An hour before the qualifying round of the long jump in Sacramento last Friday, the first day of the three-day U.S.A./Mobil Track & Field Championships, Carl Lewis sat with his coach, Tom Tellez, in 104° heat and a dry, dusty wind. "The plan," he said with sudden eagerness, "is to organize things to have the best chance of winning the 100 and the long jump."
Forty-five years ago Jesse Owens won that sprint/jump double in the nationals, both NCAA and AAU. Lewis had done it at the NCAA meet in Baton Rouge two weeks ago, and now, despite the tempting possibility of approaching Bob Beamon's heretofore inviolate long-jump world record of 29'2½", felt that equaling his idol Owens' achievement was the more important. "I want to jump as little as possible and still win," he said, "so I can be rested for the 100."
Lewis displayed a new pair of jumping shoes, their ‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö‚à´ths inch of firm crepe under the spikes tapering to nothing at the rear of the shoe. "Negative heel is what that's called," he said, "so you can roll up on the ball of the foot for more height." In fact, all of his shoes and sweats were new because earlier in the week, while he was dining at San Francisco's Cliff House, a friend's car was broken into and Lewis' gear stolen.
Now grass fires on the verges of Sacramento began to drop sooty ash on Hughes Stadium. Happily oblivious, Lewis went out to warm up, saying, "I love this weather."
June 28, 1981
"There is an ease about him," said Tellez, "a kind of relaxed control that runs through his whole life, on the track and off. But look, that tail wind is blowing him too close to the board." Lewis fouled his first attempt.
The crux of horizontal jumping is reaching the board with both speed and the proper position from which to spring. On his second try, Lewis moved the starting point of his 21-step run six inches back, and still didn't get it right. "He backed off on his last four steps to keep from fouling," said Tellez.
Yet on this imperfect jump, Lewis didn't return to earth for 28'7¾", the second-longest ever, though he knew that the 4.57 meters-per-second wind was more than twice the allowable for record certification. "Uh, I really didn't mean to go that far in the qualifying," he said, shaking his head in gleeful embarrassment. "This year. I cannot believe this year."
The nationals had a lot to do with all the best U.S. track athletes' year, or at least their summer, because here were selected the teams that will compete in the U.S.S.R. dual meet in Leningrad on July 10-11, the World University Games in Bucharest in late July and the World Cup in Rome in early September. Only first-placers would go to the last (except as alternates or to run relays). "I really want to win the 100 here, so I can run it in the Cup," said Lewis. "If I have the lead after 60 meters, I just know I can hold on."
The meet's second afternoon was just as hot, but with no wind at all. After qualifying for the 100 final with a second-place 10.25 in his heat, Lewis carefully placed his sprint shoes a foot apart beside the long-jump runway, 32'6" from the takeoff point. "His last four steps are from there," said Tellez. "Watch if his foot lands behind or ahead of those two shoes and you'll know if he'll have to stretch for the board or slow to hit it."
A swarm of photographers bumped and jostled around the pit. The stands in the area were tightly packed. "There has never been more interest in the long jump than now," said Tellez. "When Beamon did 29 there was no warning, and he never came close again. But this year, with Carl going farther and farther, there has been amazing attention."
Lewis began his run-in. "I just thought, 'Make the first one count,' " he said later. His fourth step from the end was six inches past his shoe check mark. He took two shortened steps to adjust, and jumped. He landed at 28'3½". There was negligible wind. It was the second-longest legal jump in history.
"If he gets that speed and takeoff right, you'll see something," said Tellez. But Lewis walked solemnly back and picked up his sprint shoes. "That's it," said Tellez. "Too bad. With one more he might have been able to go to the legal high-28s. But he's got to be ready to come back after the 100 because a man named Larry Myricks hasn't jumped yet."
Myricks, who won the 1979 World Cup with 27'11½" and had beaten Lewis eight of the nine times they had met, did 27'3¼". He landed on his right hand, his spikes ripping into his ring finger, and he walked to the first-aid tent with a clenched fist of blood and sand.
Lewis, meanwhile, set his blocks for the 100. He was in Lane 7, between James Sanford and Mel Lattany. He got a good start, for him, and was about fourth at 30 meters. "But close," he said later. "I knew I had it then." From 50 to 80 he caught everyone and won by a full meter, finishing with arms upraised in 10.13. Stanley Floyd was second in 10.21, with the same time for Lattany in third. Sanford never showed his usual lift and was fourth in 10.22. The four quickly promised a world record in the 4x100-meter relay in Rome, and Lewis returned to monitor the long jump. "I won't jump unless I have to," he said.
The forces necessary to hurl a 175-pound man nearly 30 feet through the air are more than enough to snap anklebones. A tired jumper must accept an increase in that risk. So Lewis' parents and sister, Carol—who had been fourth in the 100-meter hurdles in 13.73 and would take third in the women's long jump with 21'5½"—intently watched the determined Myricks. He fouled twice and was down to his last jump. But on that one, he soared high and wide, landing dangerously close to Lewis country, at 27'8¾", equaling history's fifth best. Lewis was there to shake his hand, even as he stripped off his own shoes. "I hope Larry isn't too down," said Lewis later. "It was the greatest long-jump competition ever." And yet one not entirely fulfilling.
"Did you ever consider jumping again, just for distance?" he was asked.
"No. The only objective here was to win. Even if I'd gone 29'1" on my first jump, I couldn't think of records."
Nor could Edwin Moses, simply because his final in the 400-meter hurdles came on Sunday afternoon when the temperature was 106°. "The sun is just like gravity," he said. "It presses you down. I just want to win and survive." Pressing from the rear was UCLA psychology major Andre Phillips, the NCAA champion. After the field passed the seventh of the 10 hurdles closely bunched, Phillips grabbed the lead. "Was I worried?" said Moses later, as if he couldn't have heard the question right. "Not with 100 meters left. That's all I train for, the last hundred meters."
They were even over the ninth hurdle, but Moses attacked it strongly—"You have to get back down on the ground as fast as possible"—while Phillips clobbered the barrier in his lane. Moses quickly built a five-meter lead and eased up to win in 47.59, the sixth-fastest ever, the other five also being Moses performances, four of them accumulated during a consecutive win streak of 63, dating back to 1977. Phillips did 48.10 to become the second-fastest American ever. "Last year I was just running the event," he said. "This year I'm learning it. I think about beating him all the time. I dream about it."
Moses, for his part, tore off his burning shoes and asked an official why the meet couldn't have been held at night.
"It's hot in Rome, too," was all he was told.
Hot or not, Evelyn Ashford was intent on making it back to the World Cup the meet in which she rose to sprinting preeminence in 1979. She has changed her start by switching front feet in the blocks to protect a hamstring injured a year ago, but in the 100 final she seemed the victim of what she felt was overconcentration. "When I'm really nervous, I tend to go to sleep in my start. I only woke up when I saw Jeanette Bolden a yard ahead of me." That was at 30 yards. By the end, Ashford was two yards ahead. In the 200, she ran the turn beautifully, showing no sign of a lingering hip injury, and won by eight yards. Her time of 22.30 was astounding when it was learned she had run into a 9.55-mph wind.
Madeline Manning, 33, is astounding, period. Beaten in an early-season race by 20-year-old Leann Warren, the 1968 Olympic 800-meter champion somehow brought herself to a physical and emotional peak for this rematch. Manning blew through the first 200 meters in 26.4, leaving Warren 1.5 seconds back in fifth. The first lap was 56.1. Warren, now in second, was 57.0. The Oregon sophomore gave it all she had over the last lap, but Manning simply refused to yield, and won safely with 1:58.50, only .6 from her American record, for her sixth national outdoor championship in this event or its counterpart. Warren finished in 2:00.08. "It's hard doing that," said Manning. "It's scary. But if I ever want the world record, it's the only way."
Steve Scott and Sydney Maree are beginning to count the ways they can get into close 1,500/mile races. Scott had outkicked Maree in the Jumbo Elliott mile after a slow pace, then at the Brooks Invitational, Scott again won narrowly by holding off Maree on the final stretch. So, after Tom Byers had taken the field to 800 meters in 1:59.1 in Sacramento, Maree upped the pace to 57.2 for the next 400. With Scott at his elbow, the pair raced away over the last 300. Into the stretch, Scott drew even, then ahead by a nose. "I thought I had him," he said. But Maree dug in, put his head down and came back. Suddenly it seemed that Scott was running in an uphill lane as his back arched and he visibly tied. Maree won in a meet-record 3:35.02, Scott's time was 3:35.51. Maree, the fire still in his eyes, gave a little speech of thanks to his supporters, and his lawyers, who had eased his passage through more than four years of being banned from international competition because he is South African, never mind that he is black. After the race, The Athletics Congress announced that under IAAF rule 12-8 Maree will be able to represent the U.S. in the World Cup because he has established permanent residence in America and is in the process of obtaining citizenship.
Hearing this, and being a loyal wife, Kim Scott said, "That's not fair." "Why not?" said her husband. "Sydney won. He wants to be a citizen. And he has something to prove, too." When Maree's wife, Lisa Rhoden, came near, Scott drew her into his arms and said softly, "Your husband did a great job." Then, louder, "I gotta go back to the old tactics of taking it out early, I guess. Rats!"
Asked what might have made the difference in the stretch, Maree answered. "We both wanted to win, but I think I had a little more to lose than Steve. I have had so few of these opportunities."
After the 1,500, the searing day quickly turned to velvet night. And Willie Banks got all excited about soaring through it. First he triple-jumped an American record of 56'11", adding 1½ inches to his old mark. "But I had mixed feelings," said the tall and voluble UCLA law student. "I wanted that 57." He roamed among his competitors, saying. "Let's go farther, let's go farther," because, as he said, "I don't jump on strength. I jump on emotion, and good close competition is the way to a shot of adrenaline." He'd gotten so excited watching Lewis' long jumping that he'd almost had to leave. "I wanted what he'd done—the longest ever at sea level."
So he went down the runway and got it, bounding nearly out of the pit with a jump of 57'7½", second only to Joao Oliveira's world record of 58'8¼" set in the 7,800-foot altitude of Mexico City. His only concern then was whether the facility in Sacramento will prohibit a record being accepted. "They didn't have a board in the runway, or the Plasticine to check if you foul. They just had a white stripe painted across the runway. If that takes the record away I'll be upset, because you get more bounce off a board than off this mushy runway. But what the heck, I'll do it again. I think if conditions are perfect, we'll see a 60-foot jump."
By perfect, Banks means loud. "I wanted to tell the crowd to stop being so respectful and get noisy, get excited. I'm a noise person. I was born under the end of the Travis Air Force Base runway. I came In with noise, and I'll probably go out with noise."
Perhaps, but before then, he'll be the cause of some, too. As will Lewis when he hits his marks perfectly, and Moses when he attacks the entire race. "The World Cup is the time and place for all that," said Banks. So here's to some of that energetic Italian noise.