"It's hot in Rome, too," was all he was told.
Hot or not, Evelyn Ashford was intent on making it back to the World Cup the meet in which she rose to sprinting preeminence in 1979. She has changed her start by switching front feet in the blocks to protect a hamstring injured a year ago, but in the 100 final she seemed the victim of what she felt was overconcentration. "When I'm really nervous, I tend to go to sleep in my start. I only woke up when I saw Jeanette Bolden a yard ahead of me." That was at 30 yards. By the end, Ashford was two yards ahead. In the 200, she ran the turn beautifully, showing no sign of a lingering hip injury, and won by eight yards. Her time of 22.30 was astounding when it was learned she had run into a 9.55-mph wind.
Madeline Manning, 33, is astounding, period. Beaten in an early-season race by 20-year-old Leann Warren, the 1968 Olympic 800-meter champion somehow brought herself to a physical and emotional peak for this rematch. Manning blew through the first 200 meters in 26.4, leaving Warren 1.5 seconds back in fifth. The first lap was 56.1. Warren, now in second, was 57.0. The Oregon sophomore gave it all she had over the last lap, but Manning simply refused to yield, and won safely with 1:58.50, only .6 from her American record, for her sixth national outdoor championship in this event or its counterpart. Warren finished in 2:00.08. "It's hard doing that," said Manning. "It's scary. But if I ever want the world record, it's the only way."
Steve Scott and Sydney Maree are beginning to count the ways they can get into close 1,500/mile races. Scott had outkicked Maree in the Jumbo Elliott mile after a slow pace, then at the Brooks Invitational, Scott again won narrowly by holding off Maree on the final stretch. So, after Tom Byers had taken the field to 800 meters in 1:59.1 in Sacramento, Maree upped the pace to 57.2 for the next 400. With Scott at his elbow, the pair raced away over the last 300. Into the stretch, Scott drew even, then ahead by a nose. "I thought I had him," he said. But Maree dug in, put his head down and came back. Suddenly it seemed that Scott was running in an uphill lane as his back arched and he visibly tied. Maree won in a meet-record 3:35.02, Scott's time was 3:35.51. Maree, the fire still in his eyes, gave a little speech of thanks to his supporters, and his lawyers, who had eased his passage through more than four years of being banned from international competition because he is South African, never mind that he is black. After the race, The Athletics Congress announced that under IAAF rule 12-8 Maree will be able to represent the U.S. in the World Cup because he has established permanent residence in America and is in the process of obtaining citizenship.
Hearing this, and being a loyal wife, Kim Scott said, "That's not fair." "Why not?" said her husband. "Sydney won. He wants to be a citizen. And he has something to prove, too." When Maree's wife, Lisa Rhoden, came near, Scott drew her into his arms and said softly, "Your husband did a great job." Then, louder, "I gotta go back to the old tactics of taking it out early, I guess. Rats!"
Asked what might have made the difference in the stretch, Maree answered. "We both wanted to win, but I think I had a little more to lose than Steve. I have had so few of these opportunities."
After the 1,500, the searing day quickly turned to velvet night. And Willie Banks got all excited about soaring through it. First he triple-jumped an American record of 56'11", adding 1½ inches to his old mark. "But I had mixed feelings," said the tall and voluble UCLA law student. "I wanted that 57." He roamed among his competitors, saying. "Let's go farther, let's go farther," because, as he said, "I don't jump on strength. I jump on emotion, and good close competition is the way to a shot of adrenaline." He'd gotten so excited watching Lewis' long jumping that he'd almost had to leave. "I wanted what he'd done—the longest ever at sea level."
So he went down the runway and got it, bounding nearly out of the pit with a jump of 57'7½", second only to Joao Oliveira's world record of 58'8¼" set in the 7,800-foot altitude of Mexico City. His only concern then was whether the facility in Sacramento will prohibit a record being accepted. "They didn't have a board in the runway, or the Plasticine to check if you foul. They just had a white stripe painted across the runway. If that takes the record away I'll be upset, because you get more bounce off a board than off this mushy runway. But what the heck, I'll do it again. I think if conditions are perfect, we'll see a 60-foot jump."
By perfect, Banks means loud. "I wanted to tell the crowd to stop being so respectful and get noisy, get excited. I'm a noise person. I was born under the end of the Travis Air Force Base runway. I came In with noise, and I'll probably go out with noise."
Perhaps, but before then, he'll be the cause of some, too. As will Lewis when he hits his marks perfectly, and Moses when he attacks the entire race. "The World Cup is the time and place for all that," said Banks. So here's to some of that energetic Italian noise.