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Pat Putnam
February 09, 1976
Tom Woods was the class of a classy field at New York's Millrose Games
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February 09, 1976

Remember, This Is Leap Year

Tom Woods was the class of a classy field at New York's Millrose Games

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"That disappointment changed my whole outlook," said the 22-year-old Oregon State senior. "When I went to college I wanted to play basketball but they convinced me to concentrate everything on the Olympics. I sacrificed a lot of things. Then I looked at the results and realized what I had given up. For what? I was really let down. I swore then I'd never let that happen again. Now I want to do my best, but I'm not sacrificing all the other things to do it.

"Still, I want to beat Dwight and break his record. We're friends, but he does get on my nerves. He's got an outward emotional personality. He has to voice his confidence to believe it. Most people have an inner confidence and don't have to talk about it. Also, he equates everything in life to track and field. He doesn't have any other interests. Except his groupies."

With that, Woods decided he had better hurry to his room, hoping that rest would resettle the stew. And Stones went off in search of Poaniewa, who had instantly disliked New York City but had found almost hourly solace in McDonald's hamburgers. "When he sees how they have the high-jump pit set up," Stones said, "he won't be able to eat for a week. The pit is set up for floppers. Straddlers will have to make their way out of a tunnel and across the track. But there's only two straddlers, Poaniewa and Adama, who is a nice guy but bitches a lot. And Poaniewa can't speak English, which won't hurt."

The high jumpers, usually the last to start competition, had hoped to begin by 9:30, but as it turned out they were delayed an hour and by then the meet was nearly over. Almost two hours earlier, Houston McTear, the 18-year-old high school streak from Milligan, Fla., had laughed his way through a strong 60-yard field, which included Olympian Hasely Crawford, and won in 5.9, a tick off the world record.

After that, Rick Wohlhuter won the 880 (in 1:52) as expected, Jan Merrill, from obscurity and Connecticut, upset newlywed Francie Larrieu in the women's 1,500 (in a Garden-record 4:15.2) and slight, bespectacled Paul Cummings, running alone and a ton of yards in front of favored Tony Waldrop, took the mile in 3:57.6, which is faster than anybody else has run it indoors this season. Cummings said he had to hurry because he felt sick halfway through the race.

While awaiting their turn, the high jumpers watched their female counterparts perform, and that event lasted longer than usual because of an outstanding effort by Joni Huntley, the American-record holder from Oregon State, who won with a leap of 6'2�", below her indoor record.

Then the bar went up to 6'8", and the men went to work. By the time they reached 7'2", only seven jumpers were left, none of them straddlers. Matzdorf, who has had trouble finding a place to train, went out at 6'10".

The bar went up to 7'3�" and Jankunis went out. Kotinek, a UCLA senior, made it on his first try, breaking a Mill-rose record set by John Thomas 12 years earlier. Woods cleared the bar on his first attempt, too. Now it was Stones' turn.

"By then we were all starting to get pretty tired, and we were all hoping one of us would beat Stones," Kotinek would say later. "We just don't dig his act anymore."

Stones sailed over on his first try, and a few minutes later, little Livers, after two misses, made it a group of four.

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