Two days before the Millrose Games in New York, meet director Howard Schmertz was leafing through a dummy of his program. On the page dedicated to the Wanamaker Mile six names were neatly typed in. A seventh, that of Filbert Bayi, the world-record holder in the 1,500 meters, was scrawled across the page in longhand. "I wasn't told officially that Bayi was coming until just last week," said Schmertz. "If I had known I was going to have a draw like him, I might have been tempted to save some expenses on the rest of the field."
Sparing no expense, Schmertz had, by his own account, the best field in the 70-year history of the Millrose Games. Undefeated Steve Riddick was getting his severest test of the indoor season in a 60-yard dash that included Donald Quarrie, Houston McTear, Harvey Glance and Ed Preston. World-record holder Dwight Stones was predicting an indoor record in the high jump. In the pole vault Dan Ripley and Earl Bell would be going head to head. And among the names typed in for the mile were Eamonn Coghlan and Paul Cummings, both undefeated this season, as well as Marty Liquori and Wilson Waigwa.
Amidst this glitter how easy it was to overlook little Rosalyn Bryant despite an elaborate hairdo adorned with colored beads. Yet when all was said and done last Friday night it was Bryant who had set the only world record. In her first indoor 440-yard race ever—at least her first true 440—she ran a 53.5, .3 of a second under the world mark set two weeks earlier by Lorna Forde.
"I didn't know I was on a world-record pace," Bryant admitted afterward. "I just felt relaxed. When you don't feel fast, that's when you really go fast." Then, taking advantage of her moment in the limelight, she attacked the subject of her lack of acclaim. "How come you give women so little publicity?" she asked the press. "I run just as hard as the men." This night she could have said harder.
In the 60-yard dash Bryant ran a 6.8 to finish third behind Freida Davy. "I know I could have won it," Bryant said. "Davy jumped out. I thought the starter was going to call it back so I hesitated."
A senior at Cal State at Los Angeles, Bryant moved up to the quarter mile from the shorter dashes only a year ago, yet already she is the American outdoor record holder in the event with a time of 50.65, which she ran while finishing fifth in the Montreal Olympics. She also anchored the U.S. silver-medal 1,600-meter relay team with a final quarter of 49.7, thus becoming the first American woman to break 50 seconds.
Bryant appeared to have set an indoor 440 world record two weeks ago at the Sunkist Invitational in Los Angeles when she won the race in 52.9. Unfortunately, the "quarter mile" turned out to be only 427 yards long, and when this was discovered her superb performance was all but forgotten.
In like fashion Bryant was all but forgotten last Friday night moments after her world record when Bayi made his appearance at the starting line. Indeed, Bayi had already drawn more attention in his efforts to get to Madison Square Garden than anyone else was likely to receive for their efforts in the meet itself. On the Wednesday before the Millrose Games, Schmertz had been at John F. Kennedy Airport fully expecting to pick up his star attraction, who was scheduled to arrive on Lufthansa flight 400 from Frankfurt, West Germany. Only Bayi wasn't on flight 400. "The worst is we don't know where he is," said Hannes Schloesser, a Lufthansa public-relations official. Schmertz' eyes rolled heavenward.
Eventually the news came. East African Airways 624, Bayi's connecting flight from his home in Dar es Salaam to Frankfurt, had never reached Germany. No one knew why. Later, Schloesser came up with the East African flight's itinerary. "It goes first to Mombasa, Nairobi and Entebbe," he reported.
"Entebbe?" said Schmertz, his eyes rolling heavenward again.