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Such isn't quite the feeling between the two finest high hurdlers the world has ever known, Renaldo Nehemiah and Greg Foster. Nehemiah, who set the world record of 13.00 in this meet in 1979, has always been glibly at ease in the public eye, while Foster, whose best going into the Pepsi meet was 13.22, has never been comfortable with the idea, or fact, of celebrity. Nehemiah, whose blazing start forces all opponents to play catch-up, especially the taller Foster, also is a consummate verbal tactician; he has repeatedly pointed out how his rival's frantic, late-race pressing was bound to get Foster in trouble. And, indeed, such remarks often have been followed by Foster's splintering one or more of the last five hurdles as Nehemiah flowed on to win.
But last year Nehemiah quit the University of Maryland team, and this year he won the Superstars competition, neither of which led him to do much early-season speed work. And Foster has trained exceptionally well, concentrating on form and hurdles, not dialogue or rivals seen out of the corner of his eye. Yet for a while the race seemed a continuation of Nehemiah's mastery, for there he was over the first hurdle with his polished style. But this time Foster wasn't watching. "Just the hurdles and the finish line," he said later. By the third hurdle he had caught Nehemiah and was running with hard, choppy swiftness. He won by three or four yards, an impressive margin. Nehemiah, strong but not yet fast, was third (13.46) behind Sam Turner of" the Stars and Stripes T.C. (13.43). Foster's time was a resounding 13.10, the second-fastest ever run. "I haven't felt this good since high school," he said.
Nehemiah, who acknowledged he had taken a chance by challenging a man of Foster's gifts without much preparation, went right back to his old song: "Greg is more or less in a must-win situation. He has to win...and this time he did it. This time."
Foster, a UCLA senior who will begin graduate work in child psychology there next fall, smiled at that. "The mental barrier is gone," he said, "and I think he knows it's gone. He has been good at keeping me off balance, but with the help of my academic counselor in psychology. I've got my mind under control." Then he went to gather his textbooks for a physics midterm. "The way I feel now, I'm going to kill it." It was a satisfying surety, and this quiet man's buoyed confidence promises to do more than raise his grades; it will strengthen an already splendid American rivalry.
The other closely matched pair of Americans, sprinters James San ford and Stanley Floyd, had a good rip at each other in the 100 meters. Floyd, coming back from a knotted hamstring that had kept him out of hard racing since March, got a perfect start. Sanford drew even at 30 meters, accelerating smoothly, and Floyd hesitated. "Should I or shouldn't I," he thought. "If I put all-out pressure on my leg I might go faster." While Floyd was thinking, Sanford gained a two-yard lead. Floyd cut it to two feet by race's end. Their times, run into a headwind of .8 meter per second, were 10.05 and 10.10. "With the wind at our back, we could've run 10.0," said Sanford, who, rather than twisting the screws to Floyd, sought to build him up. "The man, he has pride," Sanford said. "I think there will be a time when Stanley beats me. He's the world's No. 1-ranking sprinter [from last season, when Sanford was injured], and you have to look at the outcome of a whole year, whoever has the most victories." That sort of talk is uncharacteristic of sprinters. Dash men have traditionally been preening and catty. "Nah, we don't try to psych each other out like they did in the '60s," said Sanford. "May the best man win."
Then he won the 200 as well, in the fastest time in the world this year, 20.20. "What a day, what a track," Sanford said.
The meet's other double winner, Evelyn Ashford, had to try to the limit in the 100, which she won from UCLA's rocket-starting Jeanette Bolden in 10.99 to 11.18. When the time was announced, Ashford leaped up and shouted, "I told you so," to her sheepish coach, Pat Connolly. That was because Ashford had rashly announced earlier in the day that never again would she run a 100 meters slower than 11 seconds, which didn't give her a lot of room for error, because her American record is 10.97. "It was a kind of joke," Ashford said, "but in the back of my mind I was serious."
More grave still were her feelings about running the 400. "The 100 is to make me fast, the 400 to make me strong," she said, "but I hate the 400. It's not so bad when you're running, but afterward...well, I hate to think of the hurt." She put it out of mind long enough to ease to a 51.80 win, being strong enough to keep on running around the curve after the finish while her pursuers thrashed and died in the stretch. It seemed a dutiful exhibition more than a hard race and hinted at far better things to come.
Indeed, in event after event, new season leaders burst forth, men like Arizona State freshman Howard Henley, who won the 400 in 44.92, the year's fastest time. Or ageless Mike Boit of Kenya and the Southern California Striders—he literally is ageless, not knowing when he was born; he figures he's within a year or two of 33—who won the 800 in 1:45.43.
Both the women's and the men's miles were races that provided clear looks at potential being rapidly fulfilled. Francie Larrieu set a pace of 2:15.4 for the half in the woman's run, which in years past would have separated her from all but Jan Merrill. Now it got rid of absolutely no one in the field of 12. Down the last backstretch there were still seven runners in close contention, and Oregon's Leann Warren, a sophomore who is known more for her half-miling and good mile-relay legs, settled it with a strong sprint through the last curve. Merrill, still hampered by a whiplash injury suffered when a jogger crashed into her at this meet a year ago, was a game second. Warren's winning time of 4:30.36 was a women's collegiate record. It was the first mile race that she had ever run in her life, and she walked around pale and faint for some minutes afterward. Her first coherent words were, "It's so long." But obviously she was recovering rapidly, because her second words were, "You know, I think I could have kicked even earlier and gone faster."