Waldrop, whose personal best in the mile outdoors is 3:53.2, thought the same but doubted that he'd be a factor. "I guess I always hedge a little bit," he admitted, "but I don't expect to win by any stretch of the imagination. I think I can get in there and run a good race, but not anywhere near my best one. With my condition the way it is now, I've got to watch the race build and see what happens rather than make it happen."
"The worst part about it," Liquori said, "is you're chasing Bayi and on your shoulder you've got Wohlhuter. To run against them, you've got two different strategies. Which one are you going to use? If you use a strategy that's good against Bayi, you might be playing into Wohlhuter's hands. If you use the right strategy against Wohlhuter, you might be helping Bayi. It's almost like the Olympics. You've got to go out and run your type of race and hope you get to the finish line first."
As it turned out, Bayi did indeed take it out, and he might have fallen victim to either Liquori or Coghlan if the two Villanovans had collaborated more successfully. Bayi jumped off with the gun and had a four-yard lead over Wilkinson after 220 yards. He opened this to 10 yards at the second turn and came through the first quarter in 56.9 with Coghlan (58.9) second, about 15 yards back, Liquori (59.2) sixth and Wohlhuter (59.4) seventh in the eight-man field. After a lap and a half Bayi obviously started to wonder what had happened to his pursuers; as he passed the half-mile mark in 1:56.6 he turned around to look. What he saw was Coghlan moving up, with Liquori a few yards behind. Bayi's lead quickly diminished to two yards. With 600 yards to go Coghlan and Liquori challenged for the lead (see cover), but Bayi fought them off with a sudden strong sprint.
"I think Coghlan and I both made a mistake on the third lap," Liquori said later. "Bayi had slowed up noticeably and I yelled at Eamonn to pass him. I think if we had both passed him then, psychologically it would have been good. I think we could have worked it so that it would have been very tough for him to get by us."
But at the three quarters it was still Bayi (2:55.3), Coghlan (2:55.7), Liquori (2:56.2), and all 36,000 spectators going bananas. In the backstretch of the last lap, with 280 yards left, Bayi again fought off Coghlan's challenge. Then Liquori passed his Irish friend and went after Bayi alone. Bayi put on another burst of speed to hold Liquori off through the turn and into the stretch for his 10-yard margin at the tape.
"In that last lap," Liquori said, "I had some tactical problems. I thought both Coghlan and I were going to beat Bayi, but what happened was, we both began trying to pass him at the same time going around the second-to-last turn. I had to get out in the second lane, and when I tried to go by, Eamonn bumped me with an elbow."
Liquori finally got past Coghlan with 220 yards to go but could not catch Bayi. "I had to run the last turn wide and by the time I got to the straightaway, my legs were just dead," he said. Nonetheless, he finished in 3:52.2, his own best time and the fifth-fastest mile ever run, and neither he nor any of the others could feel truly disappointed. They had all shared in the finest mile race of all time. Coghlan's 3:53.3 set a new Irish and European record and ranks 11th on the all-time list. Wohlhuter, fourth in 3:53.8—the precise time he said he would win in a pre-race pool conducted by the sports writers—lowered his lifetime best by more than half a second. "The mile will be the death of me," he said. "I keep running better times and getting lower places." Waldrop was fifth in 3:57.7 and McAfee sixth in 3:59.5.
While the mile stole the loudest thunder, the crowd hardly ignored Steve Williams, who in almost any other meet would have been the sensation of the evening. Living up to his newly printed business card which reads, " Steve Williams, world-wide sprinting" and wearing a T shirt emblazoned "Flash," he ran down Houston McTear in the last three yards of the 100 meters to win in a searing 10 seconds flat, passing the 100-yard mark in 9.1 on two watches and 9.2 on another. In the 200 meters Williams was even better, scorching the Chevron-440 track in 19.9, the third fastest of all time.
"I'm down here for business," Williams said on Friday. "I was down here for my vacation in April. I'm down here for business on this trip."
McTear implied the same, especially after he overheard someone in his hotel expressing skepticism about the world-record-equaling 9-flat 100-yard dash McTear had run the previous weekend in the Florida State High School Championships. "That was the first time I heard that," McTear said in slow-spoken resentment. "I don't know who the dude was who said it, but I know I did it and I know I can do it again."