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There are those, of course, who downplay Riddick's accomplishments. "Indoor track is bogus. You get outside and it's all forgotten," says Steve Williams, whom many recognize as the world's fastest sprinter. "Indoors is no indicator to outdoors. The distances are too short. If you add 10 yards on a 60, it changes the whole complexion of the race. Indoors you don't have a chance to see if an athlete has any polish. He can just blast from beginning to end without concentrating on form or technique. You can't do that in the 100."
Still, Williams concedes that the indoor season may have helped build Riddick's confidence after the disappointment at Montreal. The two are close friends, traveling together to many of the meets in Europe during the summer. "We can go out and party together because we're tall people," says Williams, who, like Riddick, is 6'3�". "Most sprinters are short and they have ego problems, the same as most short people."
As Williams suspected, Riddick is facing the outdoor season, which opens next month, brimming with confidence. "The indoor races aren't normally for me," says Riddick. "They are little more than a start and I don't really have any start at all. But still I'm winning. That's why I think I'm going to be awesome this summer. I'm going to hurt a lot of feelings."
The job interview completed, Riddick heads into the suburbs north of Philadelphia for the Abington High North Campus where Woodley teaches ninth-grade English. He has promised to submit to a question and answer session in one of his coach's classes. The students will then write papers on their impressions of the sprinter.
During the drive his thoughts turn to his own school days in Hampton, Va. where his father is a Church of Christ minister. "I didn't take up track until I was a junior in high school," he says, "and then only after I quit the football and the basketball teams. I'm not going to say I was a little rowdy, but...well." At first he was a long jumper and a high jumper. One day after practice he challenged the team's top sprinter to a race and beat him. Suddenly Steve Riddick was a dash man. In his first meet he ran 10.3 for 100 yards. He was running 10-flat by the end of that year and 9.8 his senior year.
Riddick was recruited for Norfolk State by Coach Dick Price. "They had a nice track program," Riddick says, "but they didn't have a track." The team practiced on the street that circled the gymnasium. Still, as a college freshman Riddick lowered his time to 9.3. As a sophomore and junior he starred on teams that won NCAA college-division team titles.
In his junior year Riddick married Theresita Renee Coleman. They stayed on at Norfolk State a year after his track eligibility had expired so he could finish up his degree. During that year Price put him in touch with Woodley, the coach of the Philadelphia Pioneers, and Riddick began to run for the club. He moved to Washington after graduation in June of 1975 and to Philadelphia in January of 1976. "I came to Philly because I wanted a change in environment," he says. "I'm sure I'll get a good job here. But I refuse to work nine to five. You get in that rut—up in the morning, go to work, go to your workout, go home and go to bed. I think life's more interesting than that."
Sixty of Woodley's students are primed with questions for Riddick. His answers are brief and to the point. Who is his toughest competitor? "I guess the clock is. I don't like to run against individuals." Should America put as much effort into women's sports as it does into men's? "We should put more because the women are so far behind the men." How did he feel when he won his gold medal in the relay? "I was kind of excited. Overwhelmed as a matter of fact."
The questions turn more personal. Does he smoke or drink? "Neither. I used to smoke when I was young but it's no good for you." This is something of a white lie. He occasionally permits himself a cigarette, perhaps one a day, and it hasn't been too long since he smoked a pack every two days. He cut back because he could feel a burning in his lungs when he came off the turn in his favorite race, the 200, in which he has a personal best of 20.1 (wind-aided) and was ranked eighth in the world last year.
Does he have a special diet? The kids might as well be asking Arnold Schwarzenegger if he believes in weight lifting. Riddick details his ritual of taking bee pollen pills—four of them each morning, at least half an hour before breakfast. A British coach got him started on the pills in 1975 and Riddick feels they have played an important role in his recent success. "And," he adds, "I haven't had a cold in two years." Does he eat any junk food? "I don't eat too many hamburgers. You eat a hamburger, you run like a hamburger."