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Despite his pugnacious statement, Williams is the most poetic of the sprinters. He loves to rhapsodize about his event. "I'm fascinated with speed," he said on the morning of last week's race. "I love fast music and I drive like a fool. It excites me to see things go by in a hurry. No athlete has a relationship with time the way we sprinters do. When I pull the rip cord in a race I see everything like it was in slow motion. My mental time from the 60-meter mark to the finish is like 30 seconds. That's the adrenaline flowing. That time factor is the same experience I felt in February of '77 when I rolled my car completely over. It seemed like that accident went on for hours. It's indelibly imprinted in my mind."
Williams realizes that his introspection is occasionally his undoing. "I need to get mindless in races," he says. "I tend to get caught up in the visuals, in the race's esthetics. The 100 is a non-tactical race. The name of the game is simply this: when the gun goes off, you react. If someone's in front of you, you go get him."
By the time Williams arrived at the starting line he knew that a slow race was inevitable. While the crowd was intent upon the races on the track, Williams was watching the long jumpers, who approached the pit from the same direction the sprinters would be running, and saw that they were performing far below par. Larry Myricks' winning jump was only 25'2". There was, in fact, a two-mph wind blowing into the sprinters' faces.
McTear got what was for him a poor start. Nicholson later criticized it as the worst part of his race. Still, he and Glance, running in Lanes 4 and 5, respectively, were at the head of a closely knit pack. They stayed there for most of the race, battling each other, oblivious of the rest of the field. At 70 meters, Riddick, in Lane 2, pulled even and began to make a move that would put him in the lead with less than 10 meters to go. But Riddick had a problem that he later discovered was bothering everyone. He couldn't see the tape. A freshly painted white wall surrounding the track, combined with the white light of a cloudy day, had made the white tape all but invisible.
Suddenly, Riddick saw Williams, who had been closing with a burst of speed in Lane 3, lean for the tape. Riddick assumed he must now be almost on top of it, too, and fearing that he had waited too long to lean, he bent forward hurriedly, breaking stride. McTear also noticed Williams' lean, and he, too, bent forward, only to discover that he was still five meters from the finish. He straightened up, breaking stride. Glance, who was only worried about McTear, capitalized on this momentary lapse to pull ahead of his rival, a move he thought assured him of victory.
The problem, of course, was that Williams, like Riddick, had been unable to see the tape. Instead he looked to the ground for the finish line and chose the wrong line, the starting mark for the mile about 10 meters from the finish. Williams was trailing and knew he would have to pass people at the tape, so when he leaned he kept driving with his legs. When he realized his mistake he simply kept driving, admittedly almost out of control. While everyone else was trying to regain his timing, Williams broke the tape in this ungainly fashion in 10.49.
His win was undisputed, but it took Accutrack photos to sort out the finish, as the top six were all within .11 of a second of one another. Glance was second in 10.51 and Riddick was third in 10.53. Even though Riddick later won the 200 in 20.85, edging Edwards and Williams in that order, he insisted that he was more pleased with his performance in the shorter race. Fourth went to a late entry, D.C. International's John Christian, in 10.55. The judges decided he had edged McTear by .01 of a second, although many who saw photos of the race felt that Christian had apparently finished behind both McTear and Edwards, who was given sixth in 10.60.
Edwards, a notoriously late starter who nevertheless was top-ranked in the U.S. in both the 100 and 200 last year, reduced the art of starting to a new low in Durham. He gained ground the whole way but was never able to get into the race until those confused final strides. " Clancy's still not awake," moaned his coach, Pete Peterson. "I'm going to have to buy him an alarm clock."
Afterward, Williams discussed his early finishing lean in detail. "I would guess that cost me two-tenths of a second," he said. That was small solace to the rest of the field. It cost them the race.