In 1973, at Cole Field House, an 18-year-old hurdler named Larry Shipp upset Olympic champion Rod Milburn in the final of the 60-yard timber event.
In 1978, Shipp practiced for three days before the meet at Cole, took a flyer as a late entry and whipped Renaldo Nehemiah to win his fourth National Invitational championship.
Friday night, again with limited training, Shipp will compete at Cole once more. Few would concede him much of a chance this time, particularly with Nehemiah in the field, but the track record indicates that it is never wise to overlook Larry Shipp.
Shipp, a Washingtonian who attended Louisiana State and has now returned to his home turf, abandoned his track career a year ago, after he fell at Cole and later discovered he had torn cartilage in his right knee.
"I was told either to have an operation or forget about running," Shipp said. "I figured, as long as it doesn't bother me in my everyday activity, I'll forget track."
Randy Randolph, a friend of Shipp and a physical therapist, recommended a buildup program that included isometric exercises. Shipp followed it, along with routine pushups and situps, but it was all directed at improving his general well-being, with no thought of a return to the track.
"I went jogging with my wife in September, and I don't know who went farther, but afterward I realized my leg didn't bother me," Shipp said. "I picked up the jogging with some old friends and I started to think about competing again.
"I tried some 220 sprints in October, just to see if the leg would bother me. It didn't, so I went on a weight program and now the last couple of weeks I've been going over the sticks again.
"What I'm lacking right now, besides facilities and time, is the chance to get over a lot of hurdles.This meet Friday will be like a thermometer. I can see where I'm at. If I run something respectable, I'll pursue it further. I'd like to run about four indoor meets and then pick things up outdoors.
"I'd like to be able to make the Olympic team and I'd like to make some trips, so I can take my wife along to see the country and the world. Only one thing scares me. I'd hate to get out there and get mentally prepared, get back to the top level again and have my knee give out."
Despite his lack of competition and training, Shipp does not feel his task is impossible, and his success two years ago would back him up.
"To run indoors takes a lot more experience than sheer ability," Shipp said. "It gets very technical indoors, because it's so short. Outdoors, you can hide a mistake or two. I'm surprised, after not hurdling in a year, how easy it came back."
Shipp would like to face Milburn once more, but it will not happen here. Milburn, a former pro reinstated by the Athletic Congress, is still not cleared internationally, and meet director Gerry McGee rejected his entry.
Shipp, however, is content to be going against Nehemiah, whose 6.89 is the world indoor record for the distance. Shipp once held the indoor mark, running 7.11 in 1977, but Nehemiah wiped that out in the 1978 Millrose Games and has forced it lower many times since.
"Yeah, I'd like to face Hot Rod again, but I'm more anxious to compete against Nehemiah," Shipp said. "You always want to go for the top man, go for present heroes instead of past heroes."
A hero of sorts himself, as a former NCAA outdoor and AAU indoor champion, Shipp prefers running at Cole to any site other than the Olympics.
"It's a fast track, good competition, a good meet director and it's a lot of fun," Shipp said. "The most enjoyable thing is the crowd reaction.
People in the area seem to be more aware of the things a track athlete goes through. With the jogging craze, people know there's more to it than just putting on your pants."