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Track and Field : Weary O'Sullivan Wary of Tonight's Competition

February 26, 1988|Mal Florence

Ireland's Marcus O'Sullivan has been unbeatable in the mile during the indoor season and is heir apparent to the title Chairman of the Boards, a distinction held by his countryman, Eamonn Coglan.

O'Sullivan also ran the third- fastest indoor mile of all time, 3 minutes 50.94 seconds in the U.S. Olympic Invitational meet Feb. 13 at East Rutherford, N.J.

However, he says he's tired, mentally and physically, and wouldn't be surprised if he's unable to successfully defend his mile title tonight in the USA/Mobil indoor championships at Madison Square Garden.

Brian Abshire, who set a U.S. record of 7:41.57 in the 3,000 meters Feb. 13, could be too strong tonight. "Brian is in very good shape," O'Sullivan said. "He took the 3,000 out early and ran by himself. He might feel it's best to take it (the mile) out hard again, and I will have to stay with him.

"But I'm tired. I'm coming to the end of my indoor season."

It's the 100th anniversary of the indoor national meet, and some events are scheduled today, such as the women's long jump that begins at 11:30 a.m.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee, the U.S. indoor record-holder in the long jump at 23 feet 1/2 inch, will not compete in her special event today. She has been bothered by a sore right hamstring.

However, she's scheduled to compete in the 55-meter hurdles, aiming for another U.S. record, her own at 7.44 seconds. She set a U.S. record of 7.88 in the 60-meter hurdles in a meet in Fairfax, Va., Feb. 14.

Attention will also be focused on Gwen Torrence, who has 38 consecutive sprint victories indoors. She hasn't lost since Jan. 18, 1986.

Renaldo Nehemiah won't compete in the 55-meter hurdles tonight at Madison Square Garden. His comeback is on hold while he tries to regain the flawless technique that identified him as the world's best hurdler six years ago.

Nehemiah has been an also-ran on the indoor circuit this season, usually chasing Greg Foster and Tonie Campbell. He said he has been more of a promotional figurehead than an accomplished hurdler.

"I need other eyes to look at me," said Nehemiah, who has been coaching himself. "I haven't lost any speed, just my technique."

So Nehemiah has turned to his former Scotch Plains, N.J., high school coach, Gene Poquette, to smooth out the rough edges.

Poquette, who is a business administrator now for high schools in New Jersey, is willing to take on Nehemiah as a pupil, even though his time is limited.

"If I didn't believe he was capable of regaining his old form, I wouldn't be doing this," Poquette said.

So the number of quarrelsome hurdlers has been reduced for a while. Only Foster and Campbell are left to snipe at one another as they've been doing for several months (years?).

Track Notes

Carl Lewis' manager, Joe Douglas, said there is a possibility of a 100-meter race matching Lewis and Ben Johnson June 5 at the Pepsi Invitational at Westwood. Douglas said he has contacted NBC, which is televising the meet, to determine whether the network is interested in sponsoring the famous athletes. However, Johnson's agent, Larry Heidebrecht, said in New York that that Lewis and Johnson will most likely have one race before the Olympic Games, and it definitely would be in Europe. Johnson beat Lewis in the world record time of 9.83 seconds Aug. 30 in the World Championships at Rome. . . . Several foreign athletes will be competing tonight in New York, including Romania's Doina Melinte, who set an indoor mile world record of 4:18.86 Feb. 13, and Soviet Union pole vaulter Rodion Gataullin, who won last Friday at the Forum with a vault of 19-2 3/4. He didn't enter the competition until the bar was raised to 18-8 and with all of the U.S. vaulters already eliminated. . . . Quarter miler Antonio McKay and sprinter Ben Johnson are tied for first with 60 points in men's overall standings in the Mobil Indoor Grand Prix. Johnson isn't competing now because of a minor leg injury. Walker Maryanne Torrellas is the women's leader with 72 points followed by Jackie Joyner-Kersee with 62 points.

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