With an expected field of 20 horses, the Derby will be a madcap cavalry charge around two turns in rush-hour traffic. Anything can happen in those two brief minutes—and usually does. In the end this Pegasus will have to fly to get by High Yield and The Deputy, not to mention this year's blue-plate, long-shot special: Captain Steve. But the bet here is that Pegasus will prevail.
MJ AND GENETICS
Jump like Jordan!
It turns out there's a little Michael Jordan in all of us. The Michael Jordan gene, which describes a family of so-called jumping genes found in every organism that researchers have studied, doesn't make you able to leap tall buildings—or even Patrick Ewing—in a single bound. It's named for its extraordinary ability to leap from one spot on a chromosome to another, enabling scientists to identify genetic mutations.
The Jordan gene was discovered seven years ago by a team of biologists at St. Louis's Washington University, who published their findings in February 1999 in the journal Development. Jumping genes, also called transposons, are often given names that reflect their mobility-Gulliver, Mariner, Vagabond. Jordan happened to be the favorite player of research fellow Steve Miller, the discoverer of the gene family whose leaps enabled Miller and biologist David Kirk to isolate four genes in the algae Volvox that regulate aspects of cell life. Oh, what a move!
UNBEATEN IN 29 YEARS
Before every meet, Reading (Mass.) High boys' track and field coach Hal Croft scrawls his prediction of the results on a blackboard in the Rockets' locker room. Croft's forecasts usually show Reading losing by 20 or 30 points. "I coach according to Murphy's Law," says Croft, an English teacher and former Marine sergeant, but the snafus he anticipates never seem to occur. His boys haven't lost a Middlesex League dual meet in 29 years, a 257-meet streak whose lone blemish is a 1973 tie with Wakefield High.
Reading's weapon isn't so much talent as depth. More than 100 boys go out for the team each year, enabling the Rockets to string together enough second-and third-place finishes to win meets even if they don't win that many events. "We don't allow our kids to specialize" says Croft. "If every one of our athletes is good at everything, we can put him in and expect him to get a second or a third."
That tactic helped preserve the streak last week against Woburn. Senior co-captain Riley Ohlson won the high jump with a leap of 6'1" and a few minutes later triple-jumped 42'5� to place second in that event, helping Reading to a 78-58 victory and lifting the Rockets to 5-0 this year.
As for the streak Croft says, "We deal with the kids very directly. The streak is going to end someday, and we make sure that before every meet they understand we could lose today." Only they never do.
A Belgian Surprise