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"He screamed it," declared high jumper Milt Ottey.
"A Pacific Coast Club record," added Jennings.
Olson, meanwhile, remained on his back. "I tried to stand up, but I got a case of jelly legs," he said later. The 19-foot vault was a goal he'd pursued for years. As long ago as 1979, when he was a mere 18'�" vaulter, he'd put vanity plates on his Olds Cutlass that read: 19 FEET. "When I first saw them I asked Billy what he was doing driving Vigneron's car," recalls Jennings. But that was before Olson really got into the driver's seat. His record on Friday, for instance, gave him the seven best indoor marks of all time and put him five inches ahead of any other American vaulter ever indoors. And it gave him yet more confidence. "I'm going to beat this tomorrow in Dallas," he vowed. "Watch me."
For most of Saturday night's Dallas Times Herald Invitational, however, Olson was doing the watching. Because television cameras were located in the vaulting area during the sprints, the pole vault was postponed until late in the evening, a change Olson didn't learn of until he reached Reunion Arena, some three hours before his first jump. "They want Olson to break a world record here, but they go and mess him up just for TV," grumbled Jennings.
While Olson was in the stands visiting with some of the 46 people he had invited to the meet—family, friends and ninth-graders from the weekly Bible study group he and his girl friend direct—another athlete who's unafraid to challenge his events' historic barriers took to the track. Carl Lewis, the world's preeminent long jumper and its fastest 100-meter man, has already come within 5� inches of Bob Beamon's awesome 29'2�" long jump in the 1968 Olympics and closed within .05 of a second of Jim Hines's 9.95 100 in the same Games. Here he was entered in the 60-yard dash, though there seemed little likelihood that he would break Stanley Floyd's world record of 6.04 seconds. "Everybody always says I'm too tall to run the short indoor sprints," the 6'2" Lewis would say later. "I just wanted to prove them wrong."
To win a dash at the Times Herald meet without setting a record is difficult; before Saturday, the 3-year-old meet had produced seven world sprint and hurdle marks. And so it was not surprising that Lewis, who hadn't entered a sprint since last summer, won his heat in an outstanding 6.13 despite a terrible start. "I've gotten used to the European starters, who are very slow," he said. "Here the starter didn't hold the gun long at all, and I was left sitting there."
Though his poor start had him feeling "a little shell-blasted," Lewis came out as if fired from a gun in the 60 final. He ran down Bruce Davis, a wide receiver for Baylor, and held off Herschel Walker, a sometimes running back for Georgia, to win by a full stride. He was clocked in 6.02, .10 faster than second-place Walker and .02 under Floyd's world record.
"It's been two years since I ran a decent 60," said Lewis, who blazed a lap of the 176-yard track when his time was announced. "I've always wanted the 60 record. That and the 100." Though not necessarily in that order.
"I was supposed to go compete in The Superstars this weekend, but I decided to concentrate on this meet instead," he said, obviously glad he had. However, he had been practicing his golf, bowling and swimming in anticipation of his ABC appearance. "This year I'm going to diversify myself," he said. "The reason is that the sprints and long jump get boring." He spoke of running more 200s and 400s and even trying triple jumping. "If the time situation works out, I will," he said. "I used to do it casually in high school."
Lewis' versatility is apparently limitless, except that he can't play basketball. "I can't put a ball in the ocean," he says. Lewis is even an Esquire Man; he will appear in formal attire on the cover of an upcoming issue. "It's really funny. It turns out that the guy who did the story on me for them was actually my freshman-year, first-semester English teacher," says Lewis, now a senior at the University of Houston. When he is asked how he did in the course, Lewis just smiles and says, "That's O.K."