Rohe Track Era All About Us!

Compiled by: Bob Barber

Coppley Vickers at the 1964 Florida Relays: By Tom Scott -- 6 October 2013

Coppley Vickers

One of the most courageous performances I ever witnessed was that of Coppley Vickers on March 28, 1964, in the Florida Relays. This was Vick’s first opportunity to run for Tennessee in an outdoor meet after transferring from Furman. Few of us knew he was running injured as a result of a workout a few weeks earlier where he strained a hamstring while interval training 30 x 220 in 28 to 30 seconds each.

Once we got to Gainesville, Coach Rohe told Vick that we were a man short for the two-mile relay and we needed him. Vick hadn’t been training for the 880, and we didn’t know how fast he could go. So, Coach had him run the first leg. If he dropped behind, the rest of us would have the last mile and a half to catch up. To everyone’s amazement, Vick ran a great leg, surging into the lead on the last lap. At that point, his hamstring cramped up. But he kept going, limping down the last straightaway and handing off to me after a leg of 1:51.8! The rest of us maintained the lead. I ran my leg in 1:53.6; Rocky Soderberg followed in 1:55.7; and Bob Redington brought us home in 1:54.6. Our team time of 7:35.7 broke the old meet record by almost 4 seconds!

Coppley was in great pain after the race, and told Coach he couldn’t run anything else that day. But, as we all know, Coach always thought we could do more than we thought we could. “No pain, no gain,” and all that. So, he persuaded Vick to warm up and run the two mile. After all, how could a two-mile pace affect a hamstring? So, Vick lined up to run. It was a tough race. Jim Johnson of William & Mary was a worthy opponent, and Don Pinkston was in the race as well. Vick knew that if it came down to a sprint at the end, he wouldn’t be able to do his usual kick. Fortunately, the pace was sufficiently fast to break Johnson’s will, and Vick was able to keep an even stride and finish in first place in a very good time of 9:09.4, with Johnson second and Pinkston third. The race was not without its funny moments. Charles Goodyear of Florida finished fifth despite almost losing his pants. He ran the whole race, pulling them up every few strides.

It’s rare when a distance runner is named most valuable athlete in a track meet. That honor usually goes to a sprinter who can participate in a number of events. But Coppley was elected the 1964 Florida Relays most valuable athlete. Not a bad achievement for someone running injured!