Dual duels in the sun

A sprinter and a distance runner each took a pair of titles at the AAU meet
June 18, 1978

Clancy Edwards thinks his best years lie ahead of him. He figures he is just now learning how to run. Based on form alone, he doesn't appear to have progressed much beyond sprinters' kindergarten. No one has yet taught him to bend his knees while scurrying down a track, which is why his USC teammates constantly mimic his style. Clancy himself openly admits, "I run like a duck."

While his running is merely laughable, Edwards' start is plain atrocious. The pistol has long since sounded and the field is fast disappearing in front of him before 22-year-old Clarence Edwards gets untangled from the blocks. Yet last weekend this bearded, muscular, 5'11", 180-pound duck graduated summa cum laude in sprinting by winning the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes at the National AAU championships in Los Angeles.

Asked if he considered himself the world's fastest human, Edwards replied. "How about the week's fastest human?" Ah, but what a seven days. On the previous weekend, at the NCAA championships in Eugene, Ore., Edwards had also doubled, with a 1978 world-best of 10.07 in the 100 and a meet-record 20.16 in the 200. He had further helped USC win the team title by running a leg on the Trojans' victorious 400-meter-relay team. Then, in L.A., Edwards became only the third man to achieve a double double by winning both the NCAA-AAU 100 and 200. The last to do it was Hal Davis of California, who accomplished the feat twice—a double double double?—in 1942-43. Add to that the fact that Edwards has run the world's fastest 200 this year—20.03, in a USC-UCLA dual meet—plus the fact that he was last year's World Cup 200 champion and his credentials as the World's Fastest Human seem hard to dispute.

Edwards' AAU victories earned him a spot on a U.S. team that will face a team from the U.S.S.R. in Berkeley, Calif. on July 8-9. For the most part, the U.S. will be represented by the first-and second-place winners from the AAUs and, using last weekend's performances as a gauge, it should be a singularly strong squad.

The AAU took a refreshingly positive step toward guaranteeing that the country's best athletes would be on hand in Berkeley by offering to pay team members' round-trip air fare to the meet, not just from their home cities but from wherever they will be at the time. That is a particularly important distinction because most of America's best track and field athletes spend the summer competing in Europe. As Mac Wilkins announced as soon as he had won the discus with a throw of 219'9", "I will throw against the Soviet Union only if the AAU will fly me to Berkeley from Scandinavia and then back to Scandinavia after the meet." This demand wasn't churlishness on the part of the world-record holder; it was the stating of an economic necessity. A round-trip flight, Stockholm-San Francisco, costs $1,281, which is a bit steep for an amateur athlete.

Not everyone is going to take advantage of the AAU's largess. Dan Ripley, who won the pole vault with a jump of 18'3", has a prior commitment to compete in Gateshead, England, on July 9. That meet also boasts Dwight Stones, the AAU high-jump winner with a 1978 outdoor world best of 7'6½". But overall the AAU's offer promises to make competitors out of a lot of athletes who otherwise would have been no-shows. In addition to Wilkins and Edwards, the list includes Arnie Robinson, who sailed 27-4 to win his sixth AAU outdoor long-jump title; Steve Scott, the 1.500 winner in 3:38.8; and Jan Merrill, who won the 1.500 by 10 meters in 4:09.4 and, two hours later, came back to take the 3,000 by 40 meters in a meet-record 8:56.4.

Another Scandinavian commuter will be Jodi Anderson, a sophomore at Cal State Northridge who set an American record of 22'7½" in the long jump. Despite the fact that she fell backward into a sitting position on landing, Anderson's leap is the third best in history, only 3¾" short of the world record held by Sigrun Siegl of East Germany.

Five days before her record jump, Anderson had finished first among Americans and third overall in the AAU pentathlon championship in Tempe, Ariz. Immediately after her leap she was boldly talking of a double in the long jump and the pentathlon at the 1980 Olympics. "That jump sent chills all through my body," she said.

One more promising outgrowth of the AAU's plane-ticket policy will be yet another rematch between 110-meter hurdlers Renaldo Nehemiah, who will jet in from Stockholm, and Greg Foster. Their rivalry seems destined to produce a world record sometime this year. In fact, the only thing standing between either of them and a new hurdles record is the hurdles themselves. Two weeks ago in Eugene, UCLA's Foster clipped four of the barriers while edging Nehemiah; nevertheless he missed Alejandro Casañas' world record of 13.21 by only .01. In Los Angeles it was Nehemiah's turn. He hit the sixth hurdle and the last one, the 10th, while winning in 13.28.

"If Foster had been with me all the way, today might have been a world record," said Nehemiah. "I don't think I was pressured the whole race. You have to have pressure to a point where you have to dive at the finish. I didn't have to dive today." He didn't have to dive because Foster, who finished second in 13.43, hit the first hurdle, another in the middle and clobbered the last one.

Nehemiah credited his victory to his start. As a high school boy in Scotch Plains, N.J., where he became the only hurdler in history to break 13 seconds for either 110 meters or 120 yards, he used to practice starts in his room, hurdling over his bed. He had put mirrors on all the walls so he could critique his form. Last week Nehemiah won with a modified start suggested by Dick Hill, the coach of former world-record holder Rod Milburn. "He told me to come out looking straight at the first hurdle," Nehemiah said. "I used to drive with my head down. That first hurdle is important because that's where you get all your momentum."

Nehemiah was particularly pleased with his AAU title because he felt it was the first time he had been rested and fresh to run against Foster, who had beaten him twice previously. "In the NCAAs I ran the anchor leg on the 400-meter relay 10 minutes before the hurdles," the Maryland freshman pointed out. Nehemiah also hinted last week that he might want to transfer to a West Coast school—not UCLA—because of all the races he was being asked to run. After those thoughts were printed in a newspaper, he backed off, embarrassed that he had not first privately communicated his feelings to his coach, Frank Costello. Said Nehemiah, "I haven't talked to Frank about it. I had no gripes except for the obvious thing—I ran too many races. I'm just going to talk to him about it and see if we can plan my program for next year a little better."

As brilliant as the duels between Nehemiah and Foster have become, their meeting in Los Angeles was overshadowed by Edwards' performances. Counting heats, Edwards had run nine races in Eugene the previous weekend and his training for the AAUs had consisted of taking final exams and moving his belongings from the campus to his mother's house in Santa Ana, Calif. On Thursday, the first day of the meet, he got the last qualifying position in his heat in both the quarterfinals and semifinals for the 100. Edwards admitted he was tired and when he arrived at the track for the 100 finals the next day he said he was sore all over. Veteran Edwards watchers saw this as a good omen; before his 20.03 200 in April he had complained of an aching back.

For a while the 100-meter final seemed to have ended Edwards' heroics. Donald Quarrie of Jamaica, the 200-meter gold medalist in Montreal, who was running in Lane 4, appeared to have broken the tape first. Even Edwards, in an outside lane and looking in toward Quarrie, thought that was the case. As reporters crowded around the Jamaican, Edwards said resignedly, "I used up all my energy at the start and didn't have it at the end." Then Jim Murphy of KNBC in L.A., who had just seen the Accutrack photo of the finish, came up to Edwards and asked, "Why is everybody talking to Quarrie? You won."

"Are you sure?" said Edwards as Murphy walked off. Getting no answer, the sprinter asked a bystander, "Is he sure?"

At that point the meet announcer came on the P.A. system to give the results. Quarrie held up a hand to silence his questioners so he could hear his time. Instead, he heard that he had lost to Edwards' 10.14 by .01. Quarrie slumped in disbelief. Then with a wry smile he said to the crowd around him, "I guess you guys will have to go elsewhere." That's exactly what the media horde did, moving en masse over to where Edwards was standing. Quarrie watched them go, then turned to the lone remaining sportswriter and remarked, "Isn't that funny?" After a pause he mumbled to no one in particular, "The tape felt firm when I hit it. Maybe the photo finish isn't at the tape."

Edwards used his unexpected platform in front of the press to confirm rumors that he badly wants to play football for USC in his one remaining semester there. He said he had been contacted by John Robinson's coaching staff about trying out as a wide receiver and said he would probably cut his European track season short to go to football camp with the Trojans on Aug. 17.

Edwards played football without distinction at Santa Ana High School. It was there that his track potential was discovered when he ran a 10.6 100-yard dash in sneakers in a sophomore physical education class. As a freshman at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1974, he ranked ninth in the world and third in the U.S. at 200 meters. The following year he slipped to 13th in the world, and the year after that, while at Santa Ana Junior College, he was unranked. His track career seemed to be at an end.

In February of 1977 Edwards entered USC as a junior. "SC was the big turnaround in my career," he said last week. "I got publicity, coaching and good competition there." Last year Edwards re-emerged on the track scene, ranking fifth in the world at 100 meters and third at 200. His goal this year is to be first in both. He stayed right on course last Saturday. After telling a friend, "I'm tired, you know me—I'm always tired," he completed his double by blazing to a 200-meter win in 20.25, more than two-tenths of a second faster than James Gilkes, who came in second.

After he had broken the tape in the 200, Edwards could not conceal his glee. He stood on the track just past the finish line, flashing a broad smile and waving to the cheering fans. Then, a sudden urge gripping him, he trudged to the head of the track, peeled off his shoes and waded into the steeplechase pond. Just like a duck, he had taken to water.

PHOTOClancy Edwards completed a double double. PHOTOJan Merrill won the 1.500 and 3.000 two hours apart.

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