EUGENE, Ore. — Pam Marshall was sitting on twin ice packs and explaining to reporters where she had come from. "From out of nowhere," was the going description.
Marshall had just won the women's 100 meters Friday at the USA/Mobil outdoor track and field championships--and both Olympian Alice Brown and world record-holder Evelyn Ashford were trying to figure out which speed zone Marshall had just blasted out of.
Marshall led four women to sub-11-second performances in the fastest 100-meter race ever among American women. The fact that Marshall ran 10.80 with a brisk wind at her back did little to lessen the impact of her astounding upset.
Brown, the 1984 100-meter silver medalist, was second in 10.84; Ashford, the gold medalist, was third in 10.85, and Diane Williams was fourth in 10.92. Gail Devers of UCLA was fifth in 11-flat.
All five women train in Los Angeles.
The race in the cool late afternoon had started as dozens of others had between Brown and Ashford. That is to say that Brown exploded out of the blocks and led the first one-third of the race. Brown, whose best race is 60 meters indoors, usually leads, then hands it over to the late-charging Ashford.
That almost happened Friday. The difference was that when Ashford made her move at 50 meters, she noticed that, "The jets weren't going."
With Brown slightly ahead of Ashford, and the finish line a few strides away, Marshall surged to a clear victory.
Brown and Ashford felt like hit-and-run victims. "She just galloped out of the blue," Ashford said.
"When did I see Pam Marshall?" Brown said, repeating a reporter's question. "I saw Pam on my last stride. I wasn't aware of her, at all, during the race."
Ashford, whose record is 10.76, has just about been the franchise in sprinting for American women. When she took last season off to have a baby, sprinters like Brown predicted the end of the Ashford dynasty.
"I've said all along that there are other American runners besides Evelyn," said Brown, who hastened to add, "Evelyn didn't run a shabby race today."
Ashford thinks so, or did. All she knew immediately was that she had lost. "I never expected to run my best and lose," she said. "That's a new experience."