Mark Everett breaks a mark that had lasted for 22 years
The 600-yard run seems an anachronism in the now-metric world of track and field. It is contested only indoors, and rarely at that. It might have been forgotten altogether were it not for a stirring series of duels at the distance in 1970 between Lee Evans and Martin McGrady.
Evans is a track and field immortal. At the 1968 Olympics he won the 400 meters in 43.86, a world record that stood for 20 years. McGrady, on the other hand, was never much of a force outdoors, where he seemed stranded between distances, lacking the speed for the 400 and the strength for the 800. But over 600 yards, on a slippery board track, McGrady was nearly unbeatable. In 1970, after McGrady defeated Evans all three times they met, Evans grumbled, "I don't dig losing."
Standing 6'1", the long-legged McGrady defied the conventional wisdom that says indoor running rewards a short, compact stride. He didn't train especially hard, but he was able to tap some volatile concoction of adrenaline and guts. McGrady once explained, "My plan is to get out quick and act accordingly." He established world bests for the 600 four times, including three during that stunning 1970 season. The last of those marks, 1:07.6, which he set at the 70 AAU championships, stood almost 22 years, until last Friday night, when Mark Everett ran 1:07.53 in the Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden.
Everett led from the start and finished 10 yards ahead of Ian Morris of Trinidad. "If people knew the amount of training I'm doing, they'd be shocked," said Everett, a lean 23-year-old Floridian, after the race. "It's all strength, no speed. That's not being cocky, just confident."
Everett grew up in tiny Bagdad, Fla., just north of Pensacola, and was a sprinter at Milton High. At that time the school did not have a track, so Everett and his teammates improvised, running intervals measured between utility poles near the school. Everett made the 1988 U.S. Olympic team in the 800 meters but ran poorly in Seoul and did not reach the final. For the next couple of years he distinguished himself less through his running than through his creative hairdos and the wiggly Gator Dance he did whenever he won.
But last summer Everett thrived, lowering his bests to 1:43.93 for the 800 and 44.42 for the 400. At the World Championships in Tokyo last September he won the bronze medal in the 800 and a silver in the 4x400 relay. Everett now must decide whether to run the 400 or 800 at the Olympic trials in June. "This record makes me lean in both directions," Everett said after breaking McGrady's mark. "I'm still sort of in the middle."
Which, of course, was McGrady's dilemma, too.
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