by Doug Smith
May 25, 1960
Watts Flats Dairyman, Rendell, Ran 4:28.1 Record High School Mile 25 Years Ago Today
SILVER CREEK – Falconer High School’s track and field squad emerged with top honors in the Southwestern Conference meet at Silver Creek Saturday afternoon…
“Brad Rendell’s record breaking mile run, clocked at 4:28.1, gave the Falconer speedster what is believed to be the best time ever recorded in a schoolboy meet in the county. Application is being made to have it declared a state record…”
It was 25 years ago today that Bradley Rendell, who ran the mile only because it was the longest race available to high schoolers, caused those words to be printed in The Jamestown Journal.
Today, on the Silver Anniversary of what is still the best mile ever run by a Chautauqua County school boy, an energetic Brad Rendell paused a moment at his Watts Flats dairy farm and wondered aloud if anybody would ever erase that 4:28.1 from the local record books.
Cause To Wonder
He has cause to wonder. Since May 25, 1935, records have come and gone, but nobody has threatened that 4:28.1. Neither has anybody scratched his County Meet record of 4:34.3 – nor his Section Six record of 4:29.4.
The day somebody does, Brad Rendell wants to be there. He pores over his newspaper daily checking winning times in mile races. It must sadden him somewhat to see his specialty being won in 5:05, 5:15 - yes, even 5:35.
The 4:28.1 is a mark Rendell has come to regard as secondary to a bushel of superior performances. But at the time he ran it, the world’s record 4:06.7, held by Glenn Cunningham. Rendell thus was only 19 ½ seconds off the world record – a comparable high school performance today would be something like 4:14.
He once stepped off 4:17 with Falconer coach Ken Anderson holding the clock for him at Falconer, but since only one watch was being used, it couldn’t be submitted as a record.
Brad went on to much greater things than Southwestern Conference titles - he set a national schoolboy record of 4:22.4 in the Schoolboy Olympics in Albany in September, 1936; won the Regional Olympic Trials in Buffalo the same year; won the 3000-meter (about two miles) steeplechase at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia in 1939.
Barred From Nationals
A state ruling - still in effect, by the way - barred Brad from competing in the National Scholastic Championships in Chicago. It was a bitter blow to the slim stepper and the friends in Falconer who’d put up the money to pay his expenses.
Eventually the mile became little more than a sprint to Rendell. He fell in love with cross-country and steeplechase racing. He and his colleagues at Alfred University brought fame to the Allegany County institution by finishing fourth one year and fifth the next in the IC4A cross-country meets in Michigan - this against the largest and most athletic-emphasizing schools in the nation.
One of Rendell’s fellow-runners at Alfred was a man named Gene Burgess - if the name sounds familiar, it should - for it was Gene Burgess,Jr., who early this month made the county sit up and take notice by running a 4:57.1 mile in his first try for Silver Creek Central.
Ironically, this time is virtually identical with Rendell’s first competitive mile of 4:58 - the difference lies in the fact young Burgess is a sophomore and Rendell was a freshman.
Records Should Fall
“Yes, my records SHOULD be broken,” he answers the question. “Tracks and equipment are better. But now they’re more interested in cars - they won’t even come out for track unless they get a ride right to the gate.”
Rendell read with dismay in Monday’s Post-Journal that the mile run has been dropped from the local junior high meet. He’s not one of the unbearable cynics who feels the current generation should be denied the comforts he didn’t have. Daughter Marcia (17) drives the family Volkswagen as frequently as any average teenager gets use of the folks’ car.
Bradley Rendell, in addition to his track work, walked a 14-mile roundtrip to Falconer Central High daily for four years, and if every person were as healthy as he, hospitals would close and doctors would starve.
“If a boy’s heart is good, he should run,” Rendell says.
He’d Do 5:30 Now
“By golly,” he declared with an enthusiastic thump on a suitcase full of clippings, “I’ll bet I could go out right now and run a mile in five minutes - Yessir, at least in 5:30.” You know by the look in his eye he means it, even though his current weight of 160 is some 21 pounds over his high school “running weight.”
And don’t challenge him - a group of Panama High students learned the folly of that in 1946.
Brad was nearly 30 then and hadn’t run for a while, so members of his Panama High basketball team laughed aloud when he concluded a training-rules lecture with a comment on how abstention from tobacco had left him in fine running form.
So they got up a pot of some $20, bet him a dollar a mile he couldn’t run at a steady pace from Panama to Clymer Center and back. Off he went, with the youths chuckling at him from a vintage automobile in which they followed him.
But there wasn’t a snicker when he completed to 20-mile run as strong as he had begun and challenged them to put up another $20.
There were no takers.