Editor’s note: This summer, Star columnist Greg Hansen is counting down the top 10 of just about everything related to Tucson sports.
Today’s list: The top 10 UA men’s track and field athletes.
Three of the world’s leading track legends, distance runners Jim Ryun and Kip Keino and pole-vaulter Bob Seagren, were the headliners at the 1966 Coliseum Relays in Los Angeles.
A crowd of 17,253 attended and the night’s star was an undersized javelin thrower from Libby, Montana: Arizona senior John Tushaus.
In the performance of his life, Tushaus broke the American record with a throw of 284 feet, more than 31 feet better than his previous best. Later that month, the 185-pound Tushaus, a transfer from Palomar Junior College in California, won his second consecutive NCAA javelin championship.
A year earlier, Tushaus became the second Wildcat ever to win an NCAA track and field championship.
“The good Lord gave him that arm,” said UA coach Carl Cooper, who took a chance on Tushaus during the 1964 recruiting year, a time at which Tushaus’ career best throw was 228 feet.
It was a Cinderella story like few others in track and field. Tushaus did not have a javelin coach while in his Montana high school. He said he learned the techniques of the javelin by studying sequential pictures of the discipline in an encyclopedia.
Tushaus wasn’t the first UA track and field headliner; four-time Olympic distance runner George Young of Silver City, New Mexico, occupies that role. But Tushaus was the first to set an American record as a Wildcat, which easily earns his spot on our list of Top 10 track and field male athletes in UA history.