Carl Lewis took time out from his busy motion-picture and recording schedule last week to begin his two-meet indoor track season. He appeared on Saturday night at the Dallas Times Herald Invitational to start his indoor campaign with a 60-yard dash. He planned to end it a week later in the long jump at the Olympic Invitational meet. Lewis came to Dallas from Los Angeles, where he had spent two days filming a feature-length movie and a third working on his next album, in which he sings.
After such a hectic week, Lewis should have found refuge on the track in Dallas. Instead, just to his right in Lane 4, he found a guy ready to meet him in the, ah, Haircut 60, with an even stranger coiffure than Lewis's modified Grace Jones. Roy Martin, who is 6'1", knock-kneed, pigeon-toed and fueled by Ronald McDonald, had his black bristle cut scalp-close with a V on the back of his head. Martin is part of the best trio of sprinters ever to come out of one high school class. The other two, Henry Thomas and Joe DeLoach, were backing into the blocks in lanes 2 and 5, respectively.
Track & Field News recently asked an expert panel to predict the results of the 1987 World Championships, and the fearless forecasters tabbed Martin to win the 200, Thomas the 400 and DeLoach to finish second to Lewis in the 100. "All three could be [Olympic] gold medal winners," says Ralph White, Martin's sprint coach at SMU.
The crowd had come to Reunion Arena to see Martin. A cousin of former Cowboy defensive lineman Harvey Martin, he had attended Roosevelt High in Dallas, where he was the Track & Field News High School Athlete of the Year in 1984 and '85. Martin was also the fourth-place finisher in the 200 at the 1984 Olympic trials, missing out on a berth by .06 of a second.
SMU is not only close to Martin's home, it is close to a McDonald's. Apparently, Martin figures that to be fast you have to eat fast food. "I was a McDonald's boy," Martin says. "I still am...on the side. I used to have four or five a night. Me and Big Mac, we get along real good. I still see him, still talk to him a lot. I'll never leave him."
Part of White's job is to keep Martin from beefing up. Last summer, after eight straight days of burger binging, Martin carried 15 excess pounds to the National Sports Festival, where he finished third in the 200. White is also busy polishing Martin's technique. Despite best times of 10.18 in the 100 and 20.13 in the 200, Martin is not a pretty runner, as are DeLoach and Thomas, and his start is particularly poor. Still, Martin runs more fluidly these days than he did in junior high, when "a bunch of girls" nicknamed him Robot for his herky-jerky motion. And now, before every big meet, Lewis's hair apparent gets his head trimmed, each time with a different look.
Thomas and DeLoach aren't as coif-conscious, but they're every bit as fast. Thomas played football his freshman year at Hawthorne High near Los Angeles. "To dodge PE class, I went to the track," he says. Last summer, he ran a 45.09 400, the second-fastest ever by a high school runner.
"This man's a sprinter who can run the quarter," says John Smith, Thomas's coach at UCLA and the former world-record holder in the quarter mile. "Whatever [world] standards exist in the 100, 200 and 400, he has the potential to approach or surpass all those marks."
As for DeLoach, White says, "He may be the greatest talent in the country." DeLoach, now a freshman at Houston, frequently works out with Lewis. The pair first met three years ago at a meet when the young sprinter asked Lewis to autograph his heat sheet. Last year, Lewis visited DeLoach and his parents at their home in Bay City, Texas, and talked to them about Houston, his alma mater. The NCAA found out about the visit and termed it improper—no one but a coach can make an off-campus visit to a recruit. Initially, the NCAA said DeLoach couldn't compete for Houston; it recently relented after DeLoach appealed, and next year he will be eligible to run for the Cougars.
Lewis won his heat easily, in 6.21, a time much slower than the world-record 6.02 he ran in Dallas three years ago. Martin, showing an improved start, was next in 6.24. DeLoach was clocked in 6.25, while Thomas finished sixth and last in 6.39.
In the final, veteran sprinter Emmit King, 26, surprised the crowd, if not Lewis, running 6.12 to Lewis's 6.15. Martin finished third in 6.21, DeLoach fourth in 6.25, ahead of Harvey Glance and Darwin Cook.
About two hours before the start of the meet, word reached Dallas from Columbia, Mo. that Joe Dial, the U.S. record holder outdoors in the pole vault, had jumped 19'4¾", a world indoor best, breaking by an inch the mark that Billy Olson had set a week earlier in Albuquerque, But wait a minute. Hadn't Dial withdrawn from the Dallas meet on Monday, his agent saying Dial's hamstring injury needed more time to heal? Olson was caught short. "I thought he was injured, or he'd have come here," he said. Dial apparently wanted a record more than a face-off, so he had slipped off to a collegiate meet at the University of Missouri's Hearnes Center because he was familiar with the runway there. He cleared the record height on his second attempt, before a sparse crowd of 800.
"Man, how about that, a world record," Dial exulted. "All my life I've wanted to break a world record. I'm up there with all of them now. I knew I had it in me. I just kept thinking that those were my records they were breaking. I was in Japan when [Sergei] Bubka set his record. I was thinking I should be doing that, setting a record."
Olson was clearly shaken. "Why doesn't [Dial] come out and do these things where we can see him?" he asked. At Toronto the night before, Olson had passed until the bar reached 18'8¼", then no-heighted. He said that the runway felt slow to him, but he wasn't looking for an excuse. "My legs just weren't working," he said. "I didn't have anything. No-heighting is about as far down as you can go from a world record."
Not quite. On Saturday, after learning of Dial's feat, Olson no-heighted again, failing to clear 18'½". "I'm totally frustrated, puzzled and embarrassed," he said. "It's been a bad weekend."
As for Lewis, he didn't seem as frustrated by his performance. His life seems to have had several such bumps in it lately. He injured his hamstring last year and missed half of the European season. Then, after choosing not to practice with the U.S. 4 X 100 meter relay team, he was voted off the squad for the World Cup in October. Only two weeks ago his father, William, had surgery for cancer of the colon.
Last Friday, Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, the winner of the 50-yard dash at the Toronto Star meet, accused Lewis of hiding from him. "I don't hide from anybody in the world," Lewis responded. "For five years in a row I've been No. 1 in the world [at 100 meters]." He has no intention of giving up the 100, but in order to compete in more long jumps this year he'll run fewer 200s. All the more reason to study his young challengers closely.
"It seemed like the whole pack blew by me," Lewis said after the race. "Their potential is unlimited. It's difficult to grasp. They all have the talent to be among the greats." To be accurate, no one blew by you, Carl, but there are some new kids fanning your tail. Don't look back (and you know why), but they're awfully good.