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Trials And Jubilation
Kenny Moore
July 02, 1984
Out of nine days, in which by harsh necessity exultation combined with despair, came the U.S. Olympic track team
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July 02, 1984

Trials And Jubilation

Out of nine days, in which by harsh necessity exultation combined with despair, came the U.S. Olympic track team

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Even to Wysocki. Her move hadn't been meant to defeat Decker, just to put some distance between herself and Gallagher and the other fast finishers. But here she was, running elbow to elbow with the world champion through the turn and into the stretch. Not that she didn't have the instincts or experience for it. As Ruth Caldwell, she had run down Decker to win the 1978 AAU 800, but she had been away from intense racing for years, having returned to running only to pass the time while her husband of a year, distance runner Tom Wysocki, was traveling.

"Did I have any idea I might win?" she said later. "Absolutely none. I was halfway down the straight before I thought I could get her." She drove ahead with 50 meters left. Decker dug down, evoking memories of her stretch run at the world championships in Helsinki against Zamira Zaitseva of the Soviet Union last summer, but she could go no faster. Wysocki won by a yard in 4:00.18. She threw up her arms and thought, "What have I done?"

Decker did 4:00.40, and learned all she needed to know. She will run only one middle-distance race in the Olympics, but won't decide which event until later in the summer.

Rare was the event that didn't produce a new face, a Nordquist or Wysocki. In the pole vault, it was Doug Lytle, 21, of Kansas State, who had attended the 1980 trials as a photographer's assistant. Only Lytle and Mike Tully cleared 18'8�", and Lytle was leading on fewer misses. Tully had struggled at the lower heights because the officials had switched the direction of the vault to gain a tailwind. "But now I have to look into the sun," said Tully. Twice he missed badly at 18'4�" before collecting himself and clearing easily. By the time he faced an American-record 19'3�", it was dark, and he made the height on his second attempt. He had a miss at a world-record 19'3�" that showed him he ought to think about trying it again in August.

Such thoughts are out of order for Billy Olson, who has vaulted 19'�," indoors. He fell out of the competition at 18'4�". By the trials' end, a splendid team could have been made up of the also-rans.

The trials are special for how they infuse the new team members with the Olympic fire. Watch them as they walk back from the victory stand. They have accepted the praise of the crowd, of the television people. Now, as they enter the narrow, brightly lit tunnel that will take them outside the Coliseum to the waiting press, to the drug tests, to families and coaches, it begins to sink in.

Their grins may be fierce or dreamy, they may tremble or whoop or cry, but all share the understanding that things will unfold differently now. Great chances remain, opportunities that are now lost to all who were fourth or below. Until this moment, their plans have been contingencies. Now a dazzlingly clear sense of the future bursts in on them.

In no event is that future richer than the men's 400-meter hurdles, in which Edwin Moses attained his 89th consecutive victory with a 47.46 in the final. He did it regally, from the eighth lane, where because of the stagger he saw no opponent until he looked back after crossing the finish line.

Even Moses was subject to Olympic trials nerves, false starting once and calling the field out of the blocks a second time when he was distracted by a photographer shooting before the start. But once in action, emancipated, he displayed the familiar Moses form, his head nestled back between his high shoulders as if he needed to look at the hurdles not at all, as if he were more interested in the hue of the evening clouds over the rim of the stadium.

Moses's future is a second Olympic gold medal. His reaction was blessed relief. "The sun feels good again," he said. "Anything you've been told about the pressure of this meet is nothing like actually being there."

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