Stevenson's helmet seemed the perfect symbol for a meet in which nasty winds and temperatures in the low 50s tightened muscles dangerously. "This is a weird meet," said the UCLA men's sprint coach, John Smith. "Who'd have thought Stanford's vaulter would win?"
Who but their mom would have picked the Hauser twins, Brad and Brent, to lead a one-two-three Stanford sweep in the 10,000 meters? From that race alone the Cardinal got 24 points, one more than its predicted haul for the meet.
The conditions were perfect for cross-country, so it seemed right that the men's team title would not be decided until the 5,000, the final individual race. The four Stanford runners, needing to beat the two Arkansas entrants by six points, discovered that the 10,000 had taken its toll, and they came up short. Arkansas finished with 58.5 points to Stanford's 51, giving Razorbacks coach John McDonnell an astonishing 30th national title.
McDonnell tipped his hat to Robert Howard, the latest in a long line of superb Razorbacks jumpers. Like Kawar, Howard is a true scholar-athlete—a microbiology major with a 3.36 GPA—and plans to attend medical school. He contributed 20 points to the Razorbacks' cause, winning the long jump on his last attempt (27'5�") and his third straight triple jump (55'8�"). He finished his illustrious career with nine NCAA titles.
One couldn't help wondering whether the cold weather spelled trouble for the Longhorn women, many of whom were running in two or three individual events plus relays. Or whether their coach, Bev Kearney, could impart to them her will to win. As small and explosive as a firecracker, the 40-year-old Kearney is easily mistaken for one of her athletes, especially since she began wearing braces in January.
"I was supposed to get braces a year ago," she says, "but I told my orthodontist I couldn't because I figured we'd win and I'd be on TV smiling. We lost by one point." The loss was painful, but Kearney is a survivor. "I won't say we were dirt-poor," she says of her childhood in Tampa, "but we had to work hard for everything we had." At Auburn she studied social work but soon grew disillusioned with the field. "It wasn't about improving self-esteem," she says. "Give people the tools to empower themselves. That's what I do with my athletes. All of it tempered with love."
Tough love. "She tells us exactly what we need to do," says quarter-miler Toya Brown, "and she doesn't mince words."
When Kearney told the Longhorns they needed to win four events on Saturday, they didn't blink. First, former model Angie Vaughn ran a 12.82 to dominate the 100 hurdles. Suziann Reid won the 400, and Brown picked up five points by finishing fourth, though she drew blind and windy lane 8. When Erin Aldrich slipped over 6'4" to win the high jump, Texas needed only to finish among the first three in the 4 x 400 relay to slip past the Bruins. Leading virtually from the start, the Longhorns won in 3:28.65. Final score: Texas 60, UCLA 55.
"For the last 11 years, first at Florida and now at Texas, I've been battling for this championship," said Kearney. "I can't tell you what a joy it is."
She didn't have to, for just then she flashed a huge, eloquent grin, braces be damned.