- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
When I bring a trophy home, I look at it for a day or so and then sometime later I wake up in the middle of the night and say to myself, 'Do I really run?' I have to get up, go down and look at my trophies on the piano and then I say, 'Yeah, I guess I really do run.' "
A little girl's naivet�, the kind that used to disarm one before the teen-age innocent was added to the endangered-species list, but it is doubtful that Robin Theresa Campbell (above) will ever again really need reassurance that she is a runner. Any lingering doubt, including that of the 14-year-old herself, was eliminated last week in Richmond where Robin proved that she not only runs but, if need be, flies.
The occasion was Friday night's U.S.- U.S.S.R. indoor track meet, an event all but sabotaged by the NCAA, which forced six athletes to withdraw, undoubtedly costing the U.S. the meet. It was hardly the setting one would wish on an eighth-grader who could say, "It probably will be fun to run against someone from a different country, because I've never done that before."
And what glorious fun it was for 9,300 ecstatic fans in Richmond Coliseum, for pacesetting Robin and for almost everyone else but her Russian opponents, Valentina Gerasimova, 23, and especially Tamara Kazachkova, 22. Kazachkova is a veteran of international competition, but over 880 yards it was Robin who showed the tactical moxie of a world-class athlete.
"It seems like the Russian runners like to make their move at 600 yards," said Harry McKnight, coach of the U.S. women, before the race, "so we told Robin to run relaxed, and if they made that move, to go with them. If they waited and tried it in the stretch, that would be all right. She's a fast kid and she can hang in there."
Gerasimova tried to go by Robin after four laps, but the kid was having none of that. Campbell merely accelerated until Gerasimova was spent, and when Kazachkova challenged her in the stretch, Robin kicked and won by inches. Her time of 2:11.1 missed the meet record by a tick, but undeniably it was Robin's night, as the medley relay proved two hours later.
Despite the U.S. women's 8-4 advantage in first places, the score was 60-all going into the final relay. As luck, poetic justice, show biz and good coaching would have it, Robin anchored the victorious U.S. team that included Matt-line Render, 440 winner Kathy Hammond and Cheryl Toussaint, who had taken the 600. The relay was close only through the first two baton exchanges; Robin had a 10-yard lead on Kazachkova and won by 15 to tumultuous applause for a 65-62 U.S. women's victory.
Russia, however, took the men's competition 84-76 and thus won the meet 146-141. You can blame that outcome on the NCAA. As on other occasions too numerous for any sane man to remember, the meet was plagued by the tiresome issue of sanction. Since the AAU had failed to request an NCAA sanction, the NCAA claimed that any collegian who competed faced ineligibility, either for himself or his school. You could argue that the edict smacked of the same kind of arrogance that the AAU has been guilty of in the past. It was harder to read it as logical.
The NCAA, after all, had sanctioned the AAU championships that qualified athletes for the U.S. team. The NCAA had failed to raise the same stink about last year's inaugural meet in Richmond, so it was a little late for precedent, and the AAU, like it or not, is the sole sanctioning authority for international competition. None of which had any noticeable effect on the NCAA's threat to cast student-athletes into the limbo of ineligibility.
That prospect was desolate enough to keep Randy Williams, the Olympic s, long-jump gold medalist, in California. Rod Milburn, the Olympic high-hurdle champion, was also a no-show, while Pole Vaulter Steve Smith, the indoor-world-record holder, was a late scratch, claiming a leg injury. First places from two of the above would have given the U.S. the whole shebang.