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Selection of Olympic Track Team Begins : Trials Get Under Way in Indianapolis Today, Conclude July 23

July 15, 1988|RANDY HARVEY | Times Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS — At a time when the United States dominated track and field, the nation's Olympic trials were considered by some as the world's best meet, even more competitive than the Olympics.

Today, long after the rest of the world has caught or passed the United States in many events, the U.S. trials still represent the world's best meet from 400 meters down. That is particularly true in the men's competition, although the U.S. women sprinters no longer bow to anyone, not even the East Germans.

The U.S. trials are as unsympathetic as any other event in sports. Even if you are a two-time world champion, such as Greg Foster, your credentials will not earn you a place on the Olympic team.

Foster, a high hurdler, broke his arm 11 days ago, but like most of the other competitors here, he will not qualify to go to Seoul, Korea, unless he finishes among the top three in his event. The only exceptions are those athletes who are named to relay teams.

The United States may have the only track and field team in the world that leaves potential medalists at home. East German and Soviet officials select their teams. But in the United States, only the strongest--and the fastest--survive.

Echoing the sentiments of many athletes, high hurdler Tonie Campbell, who finished fifth in the 1984 Games, said, "I think there's more pressure at the trials than at the Olympics."

The trials begin today on the Indiana University/Purdue University at Indianapolis campus. There is one final tonight, the men's shotput. But before the end of the weekend, the Olympic team will also be determined in nine other events--the men's 100, 400-meter intermediate hurdles, high jump, triple jump, javelin throw and 20-kilometer walk, and the women's 100, 3,000 and heptathlon. The trials continue through July 23.

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Sprints

As usual, the United States has more sprinters than it has places on the Olympic team. Of the world's 10 fastest men this year in the 100, 8 are Americans. Of the world's 10 fastest men in the 200, 9 are Americans.

Carl Lewis remains the best of the best in both events. Although he may not run the 200 in the Olympics because of a scheduling conflict, he will compete in both short sprints at the trials along with the long jump.

After Lewis, there are a number of sprinters who could contend for medals in Seoul. The University of Houston's Joe DeLoach and the University of Florida's Dennis Mitchell have the world's fastest times this year in the 100 (10.03). DeLoach also has the second-fastest time in the 200 (19.98) behind Mississippi State's Lorenzo Daniel (19.87).

Daniel has been bothered by a pulled leg muscle that will prevent him from competing in the 100, but his coach said this week that the sprinter is 90% recovered and could challenge Lewis and 1987 world champion Calvin Smith in the 200.

Two other prominent 100 runners, 1987 national champion Mark Witherspoon and Brian Cooper, also are less than 100% because of leg injuries.

In the 400, UCLA's Danny Everett has emerged as the favorite. His 44.34 is the fastest time in the world this year at sea level. His teammate, freshman Steve Lewis, has the second-fastest time at sea level (44.65).

Among the veterans, Roddie Haley, formerly of the University of Arkansas, appears to be the most fit. Six weeks ago, Butch Reynolds could have been considered an Olympic medal favorite. But he pulled his hamstring in a June workout and has competed only once since, winning a race in Indianapolis two weeks ago in a disappointing 45.93. In an interview this week, he did not sound confident that he will make the team.

Hurdles

Could it be that two-time Olympic champion Edwin Moses will not make the U.S. team?

No one who values his money should bet against Moses, but, for the first time in his career, there are three other 400-meter intermediate hurdlers in the United States to challenge him.

The leading contender could be UCLA's Kevin Young, whose 47.85 is the world's fastest time. Moses' 48.27 is second. The question is whether the relatively inexperienced Young can handle three rounds of trials pressure.

Danny Harris of Perris, Calif., who, in 1984, was younger than Young is now, won the silver medal at the Olympics. He has run 48.56 this year, fourth-fastest in the world. The other contender is Andre Phillips, formerly of UCLA. He appeared to be in excellent shape early this year, but he since has dropped out of sight. Sources in San Jose, where Phillips trains, say he looks good.

Even before Foster broke his arm, 1984 Olympic champion Roger Kingdom was favored in the 110-meter high hurdles. Kingdom, whose 13.15 is the world's fastest time, is unbeaten in seven races this year.

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