Stanley Floyd was only recently engaged (on Oct. 30 to middle distance star Delisa Walton). Mary Decker Tabb was only recently married (on Sept. 12 to world-class marathoner Ron Tabb). Debbie Brill only recently had a baby (Neil Bogart Ray on Aug. 18). And last Friday, awash in all this domesticity, together the three set two world indoor records and one American indoor mark at the Sunkist meet in Los Angeles. And, as Floyd rather archly pointed out, he'd broken a world record the previous week, with 12,110 in attendance, and no one noticed. That was in the 55-meter dash at the U.S. Olympic Invitational in East Rutherford, N.J., which he'd won in 6.14, .01 better than his own mark set last year in Cleveland. "But no one realized it," said Floyd.
"Don't look at us," said an official in the Los Angeles Sports Arena. "Do one here and we'll pay attention."
Well, divided attention. By far the loudest applause during the introductions for the 50-yard dash went to Georgia Tailback Herschel Walker, whose 220 pounds were 50 more than the compact Floyd's in the next lane. "Indoors, the start is all," said Floyd, and he caught a perfect one. "And for some reason 1 didn't ease up at all." He hit the line—later measured as 50 yards and three inches from the start—in 5.22, .03 faster than Houston McTear's four-year-old record of 5.25. Ron Brown of Arizona State, Walker and McTear were somehow judged to have finished behind Floyd in that order, although they shared the time of 5.29, the third fastest ever run in the event.
A few minutes later all but McTear, who was out with a cramp, duplicated their places at 60 yards, Floyd winning in 6.10. Brown was second in 6.13 and Walker third in 6.20.
Standing near the start was former football coach George Allen. He looked as if he wanted to pet Walker's oaken hamstrings. "Do you know him?" he asked 1968 Olympic decathlon champion Bill Toomey, pressing for an introduction. That provided, he told Walker, "I hope someday we play on the same team."
Floyd insisted the attention remain on the sport at hand. "Herschel found out track and football are two different worlds," he said. "I was in condition for a world record. Everything came together and I did it. Simple, natural, neat. And do I feel good?" His voice dropped to a vibrant baritone. "Oh yes."
Decker Tabb didn't look especially jubilant at the start of the women's mile. She was pale, and her hands were cold. But that was just the crowd and the occasion at work on her. She had in mind an even pace, something near 65 seconds per quarter, but that always seems too slow when an indoor crowd hushes at the start. And besides, because of injuries, it had been nearly two years since she had raced a mile. So she bolted off as of old, hitting the 440 in 62.7 with a 35-yard lead on a strong field. The half was 2:07.7, and she looked magnificent, her jaw loose, her arms carried without a trace of effort. "It looked easy then," she would say, "because I was slowing down." Ahead by half a lap, she had no immediate goad save the shrieking crowd, and ran splits of 68.1 and 68.8 to finish in 4:24.6, 3.9 faster than Francie Larrieu's women's world indoor record of 4:28.5 set in 1975. Yet Decker Tabb had run 4:17.6 in 1980 in Houston on a track too large to qualify for an indoor mark, so she didn't consider this a landmark effort. "I've had so few races that it's still hard to push myself in the middle," she said. Indeed, after the Sunkist mile she had trotted half a lap and given an embarrassed shrug. "When I go hard in a workout, my butt gets sore, I get tired. But now nothing hurts."
The reason for that is the stamina she has built over the fall and winter, running twice a day with Ron. Once over-distance runs were difficult for her. Her gift was speed. The endurance to sustain it had to be earned. "But now we do 10 miles in 56 minutes and it feels easy," said Decker Tabb. "I've done very little speed training." With more of that, her mile time will surely plummet to the vicinity she intends, say 4:10. "I'm honestly going to stay healthy," she said. "I am, because I'm going to be consistent. I'm going to listen to Ron and my coach, Dick Brown, when they say to rest. I am, because with Ron I'm feeling like a whole person instead of a hollow one."
That remark would win her the uplift award at any meet except this one. But the women's high jump was a poignant mixture of rugged competition and madonna poses. Present on the infield, and passed around among the jumpers, was baby Neil. "Oh, he really likes me," said Louise Ritter, whose leap of 6'4" was second to Neil's mother's, who cleared 6'5" and had three respectable misses at an indoor world record 6'6�". But Brill, who has represented Canada in international competition for 13 years, turns out to have dual U.S.-Canadian citizenship because her mother is from El Segundo, Calif., so the 6'5" jump becomes the American indoor record, replacing Joni Huntley's 6'4�". "Not bad," said Brill's roommate and training partner during this indoor season, javelin thrower Kate Schmidt, "for being anemic and trying to get back gradually."
But Brill, 28, felt she had never really been away. She said, "At the start of 1980 I said, 'I'll jump this year and then have a baby.' Greg [Ray, her longtime boyfriend] and I wanted children, and in that year there were good jumps and there were a lot of terrible jumps, and there was a part of me saying, 'There is more to life than this.' "