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U.S. TRACK AND FIELD TRIALS : Griffith-Joyner Sets 100 Record : Her 10.49 Tops Ashford by .27; Joyner-Kersee Breaks Her Mark

July 17, 1988|RANDY HARVEY | Times Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS — Overshadowing her sister-in-law, which is an accomplishment in itself, Florence Griffith-Joyner, of the Los Angeles Griffith-Joyner-Kersees, made her own history Saturday as she broke the world record in the women's 100 meters.

Did someone say broke ?

Jackie Joyner-Kersee broke her own world record in the heptathlon Saturday, finishing with 7,215 points in seven events over two days to beat her previous best by 57 points.

But what Griffith-Joyner did to the 100-meter record is almost beyond words.

For four years, the world record was the 10.76 seconds that another American, Evelyn Ashford, ran in Zurich, Switzerland 17 days after she won the 1984 Olympic gold medal.

At the 1988 U.S. Olympic track and field trials, in a traditionally quiet quarterfinal heat, Griffith-Joyner ran a 10.49.

To put that into perspective, Canadian Ben Johnson's 9.83 in the men's 100 meters at the 1987 World Championships in Rome was called one of the sport's greatest performances of all time, rivaling Bob Beamon's legendary 1968 long jump, because it broke the previous world record by one-tenth of a second.

So what did it say for Griffith-Joyner's performance when she shattered the world record by almost three-tenths of a second? Before Saturday, the women's record had been lowered by only .12 in 11 years.

Some among the 11,567 spectators, including numerous track and field authorities, at the Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianpolis Stadium said it was unbelievable.

No one argued with the time, but there was a question whether Griffith-Joyner could run it with no wind at her back.

Although flags flapping furiously atop the stadium indicated otherwise, and although virtually every other race during the day was run in a gusting wind registering well over the 2.0 meters per second allowable for record consideration, the gauge after Griffith-Joyner crossed the finish line indicated that there was no wind. Anyone whose hat was blown off his head during the race knew better.

A Swiss official from Omega, which operates the wind gauges, explained that the 0.00 reading did not necessarily mean there was no wind. Peter Huertzeler said it was evident that there was wind, perhaps even wind at Griffith-Joyner's back for part of the race.

But at the time the wind was measured, he said there was a cross-wind, which registers as no wind at all since it presumably does not enhance an athlete's performance.

Creating further curiosity, the gauge also registered no wind in the next heat, won by Sheila Echols of Baton Rouge, La. in 10.83, making her the fourth-fastest performer of all time.

Even Huertzeler said he had never seen readings of 0.00 in consecutive races.

But he said he checked the machinery and is satisfied that it was accurate.

"As far as I'm concerned, we're sticking with it," he said.

Therefore, U.S. officials said they believe Griffith-Joyner's record will be ratified by the International Amateur Athletic Federation, which governs the sport, unless she makes it unnecessary by running faster in today's semifinals or final.

The Los Angeles native, a 1983 UCLA graduate, already had established herself as a threat to Ashford's record in the first heat Saturday, running 10.60 with a prevailing wind of 3.2 m.p.s. It was only the third time she had run the 100 meters this year.

So the elements continued to compete with the athletes for attention at the trials. After two days, they're about even, which is saying something for the athletes because the weather is setting all sorts of records.

Friday, the temperature was 103 degrees, but combined with the humidity, it felt like 115. Saturday, the high temperature was 96, and it felt like 103. The breeze might have helped under other circumstances, but it just blew hot air.

The athletes, however, made the best of it, and some of the resulting performances were little short of incredible.

A spokesman for The Athletics Congress, which oversees track and field in the United States, called it "the greatest day in track and field history."

Well, it certainly was one of the most interesting.

With a wind of 5.2 meters per second at their backs, seven men ran under 10.0 in the 100 meters, and four were under 9.90. Carl Lewis won in the fastest time in history, 9.78 seconds, although it will be listed in the record books as wind-aided and not considered a world record.

The other two men who will represent the United States in the 100 at the Olympics are the University of Florida's Dennis Mitchell (9.86) and former world record-holder Calvin Smith (9.87). Smith also ran 9.87 in his semifinal heat Saturday, aided by a wind of 4.9 m.p.s.

World record-holder Willie Banks twice went farther than anyone else ever has in winning the the triple jump, 59 feet 3 inches on his first attempt with a wind of 4.9 m.p.s. at his back and 59-8 1/2 on his last attempt with a wind of 5.2 m.p.s. at his back.

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