Except for the location, Atlanta instead of Eugene, Ore., it could have been the 100-meter final of the Olympic Trials, not the Martin Luther King Games. Indeed, the race went just about the way everyone expects the Trials to go in late June. Running with killer instinct for the first time this year, as he said he would, Steve Williams burned to yet another 9.9, giving him five ties for the world record, and in doing so, swept aside the challenges of such strong young chargers as Harvey Glance and Ed Preston, who finished second and third, and Houston McTear, who came in a disappointing seventh.
When the race was over, Williams turned and sped almost as quickly back to Glance, Auburn's effervescent freshman, to apologize. No, not for winning, but for snatching the tape at the end of the race and firing a look back toward those less swift than he.
"Hey, I didn't mean nothing by that, baby; it just happened," Williams said, embracing his smaller, more muscular rival. "We got to have a few beers, you and me and McTear, and start putting our stuff together for the Games."
Less than an hour later Williams was a winner again, this time in the 200-meter. His time was 19.9, a tenth off the world record, and again Glance was second, Preston third. For a man who has said that he intends to win four gold medals at Montreal, it was a mighty impressive performance.
At dinner the night before with Vicki Smith, a tall and pretty shotputter from Florida State, Williams had predicted that the 100-meter race would make the rest of the world painfully aware of the overall strength of American sprinters.
"Tomorrow will change the whole complexion of the sprint Games," he said. "The world is going to wake up and see the times and say, 'Oh, oh, those guys have really got their stuff together.' And a few guys ducked this race. It is quite possible fifth place could be 9.9. Those guys can look back then and say, 'Wow, I should have been there.' "
Among the missing were Reggie Jones, who ran a 10 flat behind Don Quarrie's 9.9 at the California Relays later that day, and Steve Riddick, who had a 10.33 in Florence, Italy earlier in the week. The way Williams was running, it hardly mattered, although he himself was less than satisfied.
"The first part of the race was just terrible," Williams said. "I ran like a spectator. I was too concentrated on how the other runners were doing. I kept looking to the side at Glance. And I kept trying to peek around to see what McTear was doing."
He didn't have any trouble seeing the 5'8" Glance, who has run two 9.9's, and who got away quickly to lead most of the race. McTear stayed with him halfway, then slowed abruptly and was swallowed up in the field.
The last six weeks have been discouraging for McTear. For one thing, his coach, Will Willoughby, was involved in some legal difficulties, and the 19-year-old sprinter missed two weeks of training. In addition, having turned down an offer to play football at the University of Florida, he has taken a battering by the state's newspapers.