For Steve Williams and Marty Liquori there were no medical miracles. Two world records were set. And five world-record holders failed to make the team. Three of the sprinters came out of high school, the first time ever. One of the 110-meter hurdlers ran on 33-year-old legs that had carried him to three previous Olympics, once to a gold medal, and while age had left the legs a tad weaker, in compensation it had made him a ton smarter. And so when the U.S. track and field Olympic Trials sighed to an end last Sunday evening in Eugene, Ore. the balance of hope for success in Montreal lay in the hands of relatively unknown young talent, with just enough of a peppering of veterans to keep the men's team from looking like the college all-stars.
Running on much the same timetable that will be used at Montreal, the Trials spanned nine days, beginning on June 19 with a Mack Sennett blunder in the 20-kilometer walk (which laughingly came up more than a kilometer short) and ending Sunday as Dick Buerkle won the 5,000-meter run, the event Liquori had been expected to dominate. But like Williams, the world's No. 1 sprinter when he has two sound legs, Liquori arrived in Eugene badly hobbled by an injured hamstring and never made it to the final.
Even without that world-class pair, the U.S. emerged with a strong if basically inexperienced squad, one that could easily surpass the 18-medal performance (six gold) by the men at Munich. Of the 63 who made the team, only 12 will carry Olympic experience to Canada. Still, that small segment of veterans includes Frank Shorter, the gold-medal winner in the 1972 marathon; long-jump gold medalist Randy Williams; George Woods, twice a silver medalist in the shotput; and the bronze medalist in the high jump, Dwight Stones, now the best in the world, although on Sunday he finished second to Bill Jankunis, who cleared 7'5�".
Shorter, already assured of a place on the team with his marathon victory in May, sped home easily in the 10,000 to set up a double assault on medals in Montreal. Rick Wohlhuter, the 880-yard world-record holder, will also run twice; he won the 800-meter as well as the 1,500 at Eugene.
The most extraordinary in a constant stream of extraordinary achievements came early last week. Using a borrowed vaulting pole, and with one hand still somewhat numb after he shattered his own pole, Dave Roberts regained the world record by soaring to 18'8�". It was the third straight time the pole vault record had been broken at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Ironically, both the borrowed pole and the old record of 18'7�" belonged to Earl Bell, who finished tied for second with Terry Porter.
Apparently unfazed by the consequence of his generosity, Bell observed, "It's the vaulter who breaks the record, not the pole. Besides, the minute the field was cut to just three men Dave became my teammate, and after that everything was just practice anyway."
"Would you lend your pole to a Pole at Montreal?" asked a San Francisco radio man.
"No," Bell said, "because he wouldn't be my teammate."
A University of Florida medical student who vaults as a hobby, Roberts said he thought he was out of the competition when his own pole broke. That happened on his first attempt to clear the record height. Jumping up, he asked an official if it would be all right for him to delay his three vaults until after Bell had his three tries at the record. He had already asked Bell if he could borrow his pole.
"Certainly," Bell had said.