Two days before the Millrose Games in New York, meet director Howard Schmertz was leafing through a dummy of his program. On the page dedicated to the Wanamaker Mile six names were neatly typed in. A seventh, that of Filbert Bayi, the world-record holder in the 1,500 meters, was scrawled across the page in longhand. "I wasn't told officially that Bayi was coming until just last week," said Schmertz. "If I had known I was going to have a draw like him, I might have been tempted to save some expenses on the rest of the field."
Sparing no expense, Schmertz had, by his own account, the best field in the 70-year history of the Millrose Games. Undefeated Steve Riddick was getting his severest test of the indoor season in a 60-yard dash that included Donald Quarrie, Houston McTear, Harvey Glance and Ed Preston. World-record holder Dwight Stones was predicting an indoor record in the high jump. In the pole vault Dan Ripley and Earl Bell would be going head to head. And among the names typed in for the mile were Eamonn Coghlan and Paul Cummings, both undefeated this season, as well as Marty Liquori and Wilson Waigwa.
Amidst this glitter how easy it was to overlook little Rosalyn Bryant despite an elaborate hairdo adorned with colored beads. Yet when all was said and done last Friday night it was Bryant who had set the only world record. In her first indoor 440-yard race ever—at least her first true 440—she ran a 53.5, .3 of a second under the world mark set two weeks earlier by Lorna Forde.
"I didn't know I was on a world-record pace," Bryant admitted afterward. "I just felt relaxed. When you don't feel fast, that's when you really go fast." Then, taking advantage of her moment in the limelight, she attacked the subject of her lack of acclaim. "How come you give women so little publicity?" she asked the press. "I run just as hard as the men." This night she could have said harder.
February 7, 1977
In the 60-yard dash Bryant ran a 6.8 to finish third behind Freida Davy. "I know I could have won it," Bryant said. "Davy jumped out. I thought the starter was going to call it back so I hesitated."
A senior at Cal State at Los Angeles, Bryant moved up to the quarter mile from the shorter dashes only a year ago, yet already she is the American outdoor record holder in the event with a time of 50.65, which she ran while finishing fifth in the Montreal Olympics. She also anchored the U.S. silver-medal 1,600-meter relay team with a final quarter of 49.7, thus becoming the first American woman to break 50 seconds.
Bryant appeared to have set an indoor 440 world record two weeks ago at the Sunkist Invitational in Los Angeles when she won the race in 52.9. Unfortunately, the "quarter mile" turned out to be only 427 yards long, and when this was discovered her superb performance was all but forgotten.
In like fashion Bryant was all but forgotten last Friday night moments after her world record when Bayi made his appearance at the starting line. Indeed, Bayi had already drawn more attention in his efforts to get to Madison Square Garden than anyone else was likely to receive for their efforts in the meet itself. On the Wednesday before the Millrose Games, Schmertz had been at John F. Kennedy Airport fully expecting to pick up his star attraction, who was scheduled to arrive on Lufthansa flight 400 from Frankfurt, West Germany. Only Bayi wasn't on flight 400. "The worst is we don't know where he is," said Hannes Schloesser, a Lufthansa public-relations official. Schmertz' eyes rolled heavenward.
Eventually the news came. East African Airways 624, Bayi's connecting flight from his home in Dar es Salaam to Frankfurt, had never reached Germany. No one knew why. Later, Schloesser came up with the East African flight's itinerary. "It goes first to Mombasa, Nairobi and Entebbe," he reported.
"Entebbe?" said Schmertz, his eyes rolling heavenward again.
Eventually it was discovered that Bayi's flight had been grounded in Nairobi in a dispute over airline taxes between Tanzania and Kenya. Speculation arose that the earliest he could get to New York was the following week. Yet 24 hours later Bayi arrived at JFK on a flight from Cologne. He had been traveling for 52 hours. "I'm all exhausted," Bayi said, and with the race just 30 hours away he hastened to add, "Tomorrow I will run only because I am invited. If they told me I don't run, I would say. Thank you very much.' "
Bayi also confessed that he had been on holiday from September until December and that he had been training for just a month. "I am only in 75% of my shape," he said. But Bayi's opponents spoke of him as the man to beat. "I'll be running from the front, unless Bayi goes out at a good pace," said Cummings the night before the race. "Then I'll follow him."
"Every time I have run against Bayi or Cummings they have taken out the race," said Coghlan, "and if they don't here, somebody else will, but it won't be me. The whole point for me is being smart enough to kick at the right time."
Coghlan graduated from Villanova last spring and moved back to his native Dublin but had returned to the U.S. for part of the indoor season because he couldn't find the same level of competition in Ireland. Traveling hasn't suited him much better than Bayi. "I have had something bugging my right hip," he said the morning of the meet. "A nerve is numbing the leg. Right now in workouts I can just jog. I forget about it in a race but in training it bothers me a lot."
As Coghlan expected, Cummings and Bayi bolted to the front. Cummings held the lead through the first half mile, which he passed in 1:59.9. After Coghlan overtook Bayi with five laps to go, Bayi suddenly sprinted to the front. With 2½ laps remaining, Cummings once more took the lead, Bayi was a close second and Coghlan third. That's the way it stood just before the gun lap when Coghlan's face suddenly lit up in a savage smile. "I knew Filbert was very tired," he said later, "because when he took the lead he tried to slow it down. When Cummings made his move, he was trying to get away from the field. But I was staying with Paul. I felt well within myself and I knew I had my kick left." Just before the gun sounded for the last lap Coghlan kicked past Cummings and began to put some distance between himself and the field. He held off a fast-finishing Waigwa to win in 4:00.2. Bayi was third and Liquori fourth while Cummings faded to fifth.
"My mouth felt dry, my legs were heavy, my head was heavy," said Bayi, who ran a 4:01.8. "I think being third is fantastic. I wanted to stop but if I did many people would have been disappointed. People came here to see Bayi."
While running from the front proved an unfortunate tactic in the mile, getting in front nearly proved impossible for Steve Riddick, who was left in the blocks in the 60-yard dash. He didn't catch the field until two-thirds of the race was done, but then he accelerated powerfully, raising a clenched right fist in victory when he was still five yards short of the finish line. Preston, McTear and Glance finished behind him in that order, all one-tenth of a second off the winning time of 6.0. Quarrie was last.
Riddick has been proclaiming himself the world's fastest human in recent weeks, and he admitted afterward that the clenched fist was his way of getting rid of the frustration he has felt at seeing his undefeated record this indoor season belittled as a matter of luck or accident. He says there are two reasons for his success. The first is increased work on his start, but because that certainly wasn't a visible factor in the dash final, perhaps more emphasis should be placed on the second, which is bee pollen. The stuff comes in pill form from England. At the Millrose Games Riddick even wore a T shirt proclaiming, "Bee Power—Bee Pollen from England." Lest this convince you that Riddick is a health nut, be advised that he admits having trouble running his favorite race, the 200 meters, because he smokes and he can feel the effects of that habit in the stretch.
Dwight Stones failed to measure up to his promise of a world record, but he and Tom Woods did establish a new Millrose mark of 7'4½" Stones won by virtue of reaching that height with fewer tries, but he wasn't pleased with his performance. "It's the first time I've ever had trouble with my approach in the Garden," he said, "but if I can line drive 7'4½", well, watch out."
For various reasons which he outlined over lunch the day of the meet. Stones had thought he couldn't possibly fail in the Millrose high jump. He had had an almost perfect week of training which had included weight lifting in Toronto, swimming in Philadelphia "to help stimulate both cerebral hemispheres in my brain," and a visit to his physiologist in Atlanta. "Most men have 18% body fat," he said. "Four days before my first 7'7" jump [last June] I had 6.2%. Now I've got that down to 5.7%."
A waiter eyed Stones' meal. "I got $10 on you," he said. "Don't eat too much."
Woods, on the other hand, was ecstatic with his leap. Earlier in the week he had posed with some of his Pacific Coast Club teammates for a publicity picture. Pole Vaulter Dan Ripley and High Jumper Rory Kotinek had held a loaf of French bread about three feet off the ground for Woods to jump over in front of the cameras. "If he makes it," said Ripley, "it will be his best jump of the year." In fact, Woods had not been able to go higher than seven feet this season.
The pole vault also produced a meet record as Earl Bell made his final attempt at 18'½". For the indoor season's first 18' vault, he had switched to a stiffer and longer pole than he had been using. "I realized I was overpowering the pole," he said, "so I got this one out to give me more vertical push."
Bell missed all three tries at a world record height of 18'4" and was finishing up just as Stones was failing in his last try at 7'5¾". By the time the two of them had packed up, the Garden was dark. "Hey, wait a second," said Stones. "Which one of us won the Outstanding Performer award?" Bell shrugged and they politely argued the merits of each other's case. Then they were informed that neither of them had won it, that the award had gone to a woman, the one who had set the world record.
Ah, yes, Rosalyn Bryant.
A MILE SURPRISE
On the same night Eamonn Coghlan won the Wanamaker Mile, his 21-year-old compatriot, Niall O'Shaughnessy from Adare, was running for a world record in the same event—and almost made it. Competing in a college meet on an unbanked eight-lap Tartan track in Columbia, Mo. O'Shaughnessy turned in the second-fastest indoor mile in history: 3:55.4, just .4 off Tony Waldrop's 3-year-old mark set on San Diego's 11-lap track. "I was after the record," the 5'6", 130-pound senior at the University of Arkansas said after finishing 100 yards ahead of his nearest competitor. "I know if I can get into a race with tougher competition that I can break it." Unfortunately, he is committed to collegiate meets this season. But O'Shaughnessy will be around for quite a few races in the future. Next spring, when he graduates with a degree in engineering, he'll be looking for a job in the U.S. "I want to compete here until the Moscow Olympics," he says.
O'Shaughnessy came to the U.S. in 1973 after John McDonnell, the Irish coach at Arkansas, recruited him at the high school nationals in Dublin. Last year, he had two sub-four-minute outdoor miles in May, his best a 3:57, but he finished ninth behind the winner, Coghlan, in the 1,500 at the AAU championships in June. Running for Ireland in the Olympics, O'Shaughnessy did not make the semifinals in either the 800 or 1,500 meters. His seventh place in the NCAA cross-country championships last fall, however, was an indication that there was a good indoor season ahead of him, and it has been. The week before his near-miss mile, he ran a 2:05.5 for 1,000 yards (.4 off the world record).