frank retires. He plans to do a lot of trout
fishing and devote more time to his favorite hobby, building
things with machinery.
"I'm going to build a car for my
grandson," he says. He could teach him to run.