Beware the Post-Olympic Blues, a malady that reduces track and field athletes to talk of settling down to sell insurance or buying real estate. The symptoms were evident at last weekend's Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa.
There is, however, one breed of track athlete immune to the Post-Olympic Blues: the sprinter. He doesn't have time for them. So while the rest of the track world has been clearing out the cobwebs, Auburn's Harvey Glance and Texas' Johnny Jones have been taking shots at the world record for 100 meters. They squared off at Drake for the first time this year in what was supposed to be the highlight of the young outdoor season. It wasn't. Jones, understandably looking tired, edged Glance, who was bothered by a leg injury. Unfortunately, a Florida State hurdler named Mike Roberson beat both of them. That's what you call the Drake Relays Blues.
Glance and Jones weren't the only ones suffering from them. The previous day Mike Boit and Rick Wohlhuter battled for 799 meters of an 800-meter race, only to be passed at the tape by a bespectacled junior from Oklahoma named Randy Wilson. Let's hit it for another chorus of those Drake Relays Blues.
Interest in the duel between Glance and Jones had been building since the Texas Relays five weeks ago when Jones equaled the 100-meter hand-timed world record of 9.9. Last year the IAAF decided that henceforth only electrically recorded times would count for world records in events up to and including 400 meters. There was electric timing at the Texas Relays but it didn't work. The three backup watches caught Jones in 9.80, 9.85 and 9.94, and for a while it was reported that Jones had run a world record, breaking Jim Hines' electrically timed 9.95. (You throw out the high and low watch and round off the middle one to the nearest tenth.)
May 8, 1977
Then, a week later, Glance ran a 9.8 hand-timed 100 meters at Auburn. There was electric timing at Auburn also and it didn't work there either. So much for the two best sprints of the year. Electric timing may not only have replaced hand timing, it may also have replaced world records. The backup watches at Auburn got Glance in 9.69, 9.75 and 9.8, which meant the first hand-timed 9.8 in history. The IAAF rule regarding the switch to electric time is foggy, it being unclear whether the change had already taken effect when Jones and Glance performed or wasn't scheduled to take effect until May 1. In the latter case Glance would have the 100-meter record. In either case Jones has nothing. When asked about the situation he said, "I'm more confused about timing than anything else." Amen.
Strength is a key to both Jones' and Glance's success. "I don't believe speed builds speed," says Texas Coach Cleburne Price. "I think strength builds speed." Accordingly, he trains Jones, a running back last football season, as he would a quarter-miler. Glance also believes in strength, but with him it is upper body strength. He is a weight lifter, a 5'7½" 148-pounder who can bench-press 325 pounds. "When I run against taller sprinters, I need something to compensate for those taller legs," he says. "When they put their legs on me, I put my arms on them. The faster you pump your arms the faster your legs move. You need strength in your arms to pump them hard for 100 meters."
Glance also has spring in his legs (he has a 25'9¾" long jump this year). However, there wasn't much in his legs last Saturday but a knot. While anchoring a winning 880-yard relay team on Friday—and outrunning Jones in the process—he felt a spasm in his right thigh. He iced down the thigh overnight but couldn't shake the pain while warming up on Saturday. "I knew I shouldn't run," he admitted afterward, stretched out on a training table with an ice pack on his thigh, "but the people came to see me and I didn't want to let them down."
Meanwhile, Jones, as anchor man on three relay teams, was taking part in seven races. When he got to the line for the sixth of them, the sprint against Glance, a 5.8-mph headwind was blowing at them. Glance burst out of the blocks first, but Jones passed him near the finish. Unnoticed in an outside lane, Roberson led most of the way to win in a slow 10.53. Jones did 10.58, Glance 10.61. Naturally, the electric timing worked.
Roberson had raced Jones and Glance before, beating Jones in the 100 and 200 meters in a quadrangular meet at LSU two weeks earlier and tying Glance's 10-flat time while losing to him in a dual meet a week earlier. Roberson is primarily a hurdler, co-holder of the national high school record for 120-yard hurdles (13.2), and will return to his specialty for the rest of the season. A sophomore, he has been sprinting merely to quicken his pace for the 400-meter relay.
While Roberson may fade out of the sprint scene, young Randy Wilson could become a fixture at 800 meters. For the last few years 800-meter races in this country have been the province of Wohlhuter and Kenyan Boit, a graduate student at Stanford. They figured to have last Friday's race pretty much to themselves despite the fact that Wohlhuter, the bronze medalist at Montreal and the world record holder for 880 yards (1:44.1), admits he has been training less this season because he is trying to get his life-insurance career going. "I want to build equity in business as well as on the track" is the way he puts it. He and Boit led the whole way, the latter a step ahead and to the inside. Boit could feel Wohlhuter behind him; Wohlhuter was watching Boit. "I was pulling up on Boit," said Wohlhuter, "when suddenly I looked the other way and—whoompf!—that tall kid passed me. Randy Walker, is that his name? No, Randy Wilson."
Wilson, who went to high school in Knoxville, Iowa, 35 miles from Des Moines, got a rousing reception. His teammates mobbed him. His wife leaped out of the stands to kiss him. Boit came over and said to him, "You have a very good kick." Then Boit and Wohlhuter jogged off together, asking each other, "Who was that guy?"
Wilson's 1:46.06 beat Boit by .07, Wohlhuter by .09 and his own previous best by three full seconds. Wilson also anchored Oklahoma to a win in the sprint medley relay, and he won the meet's Outstanding Performer award. He could also have won an award for candor.
Asked to reveal his 800-meter strategy, he replied, "I was shooting to finish right behind Boit and Wohlhuter. I just wanted to get a good time, in the mid-1:47s. About 10 yards from the finish I pulled even with them, and they didn't seem to pick up the pace. I expected them to leave me. I thought something was wrong. But Wohlhuter and Boit are still stories above my head."
Wilson also revealed that he has a superstition about eating spaghetti the night before a big race. Normally his wife cooks it, but she had been visiting her hometown the night before, so Wilson went to a restaurant. That says something else about him. He has a cast-iron stomach. Javelin thrower Richard George ate at the same restaurant, was sick all night and couldn't compete.
Not all the top-name performers were embarrassed. Francie Larrieu Lutz continued her winning ways. Back in September she wasn't sure she was going to run this year, but then she and her husband, sprinter Mark Lutz, decided to compete so they could spend the summer together on the European circuit. Francie went on to win all 13 of her 1977 indoor races. Mark, meanwhile, quit running. Now Francie says she is too hooked to stop. Saturday she broke her own 1,500-meter meet record by more than three seconds with a 4:15.66.
Mac Wilkins, the Montreal discus gold medalist, and Al Feuerbach finished one-two in the shotput. They have recently moved into a house Feuerbach bought in the Santa Cruz Mountains near San Jose, complete with a shotput landing area and a garage converted into a weight room. These were their first two considerations in house hunting. Did they bother to look inside the houses they visited? "Only when it was convenient," said Feuerbach. "It's a matter of priorities," explained Wilkins. "Some people need a big car. Some need a sunken bathtub. Some need a shotput landing area."
Feuerbach took the trouble to recite some lyrics he has written to accompany his guitar playing. A favorite is Shotput Blues. With verses like:
I gotta girl but she don't know
The difference between the shotput and the javelin throw.
So let it rain and let it pour, I ain't gonna throw the shot no more.
He threw the shot 65'2" at Drake, but Wilkins threw it eight inches farther to beat him. Perhaps that will inspire Feuerbach to write some lyrics for that old favorite, the Drake Relays Blues.