Apparently, that training is paying dividends. Ashford is a smooth, graceful runner. On Friday night Pat Connolly thought her pupil had run a slow time because she appeared tight and tense during the race. Her husband disagreed. "It just looks that way because she's using her arms like you've never seen her use them before," he said. That observation was borne out when Ashford's world-record time was announced a few moments later.
Yet despite the encouraging performances of Cheeseborough and Ashford, it is Young who lifted America's 1980 hopes the highest. Young came to the attention of track aficionados a month ago when she upset East Germany's Gudrun Berend-Waken, the world's fourth-ranked woman hurdler, in a 50-meter race in Edmonton, Canada. At age 16, with little hurdling experience or technical training, she now has a world record and a seemingly limitless future.
Young's high school coach, Karlin Ryan, admits that he is learning about hurdling right along with his star. He knows more about football, which he also coaches at Beaver Falls. In his playing days there he backed up Namath at quarterback on the Tigers' 1960 team that went 9-0. The following year, after Namath had graduated, Ryan quarterbacked Beaver Falls to a 10-0 record. "I kid Joe that I won one more game than he did," Ryan says, before adding, "but I'd trade it for some of that money."
To date Young's only real coaching in the fine points of hurdling came during a one-week session at the U.S. Olympic training camp in Colorado Springs last August. Beaver Falls High is not exactly equipped to handle world-class hurdlers. For now the 5'6", 127-pound Young practices in a tiled hallway just long enough to set up three hurdles. The fourth hurdle is a barrier indeed—a wall. Each spring when the snow finally melts in Beaver Falls and Young gets her first look at a standard 10-hurdle setup, she feels as if she is surveying a marathon course.
Last Friday night she shyly admitted, "I would like to be the Nehemiah of women's hurdles." Five minutes before her winning race, Nehemiah introduced himself and offered a pointer on how to get more speed coming over a hurdle. Nehemiah's interest seemed fitting. The reigning king was paying court to a future queen.