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The first person to test the high-jump apron was Canada's Debbie Brill. As she planted her foot on a qualifying jump, she slipped a yard and jammed her knee. "Nobody had swept off the little lumps of urethane that were loose on the pebbled surface," she said. "Then they came out with scrapers and blowers."
By the time of the dual meet's women's high jump the next day, the apron was ready. Louise Ritter proved it. The 25-year-old Texan, getting better with each jump, won at 6'4¼" and then arched cleanly over an American record of 6'6¾". Immediately, she attempted 6'8", a half inch higher than Ulrike Meyfarth's world standard. She missed twice. "You can do it," said teammate Pam Spencer, who had finished second, on fewer misses, at 6'2¾".
"I guess I can," said Ritter. "Of course I can." She pulled back her hair and ran at the bar. At that moment, just across the track, six Hollywood trumpeters blared into the fanfare of a victory ceremony. Ritter kept going through the racket, but missed narrowly. In the Olympics such an organizational gaffe might be cause for an extra try, but Ritter didn't demand it. "I'd gotten my technique together in the last few clearances," she said. "But it was coming apart again."
The first day ended with the 4 X 100 meter relays. The G.D.R. men, grooved and polished, got the most out of their passes, while the U.S. men, on two days' practice, didn't. Willie Gault made up some ground on the third carry, but still presented Carl Lewis with a three-meter deficit. Lewis got the baton, changed hands with it, stumbled a bit, and with 60 meters to go still had those three to make up.
His charge was reminiscent of Bob Hayes's winning anchor in the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. "This was the best I've ever seen," said Mel Rosen, the Auburn coach. "Lewis kept his composure. He kept his form." And he won by half a meter in 38.71, to the G.D.R.'s 38.78. "Well, I was anchor," Lewis said. "I took that responsibility seriously."
"All they had was Lewis," said a frustrated East German sprinter. The same had been said of Hayes. And the rejoinder of Hayes's teammate, Paul Drayton, now came from a voice in the crowd: "He's all we need, pal."
But the U.S. women seemed to need divine intervention. The East German women hadn't lost a 4 X 100 relay since 1978. They set the world record of 41.60 in the Moscow Olympics, and three members of that team were in Los Angeles.
One of them, Koch, led off against Alice Brown, who had been only fourth in the U.S. nationals but who can really barrel around a turn. She did that, and had a meter lead to give Diane Williams.
"I love to run the straight, and I love to catch people," said Williams, who made up three meters of the stagger on two-time Olympic 200 champion Bärbel Wöckel.
Williams then made a slick pass to Chandra Cheeseborough. When Wöckel and Silke Gladisch had a momentary hesitation, Cheese was gone. She had a six-meter lead as she neared Ashford. "Her hand was low. I had to reach. But I got it to her," Cheeseborough said afterward.