How an Altus alum changed my athletic career

By Rick Carpenter -

I owe a debt of gratitude to Altus, not because I bought the newspaper here, but because of Dr. J. Dan Metcalf, who helped change my athletic career in high school that led me to eventually run track at the University of Oklahoma.

My high school, U.S. Grant in Oklahoma City, had a rich history of track and field and cross country before I got to high school. Much of that history came from two people, Coach Gary Lower and “Danny” Metcalf, as we called him.

Danny grew up in Altus and went on to star at Oklahoma State University and was named All American in cross country in 1961. He notched victories over such greats as 1964 Olympic 10,000-meter champion Billy Mills, who ran for the University of Kansas before joining the military.

By the time he completed medical school and began to practice in Oklahoma City in the mid ’60s he began to write up workouts for some promising high school students including Jim Bolding and Larry Rose from U.S. Grant. They would later tell tales of breaking into high school track facilities in OKC to run workouts in the dark at night because U.S. Grant didn’t have a track.

Coach Lower provided unbelievable motivation and convinced them that they could perform at higher levels than they ever anticipated while Metcalf wrote up many of the workouts that made them state champions and later All Americans at OSU. Rose would break the 4-minute mile barrier at OSU in 1972 and Bolding would dominate the 400-meter hurdles between 1972 and 1976 and would be named to the 1976 U.S. Olympic team before he pulled out because of an injury. When Bolding set the world record in the 440-yard hurdles (a record that still stands), he gave the winning medal to Coach Lower who was named national high school track coach of the year in 1968.

Coach Lower left U.S. Grant to coach at OU the year I entered high school, but many of the training techniques were passed down from those state championship teams. One that I learned was that every mile I ran was like putting money in the bank; at some point down the road, it would pay dividends. I also discovered that cross country state championships were won in the summer, not in the fall when the state championships are run.

So as my senior year approached, I ran once or twice a day all summer, often with my biggest rival, Julius Stewart of Southeast High School. We were both all about maximizing our potential, not worrying about who won a race. And we both wanted to run in college.

During cross country season I was undefeated and set records on almost every course I ran. That was until two weeks before the state meet. On a morning run, I felt a twinge in my left leg that felt like a muscle pull. I continued to train but limited my training so that I wouldn’t damage it any further. I lost our conference and city meets to Stewart as he sat on me until the last 100 yards, knowing I wouldn’t have a kick. Stewart finished second and I finished fourth at the state meet.

A few weeks after the state meet, I ran a 5-kilometer race on one of the first Oklahoma City Running Club events. I won the race but was still lame. After the race I met Rose who had competed in a longer collegiate race there. I told him about my ailments and he suggested I call Dr. Danny Metcalf, the former Altus running star. That was a call that would change my high school career.

Metcalf looked me over and discovered I didn’t have a pulled muscle but had knocked my left hip out of socket a bit. One leg was about an inch longer than the other. He rotated my hip, popped it back in and told me to run easy for a week. He then prescribed some new workouts that I took to my coach and he allowed me to use them. I also shared those with Stewart who would go on to win state in the mile and 2-mile and I would finish second in the 2-mile.

But we both lowered our high school mile times from about 4:30 our junior years to under 4:20, with me running 4:18 and Stewart running 4:19. And even at the state meet, Metcalf was on the field attending to both of us, making sure my hip was aligned properly between races and Stewart’s slight pull was loosened up.

Throughout my college career at OU and still competing afterwards, Metcalf would go out of his way to treat whatever ailment I had. Most doctors didn’t know how to handle pesky running injuries, often just telling runners to take time off to heal — often weeks, which would set runners behind. What makes Metcalf special is that he’s been there, done that. He knows what you should and shouldn’t do to keep from atrophying after putting all those miles in the bank.

Metcalf has helped hundreds of runners over the years.

Stewart and I went to junior college together our freshman year because our academic skills were questionable. For my sophomore year, I transferred to OU to run for Coach Lower. Midway through my junior year at OU, he resigned to take a position with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Larry Rose became my coach, implementing training knowledge he gathered from Coach Lower and Danny Metcalf, an Altus connection I’m indebted to for the dividends it has paid.

Rick Carpenter is the editor and publisher of The Altus Times. To reach him, call (580) 379-0545.

By Rick Carpenter

Rick Carpenter is the editor and publisher of The Altus Times. To reach him, call (580) 379-0545.

Rick Carpenter is the editor and publisher of The Altus Times. To reach him, call (580) 379-0545.

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