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Cutting to the Chase : Champion Miler Tubb Wonders if His Pursuit Was Worth It

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Brent Tubb, state champion runner. One in an occasional series.

August 12, 1995|JOHN ORTEGA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The place was Lombard, Ill., outside Chicago.

It was June, 1971.

Brent Tubb of Cleveland High won the 880-yard run and placed third in the mile in the International Prep Invitational, but as he fielded questions at a post-meet press conference he remembered why he had refused to speak to reporters during his junior and senior seasons. He was uncomfortable talking about himself or running.

So he got up and left the room.

If only all of life's problems were so easy to deal with.

It's been more than 24 years since Tubb won his second consecutive state title in the mile, yet he seems unsure if the sacrifices made in pursuit of those victories were worth it.

He takes pride in the fact that only seven athletes have won consecutive mile titles in the 77-year history of the State meet, but he also believes that, because of his dedication to running, he missed out on many of the things that life had to offer a teen-ager.

He is particularly fond of his 19-year-old son, Jessie, because of Jessie's penchant for experiencing new things.

"Looking back, I think I gave up on a lot of things and that's why I respect my son so much," said Tubb, a service technician for a propane company outside Lake Tahoe. "I respect him a lot because he is such a well-rounded person and he has tried so many things in his life already. . . .

"He doesn't have any fears. He's not afraid to try new things. Actually, I'm sure he is, but he's learned to overcome his fear of failure."

Tubb had little experience with failure during his high school track career.

The seventh of nine children, he was part of a talented athletic family.

His father, Irvin, was Illinois state champion in the mile as a high school junior in 1935. His brother, Tim, won the 1967 Southern Section 3-A Division cross-country title for Camarillo High and another brother, Brian, was a 23-foot long jumper for Camarillo in 1969 before an injury ended his career.

Brent excelled in a variety of sports as a youngster and Tim still recalls the time that Brent defeated Tim Foli in a 50-yard dash.

Foli, who later starred at Notre Dame High and played for the New York Mets and other major league teams, was in eighth grade at the time and regarded as one of the fastest kids around, but fifth-grader Brent beat him handily in the 50.

"When Brent beat him, [Tim] just got furious," Tim Tubb said. "He wanted to race him again and Brent beat him again, this time by more than he had the first time."

Brent's speed served him well as a sophomore at Camarillo, when he won the 1969 Southern Section 3-A title in the B Division 1,320 in 3 minutes 5.9 seconds.

Rules prohibited non-varsity runners from contesting races longer than three laps of a 440-yard track in those days, but Brent easily made the transition to the mile as a junior at Cleveland.

Tubb moved into the Cleveland attendance district in the summer of 1969 because his father's job as an aerospace engineer had the family constantly on the move in the then-robust Southern California job market.

Tubb defeated Rich Tschudin of Palisades for the City Section and state titles in 1970. He ran 4:16.9 to Tschudin's 4:17.6 in the City meet and timed 4:12.9 to Tschudin's 4:14.0 in the State final while wearing a pair of shoes borrowed from his rival.

Described as a "dreamer" by his mother, Leah, and as a "bit of a space cadet" by Tim, Brent forgot to pack his track spikes for the competition at Berkeley's Edwards Stadium. Tschudin, Tubb's assigned roommate, loaned him a pair of shoes.

"I always thought that was a really nice gesture on his part," Tubb said. "I'd never talked to him much before then, but we became pretty good friends after that."

Tubb lowered his best time to 4:09.2 in a summer all-comers' meet after his victory in the State championships.

His exploits made him a big man on campus when school started in the fall, but it was a role he disdained. He was so uncomfortable with it his friends began introducing him to people as Wendell Mottley.

Mottley was a Trinidadian sprinter who won a silver medal in the 400 in the 1964 Olympic Games, but the painfully shy Tubb liked going by that alias because he hated being treated as "Brent Tubb, track star."

"I don't understand why people treat you differently because you happen to be a good athlete," Tubb said. "To me, I was just a runner. But everyone wanted to make a big deal out of it. I never understood that."

Tubb's notoriety only increased during his senior season. He ran 1:50.1 in the 880 and won his second consecutive mile titles in the City and State championships.

His victory in the State meet was particularly memorable because he trailed Paul Cummings of Righetti by 10 yards with 220 left before posting a 4:09.6 to win.

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