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Better Late Than Never: Runner Returns After Long Layoff : At 22, Hurdler Greg Maslyk Is No Champ, but He Wins Admiration for His Grit

April 11, 1985|SCOTT HOWARD-COOPER | Times Staff Writer

Greg Maslyk's name was nowhere to be found among the top six finishers in the 110-meter high hurdles March 23 at UC Irvine, and it wasn't a big surprise.

In fact, it figures to happen a lot this season. He would be the first to admit it.

Yet he still holds a special place on the team at Cal State Los Angeles. Coach John Tansley would be the first to admit that.

Maslyk, from Burbank High and Pierce College, has endeared himself to coaches and teammates with his determination, sense of humor and positive attitude. He has returned to competition this year as a college junior at age 22.

Four years of athletic inactivity has made the going tough every step of the way for the 6-1, 150-pound runner.

A glorified comeback this isn't.

Parents Astonished

"I told my parents I was going to run track again and they just kind of looked at me," he said. "They weren't against it, they just couldn't believe it.

"I think most of the guys on the team were trying to hide their surprise when I first came out, too. It was more like, 'Why are you bothering us? There's not much (talent) there, so why don't you just leave it alone?' I'm not much older than them, but they've been competing all the time.

"I wasn't nervous my first race, and that was the main thing. I remember that distinctly. I guess it's because I've been around so many track meets watching and coaching that I've just gotten used to it. But halfway through the race I realized I wasn't a spectator anymore. I was just dead last."

Maslyk thought the end of his athletic career had come in 1980 with a fifth-place finish in the Foothill League finals during his senior year at Burbank. He graduated a month later with a personal best in the 120-yard hurdles of 16.0, which hardly brought a swarm of college recruiters, and ended up enrolling at L. A. Trade Tech

Assisted Burbank Coach

He spent one semester there, dropped out, then transferred to Pierce. He spent three years at the junior college, which did not have a track team.

"I wasn't in the accelerated program," he says. "Nobody told me it was only a two-year school."

While going to Pierce, Maslyk stayed involved in track as an assistant coach to Howard Edelman at Burbank High--working mostly with the hurdlers and sprinters. In September, he transferred to Cal State and, after talking with Edelman and deciding that he missed the sport, began to work out in December.

"I think the first indication came last year," Edelman said. "He was working with Mike Wilke, who went onto become league champion in the 120 high hurdles.

"He went out after having hardly worked out for all those years and did some pretty good times and even beat (Wilke) a few times. I think that kind of brought out those old feelings of competition."

Coach Sees His Value

Maslyk, who has a career best of 15.8, is the No. 4 high hurdler on the Cal State team. Seven years ago, Chester Hart set the school record at 13.81.

As Tansley sees it, however, Maslyk is a solid fourth leg for the shuttle-hurdle relays. If Maslyk can shave about half a second off his time, Tansley added, he might make the finals in the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. championships in May.

According to Edelman, Maslyk doesn't have to be the best hurdler around, he just has to be there.

"Greg won the award as the most inspirational athlete on the team his senior year," Edelman said.

So what if he spends much of his time at the back of the pack? This guy was thrilled just to get his free pair of running spikes.

'Hoping to Be Competitive'

"I'm just hoping to be competitive, especially this year," he said. "I hope to get down to the low 15s. Then I'll evaluate the year and see if it was worthwhile. As long as I'm serious and still enjoying it, I'll want to keep doing it and come out for my senior year."

Tansley, who admits that at first he didn't think Maslyk had much of a chance to stick with the team, hopes there will be a next year.

"Hey, I'll take all the Maslyks I can get," he said. "They don't cause problems, they work hard and they get good grades. With all the problems some coaches have, it's a pleasure to have guys like him out there."

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