Sunday, April 06, 2008


Remembering Paul Cummings

During the priesthod session of General Conference, I felt inspired to look into the lives of friends I have known throughout the years. When I got home from the session, I started my investigation. I discovered that some of my associates have made names for themselves and have Wikipedia articles written about them. Paul Cummings is one.

I was saddened to learn that seven years ago Paul drowned at Deer Creek. I had not had direct contact with him since we both attended BYU in the early 1970's. Now, years later, I am mourning his passing. The last time I felt close to him was in 1984. He was about to run the 10K at the LA Olympics as I was about to go under sedation for surgery on my ear in El Cajon. I could not stay awake long enough to see his race. Except for occasional news clippings, I did not know of his activities after that.

I now learn that he married and had two daughters. He continued running and inspiring other runners. He even made a training video entitled Running Theory: Mile to Marathon.

I was honored to be on the BYU track team with him for one year. He was a world class winner who drew crowds for his mile races; I was a very remote "also ran" who occasonally provided comic relief in the steeplechase.

Off the track, Paul was generous and genteel. As I recall, he sang well enough to be part of a choir at a priesthood session of General Conference himself while in college. He loaned me his bike for most of a semester, enabling me to terrorize residential Provo, and to roam Utah Valley on weekends. He was bright, dedicated, modest, spiritual, and always a pleasure to be with. I'm sure he is lengthening his stride in the Spirit World.

Please read his article from the BYU Athletic Hall of Fame:

Paul R. Cummings

A world-class long-distance runner and recipient of the 1974 Cougar Club Competitor Award, Paul Cummings did not always see running as his strength. He played basketball in junior high, and wanted to continue in high school, but failed to make the team. However, when he came in first in his P.E. class in the mile run, a new opportunity opened up for him; he was asked to join the track team, and by his senior year he was running the mile with the second best time in California, seventh best in the country.
Running for BYU, Cummings was named All-American five years in a row. His junior year he became the NCAA champion in the mile run. Coach Clarence Robison said Cummings was "a great performer and has great courage. He's a tenacious, fierce competitor."
In 1976 he won the gold medal in the two-mile event at Los Angeles's Sunkist Invitational Track Meet. The following year he won it in the mile. Also in 1977, Cummings, representing the U.S., won Canada's Tri-Country Indoor Track and Field Meet, competing against Canada and the Soviet Union.
Cummings was the first Intermountain Area runner to break the four-minute mile, and has done so several times, setting a Madison Square Garden record in 1976. His personal best for the mile is 3:56.4
Hoping to go to the 1980 Olympics, after a regime of five hours of workout, six days a week, while working full-time, Cummings was one of many athletes disappointed by the U.S.'s boycott of the Games being held in Moscow that year. Finally, in 1984, Paul was able to compete in the 10,000 meter run in the Olympics held in Los Angeles. His qualifying time was the fastest on the U.S. team.

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