Nearly 45 years have sped by since Frank Budd's graduation form Asbury Park High School, but to those who were fortunate enough to have been witnesses to all the wondrous feats he achieved for Asbury Park High, it likely seems just a few yesterdays ago.
Yes, speed is the word. No one ever sped through high school competition the way Frank Budd did for the Blue Bishops.
On the cinderpaths of the day - the elegant, state-of-the-art rubberized ovals of today would have been considered science fiction - Frank Budd ran away from everyone foolish enough to put him to the test. As a proud Asbury Park high School athlete, he was the best at the Shore, the best in the state, the best in America.
That's talking track and field, but Frank was a heck of a performer for Asbury Park High in football and basketball, as well.
With the cheers of his hometown still ringing in his ears, Frank Budd headed for Villanova University in the fall of 1958. He'd had a great track coach at APHS in Nick Merli. Now he was in the hands of another great track coach at Villanova, James "Jumbo" Elliott.
Villanova and Frank Budd - quickly, of course - proved perfect together. Wildcat track teams of the 1959-62 era were devastating and honors piled up. Wherever these Villanovans traveled - the Millrose Games, Penn Relays, IC4A, NCAA and National AAU Championships, and lots more - they proved themselves big-time winners.
By the summer of 1960, Frank Budd was ready to take on the world. Still not close to his peak years, he ran to a spot on the USA Olympic Team and placed fifth in the 100-meter final at the Rome Olympic Games. Oh, how close that race was. All of 18/100ths of a second separated the first six finishers.
He seemed destined to win a gold medal in the 4x100-meter sprint relay at Rome but the script didn't work out as planned. Frank ran a brilliant lead-off leg but No. 2 man Ray Norton started too soon and wound up taking the baton out of the zone. The USA did finish first, ahead of West Germany, and in time that would have set a world record, only to suffer a DQ call.
Less that one year later, they got to call Frank Budd a world record-breaker and this one was official. It was June 24, 1961, when he won the 100-yard dash at the National AAU Championships at Randalls Island Stadium, New York City in the startling time of 9.2 seconds. He ran in the beaten-up inside lane, too. The listed record of 9.3 was first set by USC's Mell Patton in 1948, then equaled by an array of others.
On May 5, 1962 - just before his graduation from Villanova - he added a share of the world record for the 220-yard dash on a straightaway course. He did it on his home track at Villanova and it was an eye-opening 20 seconds flat.
This, of course, was the era of strict amateurism. Had there been a professional track circuit - the way there is now, often making millionaires of world record-breakers - he almost surely would have stayed in track and pointed to the 1964 Olympic Games.
Instead, Frank Budd looked for other fields to conquer. Even though he hadn't played football since high school, he turned to pro football and put his incredible speed to use for the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins before heading north to continue his career for three seasons with the CFL's Calgary Stampeders.
He came back to New Jersey, holding positions with the New Jersey Department of Corrections and Atlantic City's Tropicana Casino, while also serving in a variety of civic and community activities. These days, Frank and his family live in Mount Laurel.
Just as you'd expect, the honors collected by this man, who traveled the world, who proved himself an All-American runner, and who was cheered as the "The World's Fastest Human," have piled up over the years. The New Jersey Sportswriters Association welcomed Frank Budd to its Hall of Fame in 1995, and at the end of 1999, the Asbury Park Press named Frank Budd its area "Athlete Of The Century."
Now, Asbury Park School welcomes Frank Budd as a charter member of its Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame. He's always felt immense pride in serving as Asbury Park's athletic ambassador to the world. Now it's time for Asbury Park to say "truly well done, Frank, truly well done."
(written by Elliott Denman)