On this day in 1967 Pat Traynor (VU, class of 1963) set a USA National Record in the steeplechase, running 8:32.4 in Dusseldorf, Germany. Pat came to running from another sport: basketball. As legend has it, Pat (who was 6'2" and close to 190 lbs) was a basketball player at Monsignor Bonner in Philadelphia and wanted to stay in shape for basketball season. At a field day run cross country run during his senior year of high school Traynor decided to give it a try and he went out an beat every member of Bonner's cross country team. After only a few months of training, he ran a mile in 4:25. Basketball was abandoned and he dedicated himself to running. He won the 1958 Catholic league Cross Country individual title at the 33rd & Dauphin course.
At Villanova, the 6'2" Traynor was thought by Jumbo Elliott to be too tall to run indoors; "he's like a big elephant, flopping around on the track," the coach observed. Traynor was the NCAA champion in the steeple in 1962, after coming second in 1961. His 1962 victory was in a meet record time of 8:48.6. Traynor was the 1962 Penn Relays Most Outstanding Athlete after anchoring the victorious DMR, and won three AAU steeplechase titles (1963, 1966, 1967) and one AAU cross country title over 10 kilometers (1963). He eventually rose to become the #6 ranked steepler in the world in 1967. Attesting to his range, Traynor also broke 4:00 for the mile, running 3:59.6 on August 10, 1968.