The raw facts, on a raw January night, were most impressive: a world indoor record in the mile for Dick Suerkle, a world indoor record in the high jump for Greg Joy and the highest leap ever by an American woman for Joni Huntley.
For each of these great Olympians, there was a long, difficult road to those moments of glory Friday night in Cole Field House.
Two years ago, Buerkle was a disillusioned distance runner, sitting in the Olympic Village in Montreal and wondering whether all that training was worth the Olympic hassle. After failing to qualify for the 5,000-meter final, he took a year off from competitive running.
"There was a lot of pressure at Montreal, but you have to go through it once," Buerkle said Friday after reducing the indoor mile mark to 3:54.8. "I didn't think about quitting, although I took last year off. I still ran everyday, and I got some things done that I had to get done."
In October, the 5-foot-7, 130-pound Buerkle was running a marathon in Niagara Falls. He had never run an indoor mile under four minutes until Friday night, but a chance remark by a Buffalo high school coach, Bob Ivory, on the subject of Americans' reluctance to contribute a fast pace, made him wonder what would happen if he pressed himself tothe utmost. He found out at College Park.
A lens salesman in Buffalo, the 30-year-old Buerkle experience a ragged week of premeet training. On Tuesday, he was running in an unheated building while snow piled up amid a minus 40 wind-chill factor outside. On Wednesday, he was hopping into piles of snow to dodge vehicles on thehighway.
"The weather is so lousy, it's tough to train," Buerkle said. "Nobody believes anybody from western New York can run, because winter track is so difficult. I hope I've changed their minds a little bit."
For Joy, the Olympic silver medalist, the past four months have been a case of training in paradise. A native of Yancouver, the 21-year-old Joy has been working out in Miami.
"It's deal for track," Joy said after clearing 7 feet 7 inches to erase Dwight Stones' 2-year-old mark of 7-6 1/2. "I'm not going to school, and I've been training six or eight hours a day for the last four months. I've psyched myself into a state of mind where nothing else really fazes you."
That state of mind, helped by the premeet music of Pink Floyed, has been important, because in October the 6-foot-13, 160-pound Joy developed a vertebrae problem. He was doing situps with a 35-pound weight behind the back of his neck and suddenly things became painful.
Friday night, as he cleared 7-5, Joy jarred his back on landing and the pain became excruciating. But he let it bother him no more than a cold that had been building up all week. When the remarkable 5-3 Franklin Jacobs cleared 7-6, Joy fought back to manage 7-7 on his third and final try.
Joy is subsisting on the proceeds of a trust fund, established by some joyful Canadians after he captured the silver medal on the final day at Montreal.
"I think Canada was very proud," Joy said. "I was proud to do it for Canada. Not winning a gold medal was very upsetting to Canadians, since every other host country had won a gold, but I think my silver helped. And it was especially satisfying to a lot of people because of the way Dwight (Stones) is hated by Canadians."
Huntley, also 21, leaped 6-2 3/4 in New Zealand in 1975 to set an American outdoor recored. She had never reached that height again, until Friday night, when she cleared 6-4 and came within a calf tick of a world indoor mark at 6-5 1/2.
"Injuries have plagued Huntley's one-woman campaign to make American high jumping a serious force in women's competition. On Aug. 7, she ripped the heel on her takeoff foot and had jumped only twice before her remarkable effort at Cole.
"I had to wear a wooden boot for a month," the 5-foot-8, 130-pound Huntley said. "I did a lot of running and weight lifting. I'm stronger now than ever, but my technique - I've only done vertical jumps for two weeks.
"This has really been a surprise. I've had so many problems the last few years, I didn't know whether I'd be able to get up around 6-5. Was I really that close?"
Indeed she was. There was a gasp from the few hundred fans remaining - of an original crowd of 8,897 - when Huntley at 12:20 a.m. made her third attempt to wipe out Rosemaire Ackermann's indoor mark of 6-4 3/4. She was over and coming down when her calf ticked off the bar ever so gently. Joy had seemingly hit it just as hard on his world-record leap, but the bar jangled and stayed put. Of such trifles are world record holders and bridesmaids separated.
There were other marvelous performances in what must be considered one of the great track meets of all time. Joy, for example, was runner-up to Buerkle as outstanding performer despite his 7-7 leap.
Bob Hersh, a senior editor of Track and Field News, contemplating a scheduled journey to Hanover. N.H., yesterday for the Dartmouth Relays, said, "I'm not sure I want to go. I wish the indoor season would end tonight. There's just nothing left after a meet like this."
Mark Belger of Villanova ran a 1:48.1 half mile, erasing a 7-year-old American record and coming within two-tenths of Ralph Doubell's 9-year-old world mark.
Howard's fine mile-relay team clocked 3:15.0 to win both the metropolitan mile relay and the Dorsey Griffith Trophy for best overall time.
Larry Shipp set an outomatically timed world record of 7.13 for the 60-yard high hurdles in a race in which only two-hundredths of a second separated the first four finishers.
Fairmont Heights ran a 3:23.0 mile relay for a meet record and promise of bigger things to come. For the overall indoor season, barely under way, there was left one pointed question. How do you go about topping a night life this?