As Sandoval ran
with Wells over the footbridge across the Willamette River, he was aware that
there was less than a mile to go, and he began reliving the 1976 Olympic
Trials. It was at this spot that he had been left by Don Kardong and had lost
the last spot on the team. But now he felt strong and jubilant.
Wells is a
magnificent finisher who has never given quarter at the end of a race. Sandoval
is a 1:49.5 800-meter runner who can sprint with anyone. They looked at each
other and decided to finish in a tie. "We had run so far together, had
helped each other so much," said Wells, "that we couldn't have done
anything else. We found out all we had to know—for now."
By not sprinting,
Wells gave up the opportunity to break his personal record of 2:10:15. Hand in
hand the two crossed the line and then turned to embrace Lodwick and Quax. The
four, remarkably fresh, danced a giddy victory lap around Hayward Field: two
ministers, a doctor and a salesman for a New Zealand radio station, proving, as
Shorter and Rodgers have done before, that in marathoning nice guys can finish
Quax' time of
2:11:13 confirmed him as a great talent at the distance should he continue
marathoning. There is doubt of that only because New Zealand's selection system
demands he break 2:13:30 twice to be considered for the Olympic team. "They
don't want a good runner," he said. "They want a superman."
All an American
need do to make the Olympic marathon is run 2:21:54 to qualify for—and then
place in the top three—at the Olympic Trials next May in Buffalo. Fifty men ran
under the Trials standard in Eugene, and 34 of them recorded personal bests,
testament to a grand day and a continuing surge of excellence in U.S.
marathoning. Atkins' fifth-place time was a splendid 2:11:52, and the depth of
field was best illustrated by 36-year-old Olympic-steeplechaser Mike Manley,
who ran 2:16:45 but finished 19th.
As his three
runners celebrated their unprecedented team sweep of a major marathon,
Athletics West Coach Harry Johnson admitted to some astonishment. "I
thought they'd do well," he said, "but that their next race after this
one—the Olympic Trials—would be the real eye-opener. I still believe
If so, that race
in May will really be something to behold.