Anyone feeling sorry for himself should consider the plight of Francine Auer Sichting, a 5'9", 19-year-old freckled lovely from Coos Bay, Ore. who is the best American female sprinter to come down the track in some time. Competing this spring for Southwestern Oregon Community College on a 25-member squad that included two dozen men, she was the team's eighth leading point scorer and anchored her 440 relay to a school record of 43.3. She ran the 100 in 10.3 and the 220 in 23.2, times that respectively equaled and lowered the American women's records but were unacceptable because there was no wind gauge. These times also qualified her for the finals of both events in the Oregon State Junior College Championships. While she went unplaced in her specialties in that meet, she did anchor her relay team to a second-place finish. In addition, she long-jumped 19'11". Oh, yes, she also had a 4.0 grade point average despite her claim that "I'm mainly going to school so I can run on the team."
"The guys on her team were her biggest fans," says Mike Hodges, the former Oregon javelin thrower who coaches her. "Out of town there was never a problem, except for a few guys who got upset when they got beat by a girl. Like the guy she made up 10 yards on on an anchor leg and outleaned at the finish. He threw his baton into the woods."
Obviously a brilliant track career lies ahead of Fran Sichting, most immediately the U.S.- U.S.S.R. meet in Minsk later this month. No way, says Ted Sichting, 23, a Marine veteran who won the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart in Vietnam and is Fran's husband. Ted, a logger, would like his wife to quit track; he has already told her to forget about running against the Russians or any other foreigners this year.
"My husband has put his foot down," she says. "It's track or my marriage. Ted hates the whole idea. He has forbidden me to compete next year. I've already qualified for the World University Games in Moscow in August but Ted says I can't go."
"The thing is," Hodges says, "that he looks at all the publicity she gets and considers it a put-down to himself, like he's something less of a person than she is, and he's not. He's a wonderful person. It's just that he was raised by his grandparents and in his environment there was never the idea that it might be as good to go out for a sport as to get a job. We've had talks and I can make him see this, but he forgets. He reverts to being the male chauvinist, but he's not a bad guy or anything like that. He worked himself up to a job with the logging company that usually would go to a man 35 years old or more. No one works any harder than he does.
"You know, Ted told me once that what she was doing wasn't that great, and to prove it he came out to the track to run a 220 against her. She was 15 yards ahead of him at the turn and he just walked off the track. He was good about it, though. He laughed at himself."
To his further credit, Ted relaxed his adamant stand against Fran's running long enough for her to compete last week in the AAU Women's National Track and Field Championships in Irvine, Calif., where she qualified for the trip to Russia by finishing second in the 220 and third in the 100.
Her best performance came in Friday's 220 semifinals, when she set a new American record of 23.2. However, this mark, too, may not be ratified because she ran in Lane 9. International rules specify that records in such races can only be established in the first eight lanes, since the outside lane is barely curved.
In Saturday's finals Sichting was in the eighth lane but lost to Mable Fergerson, a member of the 1,600-meter relay team that got the silver medal in Munich. Fergerson runs for the West Coast Jets, is one of 10 children and was named the outstanding performer of the meet. Sichting, who earlier was timed in 10.4 for her 100, finished in 23.5, a tick slower than Marvelous Mable, who also won the 440 in 54.1 and anchored the Jets' 880 medley relay team to another first place.
"I was dead tired," Fran said. "I just couldn't get my knees up. I worked too hard at the long jump today and only got 19'3" on my one legal jump. The other five were all fouls."