When you hear the name Frank Wykoff, you immediately think of Jesse Owens in the 1936 Gold medal 4×100 meter relay, along with Ralph Metcalfe and the 2 Jewish athletes that didn’t run (Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller). Frank Wykoff ran the anchor leg in a World Record time of 39.8 seconds.
Frank Wykoff had a storied Olympic career that spans three Olympics 1928-32-36, with 3 Gold medals in each 4×100 meter relay. He ran the lead-off leg in 1928, and the anchor leg in the ’32 & ’36. In fact, all three Olympic 4×100 meters were set in World Record time (41.0, 40.0, 39.8)
FrankWykoff.com is the “official” one stop biographical & historical web site information center. It is filled with great stories, photos, and transcribed newspaper clippings from that era.
Wykoff ran in an era when digging holes into the ground was the norm and starting blocks were in the infancy stages. Starting blocks were patented in 1935, and have officially been used at the start of sprint races since 1937.
I discussed the Track and Field Starting Blocks Evolution that focused on the height of the blocks over the last 30 years, and the angles & positioning of the feet relative to the block pads.
The web site has several newspaper clippings that discussed the early Track and Field starting blocks controversy.
From FrankWykoff.com, it also discusses the rivalry between Wykoff and George Simpson & Eddie Tolan (the 1932 100 meter Olympic Champion):
AAU BARS STARTING BLOCKS FROM THE DENVER 1929 MEET
“These blocks have never been accepted by the A. A. U. or the International Athletic federation and as the national championship will be held under the jurisdiction of the amateur union the blocks will be out at Denver,” said Henry.
“We want every record made to be absolutely official and if Wykoff, Bracey or Simpson runs a 9 2-5 second century we want the mark accepted in America and by the International Federation as well.”
GREYHOUND LIKES REGULAR METHOD – Old Type of Holes Favored By National Champion; May Bother Simpson
“Personally, I can’t see that the blocks are any help and I don’t see any reason for cluttering up the track and creating dissension on any possible records by using them,” Hayhurst declared.
(Frank) Wykoff has not liked the blocks, what little he has tried them. He used them somewhat in his workouts at Bovard field during the last week so that if they were used at Denver he would not find them strange. He asserts that they are more of a hindrance than a help in his case. He had already decided to run from the old-fashioned, legally recognized, holes regardless of what (George) Simpson and his other rivals used at Denver.
Wykoff’s marks, it is pointed out, have all been made from the old-fashioned, common garden variety of holes, and cannot be disputed. On the same day that Simpson ran his 9 2-5 race at Chicago against a lightning fast field on a perfect track Wykoff was running two 9 3-5 races on the slow old Bovard field adobe path against mediocre competition.
STARTING BLOCKS FOR CENTURY MEN DEBATED
No foot blocks will be allowed at the A. A. U. classic, so that George Simpson will run under a psychological handicap. For the first time this year he must go to his marks without “props.” Frank Wykoff has tried the foot braces and likes them very much. He has been advised against using them until they are definitely declared legal or illegal. Those of you who think that blocks do not give inhuman aid should listen to what Mr. Wykoff says.
“All sprinters are worried over the ever present possibility that their feet will slip from the improvised holes dug at the start. It happens time after time, even with the best of ’em. For this reason they do not always put in their hardest kick on the first step for fear the cavity will not support the added push. With blocks the runners are certain of a sure footing every time. They can put everything into that first spring. It’s bound to tell in the time. My boy Frank can cut at least two-fifths of a second from his record if he should use these blocks.”
In 1930, Wykoff set the WR in the 100 Yard Dash Without Starting Blocks in a time of 9.4 (HT) seconds. (NOTE: at that time, analog stopwatches were only capable of timing to the 1/5th of a second, or 0.2 HT) It wasn’t until 1948 when Mel Patton ran 9.3 seconds.
Frank Wykoff died in 1980. His motto was “Clean Speech, Clean Sport, Clean Scholarship, Clean Life“.
Great values, if I do say so myself.