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That wasn't a polite bow to his competitors. Moses won from the two best new talents in this event since Moses himself appeared in 1976. They are Danny Harris and Tranel Hawkins, the former 18, a football player and tireless, the latter 21, a string bean ex-basketball player and tireless.
Harris, 6 feet and 170, a defensive back for Iowa State whose home is Perris, Calif., ran his first 400-meter hurdle race on March 15 of this year. He did 51.7. In his third try, he set a world junior record of 49.55. He broke that record three more times during the spring, winning the NCAA title in 48.81. Then, chasing Moses's 47.58 in the trials' semifinal, Harris did 48.02 and became the fifth-fastest intermediate hurdler ever. In a semifinal.
This despite hurdling form that occasionally seemed more appropriate for a steeplechaser. Several times Harris landed off balance and had to wrench his upper body back into position before he could regain his momentum. "I do know I'm not as good as I could be," he said with frightening accuracy.
Hawkins, unlike Harris, ran no track at all in high school, so though he is older he has even less experience. He's 6'5" and was a forward on the basketball team at Trotwood-Madison High, about a mile and a half from Moses's old high school outside Dayton. At South Plains J.C. in Levelland, Texas, Hawkins tried the long jump in two meets and quit because he never got off a legal jump. His sophomore year he considered the triple jump but got thrown onto the mile relay team and helped it to third place in the junior college nationals.
His track coach, Clint Ramsey, moved on to Angelo State in San Angelo, Texas, and Hawkins followed, to major in business management and to find an event that suited his talent. Finally, fittingly, he told Ramsey, "I know I've never hurdled, but Edwin Moses is from Dayton, too, and he's a well-known athlete. He runs the 400-meter hurdles. Why don't you let me try?" Ramsey did, and Hawkins won the Division II nationals in 50.44. "I began to wonder what I could do if I trained," he said.
This year he improved, losing only to Harris in the Texas Relays and again in the NCAAs, in which he ran 49.25. Still his season-best of 49.11 gave him only the sixth-fastest time of the hurdlers in L.A. last week. But his potential was clear to Steve Simmons, the coach of the Accusplit Club of San Jose, which brought Hawkins to the trials. "I'd never seen such untapped talent," he said. "The things he does wrong, he does real wrong. But he's got those happy feet. Instead of going thud, thud, thud, he goes boop, boop, boop."
Those happy feet and a certain youthful insouciance carried him into the final. He ran PRs of 48.90 and 48.52 in the first two rounds. "Of course I worry about him," said Simmons. "He's an innocent, still. He gets into trouble crossing the street." Literally. "Yeah, I got a jaywalking ticket on my way to get a hamburger," said Hawkins. His smile is wide and infectious. "I told the officer I was an athlete. He didn't care. I told him I was from out of town. Didn't work. And now I'm stuck with this $15 ticket."
Before the final, Simmons sat Hawkins down. "You got two different races here," he said. " Moses and Andre Phillips [the fourth-fastest in history with his 47.78 of last year] in the two outside lanes, and you and Harris in one and two. Don't worry about Lane 1. John Akii-Bua did a world record in it in Munich and he's your size."
Hawkins said he wouldn't worry.
"Nervous?" asked Simmons.