SAN DIEGO — Steve Scott never thought he would feel good about finishing second, but these have been abnormal times for the veteran miler from Fallbrook.
Prior to Sunday, Scott had had such a rough time on the indoor track circuit this winter that he was beginning to wonder if he was losing his touch at 30. When he finally ran his first sub-4-minute mile of the season as runner-up to Jose Abascal in the Michelob Invitational at the San Diego Sports Arena, he was able to quit worrying.
Abascal, from Madrid, rebounded from a tough defeat in The Times/GTE Games Friday night by beating Scott in 3 minutes 56.2 seconds. But Scott was only a couple of strides away in 3:56.4, and he talked like a winner afterward.
"I felt good going in," Scott said. "I told the rest of the runners at the starting line, 'I have a big following watching me, so anyone who beats me is going to get lynched.' Obviously, something got lost in the translation between Jose and me.
"When you have a string of three bad races, you tend to go into the last lap of a race with a negative attitude. But I've been concentrating on thinking positively in spite of the way I've been running, and that helped. Even though I didn't win, I feel better about myself now than I have all season."
Scott said that only a piece of faulty strategy had cost him the race.
"I figured I had to slow down in the last lap so I wouldn't break with tradition and win a race," he said. "Seriously, Abascal is not noted for winning with a kick, so I thought I could turn it on earlier than usual and stay ahead of him.
"As it turned out, he was faster on the last lap than I was. He went past me on the backstretch, and I couldn't catch him.
"Ordinarily, Jose will make his move with about 600 meters to go, so I thought it would be better for me to move early. I was wrong. I made my move too soon. If I had been more confident of my ability, I would have waited. But all I wanted to do was be competitive and feel good, and I did what I set out to do."
This originally was to have been Scott's seventh--and probably last--race of the indoor season, but he dropped out of three meets in January.
"I felt like not racing again until I put something together," Scott said. "Now that I had a good race today, I've finished the indoor season on a positive note. My goal for the year is the outdoor world championships in Rome late this summer. I think I'm on target for that now."
As good as he felt about himself, Scott was far less positive about the status of indoor track in general.
"I'm concerned about the health of the winter circuit," he said. "To be honest, I think it's on a downswing. Two meets folded this year, one in Chicago and one in Toronto, and five others appear to be hurting--the one here, the Sunkist and Times meets in Los Angeles, and meets in Dallas and the Meadowlands (East Rutherford, N.J.). It isn't a good trend."
Sunday's meet drew a crowd of 7,500, and Scott said the turnout would have been much greater if Irish miler Eamonn Coghlan had been here. Coghlan, a longtime San Diego favorite, has vowed never to run the Michelob again because of a dispute with promoter Al Franken.
"We had a good field in the mile today," Scott said. "I would have stacked it against almost any other field on the circuit. The only key people missing were Eamonn and Marcus O'Sullivan. If Eamonn had said he was going to San Diego and shooting for a world record, we would have had a full house.
"Another thing that hurts the circuit is not having Mary Decker (Slaney). We need matchups. For example, Eamonn and O'Sullivan always put on a great race, but I'm not sure people will pay to see another Irishman run against Eamonn. They want international rivalries.
"Also, some of the athletes have to change their attitudes. There seems to be a feeling that the indoor circuit needs them. The truth of the matter is that it's the other way around.
"We all need indoor meets to work on our speed and competitiveness. Besides that, we need a break from the outdoor grind. Training outdoors all year 'round can get awfully boring."