50 years later, Otis Burrell still hoping to leap into record books

M70 Otis at Chuck McMahon meet.

Otis Burrell turned 70 in May, and when I met him for the first time at the Chuck McMahon meet Saturday, I was in awe. Sorry. Greats of the 1960s have that effect on me. He never made it to the Olympics, but he was often world-ranked and had a best of 2.19 (7-2 1/4) as one of the best straddlers of his era. (He was fourth in the 1964 Olympic Trials and no-heighted at the 1968 Trials when he came in at 6-11.) Otis had great confidence back in the day. In a 1965 news story, he talked about shooting for Brumel’s world record of 2.28 (7-5 3/4). Flash forward to Cal State San Marcos. With Brenda, his wife of five years looking on, he cleared 1.43 (4-8 1/4) but chalked that low height up to hard recent workouts and said he would be going after records this season, possibly as soon as Sunday at the Trojan Masters meet at USC. The listed WR is 1.59 (5-2 1/2) by Sweden’s Carl-Erik Särndal in 2007. The American record is 1.57 (5-1 3/4) by John Dobroth. Otis was the 1966 NCAA champion out of Nevada-Reno. So I loved it when James Lofton, the 1978 NCAA long jump champion, came up to Otis and introduced himself, and began recalling their SoCal youth and coaches. Here are results from the McMahon meet. (Otis also ran the 80-meter hurdles — clocking 17.20.)

James Lofton visited with Otis after high jump at Chuck McMahon meet.

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July 1, 2014

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