NEW YORK — When a track and field athlete sets a world record, it's noted and then, more often than not, forgotten by all but the sport's most faithful followers.
But when track athletes make public a feud, it's a gift to the sport's promoters that keeps on giving.
Ruth Wysocki's entry in the 2,000-meter run at the Sunkist Invitational in January was of some interest because it was her first race against Mary Decker Slaney since beating Slaney at 1,500 meters in the Olympic trials.
It became of great interest, generating numerous headlines, only after she made critical remarks about Slaney during a press conference.
Wysocki was called upon in the days afterward to do so many extra interviews that the meet's promoter, Al Franken, felt obligated to pay her more money than they originally had agreed upon for her appearance fee.
That was only fair since Franken, in part because of Wysocki's efforts, was able to sell out the meet.
There is no question that Wysocki's comments about Decker were sincere. She did not make them for the publicity value. In fact, she said she didn't realize until she read the newspapers the next morning that her comments had publicity value.
But there is a suspicion that other athletes were taking notes.
The latest feud is between Valerie Brisco-Hooks and Diane Dixon, who recently were running hand-in-hand around the track at the Meadowlands after a race, but since have decided they are enemies. For a while here last week, there were daily stories about their feud.
Dixon later admitted she barely knows Brisco-Hooks and couldn't understand why the winner of three Olympic gold medals felt the need to put her down.
Asked to explain, Brisco-Hooks said: "It's not a rivalry. It's just one of those things to get people to notice the people who are behind you, who are good. Most of the women in this sport have gone too long without much attention."
Perhaps the most surprising new feud is, according to the New York Times, one between milers John Walker and Steve Scott, close friends for several years.
When Walker reached 99 in his quest to become the first man to run 100 sub-four-minute miles, Scott was at 95. Scott asked Walker to wait for him to catch up so they could run their 100th against one another. When Walker refused, Scott called Walker a coward.
When Walker ran No. 100 two weeks ago in his New Zealand hometown, he said: "Eat your heart out, Steve Scott."
Scott then repeated his charge against Walker and challenged him to a grudge match in New Zealand in March.
Will they race for the 200 mark?
"Impossible," said Walker, 33.
"Oh yeah?" said Scott, 28. "Two hundred, that's a reasonable goal."
Jimmy Howard was satisfied with his winning high jump of 7 feet 8 inches in the USA-Mobil indoor championships at Madison Square Garden last weekend. It was only half an inch short of the American record he had set a week earlier.
The next morning, he learned that it had been only the second-best jump of the day. In West Berlin, Sweden's Patrik Sjoberg had set a world record at 7-9 3/4.
A day later, Howard's jump ranked as only the third-best of the weekend. West Germany's Dietmar Moegenburg, the Olympic champion, broke Sjoberg's day-old record with a jump of 7-10 in Cologne, West Germany. That equaled Chinese high jumper Zhu Jianhua's world outdoor record.
In an interview here last Monday, three days after the indoor championships, Howard said he expects the record to be improved to 7-10 1/2.
"Moegenburg, Sjoberg and Zhu are all capable of going 7-10 1/2 this summer," Howard said. "I hope I have a chance."
As for the possibility of an 8-foot jump in the near future, Howard said he believes Moegenburg will be the first to clear it.
"He's got the perfect high-jumper build--6-8, 175," Howard said. "Sometimes, I just know he could clear 7-10 1/2 with no problem. I've seen him clear 7-6 1/2 by four inches or more. One of these days, he'll jump 8 feet if he stays healthy."
Howard said high jumpers have improved dramatically in recent years because of the introduction of legal money to the sport, which has allowed them to compete longer.
"High jumpers used to quit when they were 22 or 23," said Howard, an engineer in Houston. "Now, many of the best high jumpers are 25 or older."
Howard, 25, was outstanding last year until the Olympic trials, when he failed to clear a height. But he has emerged as the United States' best high jumper this indoor season, having cleared 7-7 in six of seven meets.
That despite predictions by Dwight Stones that Howard would be jumping no higher than 7-3 by the end of the indoor season because of his form.
"I'm not sure my form is so bad," Howard said. "That's Dwight's opinion only."
Pittsburgh's Roger Kingdom, Olympic champion in the high hurdles, said he feels limited by competing in only one event. His solution is to become a decathlete.
"I like the sound of best athlete in the world," said Kingdom, 22.