She first noticed him in the spring of 1983 at the Mount SAC Relays in Walnut, Calif. "I made a bet I was going to get this man," she says. "You make a bet, you have to pursue it. It just so happened that I did and we fell in love."
Actually, it wasn't quite that easy. As a suitor, Patrick suffered from an exasperating case of honesty. Truth serum runs in the man's veins. Sandra suggested they have dinner when David was in San Jose for a track meet, and he was truthful to a fault. "I'd love to," he said, "but if your plans change and you can't make it, let me know. There's someone else who wants to see me."
Sandra's plans didn't change, and that first date turned out to be quite a success. She says, "Just from the conversation I think we knew we wanted to be together. He said he was ready to fall in love. I said, 'O.K.' "
For three years David lived in Knoxville, Tenn., and Sandra in Los Angeles. But in 1986, after graduating from Cal State-L.A., Sandra moved to Knoxville to be with him. There they struggled to fit training into lunch hours while working long days as salespeople at Steinberg's, an appliance store. They quit their jobs after a year and have been full-time athletes ever since. "That was the year I got serious," Sandra says.
It was also the year she met Loren Seagrave, the imaginative young coach, then at LSU, who has guided many of the top U.S. sprinters and hurdlers. Not long after she adopted Seagrave's seemingly endless repertoire of arcane drills, Sandra placed fourth in the World Championships in 54.38, her best time yet. David, alas, had to be satisfied with the fastest nonqualifying time ever (48.56).
The Patricks were married on Jan. 2, 1988, in Knoxville, before a Who's Who of the track world. Florence Griffith Joyner was the matron of honor, and Al Joyner was also a member of the wedding. Ralph Boston, the 1960 Olympic long jump champion, was there, as were long jumper Jason Grimes and 400-meter runner Michael Franks. Three months later, the Patricks moved to Texas to be near David's coach, Stan Huntsman, who had moved from Tennessee to the University of Texas. At home in Pflugerville, a suburb of Austin, they entertain compulsively, enticing friends with promises of barbecue, David's specialty, or Jamaican akee and saltfish, which is Sandra's.
Seagrave believes Farmer-Patrick can break Marina Stepanova's world record of 52.94. But to do so she'll have to work on her speed and technique. That means running the 200 and the 400 and also the 100-meter hurdles. "Next year, the emphasis will be on expanding her speed capacity," he says. "If we do, she'll run very fast." How fast? Seagrave mentions numbers like 52.50.
This has been the first year of the Patricks' four-year plan. If all goes well, they will be back in Barcelona in 1992.