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U.S. OLYMPIC TRACK AND FIELD TRIALS : Griffith-Joyner Fails in Record Try : She Wins 200 in 21.85; Foster's Luck Runs Out

July 24, 1988|RANDY HARVEY | Times Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS — Greg Foster, his left arm broken in two places, did not make it through the semifinals of the 110-meter hurdles. Florence Griffith-Joyner did not break the world record in the women's 200 meters. John Powell did not make his fifth Olympic team in the discus throw.

So why did so many people feel so good Saturday after the ninth and final day of the U.S. Olympic track and field trials at the Indiana-Purdue University Stadium?

It could be because they had witnessed one of the most memorable meets of all time, a meet in which Griffith-Joyner ran the women's 100 meters in 10.49 seconds to shatter the world record, Jackie Joyner-Kersee became the first woman to surpass 7,200 points in the heptathlon, two men ran faster than 44 seconds in the 400 meters for the first time in 20 years, and veterans such as Carl Lewis, Edwin Moses, Mary Decker Slaney, Mac Wilkins and Willie Banks proved that they still have their fastballs.

Fast. That is the best way to describe the U.S. track and field team that will begin competition Sept. 23 in the Olympic Games at Seoul.

The United States sent a team to the World Championships in Rome last year that won a disappointing 19 medals, 12 fewer than were won by the East Germans. Among the U.S. medalists, seven are not going to Seoul.

Yet, the U.S. head coaches, Stan Huntsman and Terry Crawford, both of the University of Texas, said Saturday that the United States is sending its best track and field team ever to the Olympics. Huntsman may get an argument from those who remember the 1968 men's team that won 12 gold medals in Mexico City, but Crawford is safe in her comment that no U.S. women's team has ever had this much talent.

While almost everyone seemed a little giddy after the last event on a hot, but not-too-hot, Saturday, a day jammed with nine finals before a capacity crowd of 13,796, it was difficult to remember that the afternoon began on a sad note for one of the United States' most decorated track and field athletes.

Less than three weeks after 14 screws and 5 plates were placed in his broken left arm, the result of a July 4 training accident, Foster's valiant attempt to make the Olympic team ended in the semifinals of the 110-meter hurdles.

Foster, a former UCLA athlete who lives in Chino Hills, survived the first two rounds Friday night, but wearing an even more extensive hand-to-elbow bandage Saturday, he clipped the fourth and fifth hurdles, almost knocked over the sixth and then crashed into the seventh before quitting the race.

"I got tangled up with (Keith Talley in) Lane 8 for a second," he said. "That threw me off a little bit, and I wasn't able to recover.

"I promised the doctor before I left Los Angeles that I wouldn't fall. If I started to go down, I was going to pull up. The doctor said that if I fell and broke the arm again, he didn't want to be the one to put it back together."

As he left the track, Foster, a two-time world champion, received a standing ovation from the crowd. Later, after the final, the three hurdlers who made the team--Roger Kingdom (13.21 after a 1988-best-in-the world time of 13.14 in the semifinal), Tonie Campbell (13.25) and Arthur Blake (13.28)--also applauded Foster.

"My hat's off to Greg Foster, if I had a hat," said Campbell, who lives in Ontario and has been a not-so-friendly rival of Foster's. "He's one of the most courageous men that I've ever seen. He's your front-page story. We're going to Seoul, but we're carrying the torch for him."

Of all the races Saturday, the most interesting were the two 1,500s.

In the men's metric mile, Tim Simpson of Lyndonville, Vt., ran the first 800 meters as if he were trying to make the U.S. team in that event, finishing two laps 25 meters ahead of the rest of the field in 2:00.09.

Predictably, he wilted in the next 200 meters, going from first to next-to-last, as Jeff Atkinson of Manhattan Beach and two-time Olympian Steve Scott of Fallbrook took over the pace. They battled for the last 300 meters, Atkinson holding a half-step lead all the way to the finish line. He was timed in 3:40.94 to Scott's 3:41.12.

It was surprising enough that Atkinson, 25, made the team, because his highest U.S. ranking ever was fifth in 1986. But the third-place finisher, Mark Deady, 20, of Prairieville, Ill. was a stunner.

He was second in the NCAA Championships for Indiana University this year, but the only college miler thought to have a chance in this field was NCAA champion Joe Falcon of Arkansas. He finished 11th, just ahead of Simpson.

In making the team, Deady, who was caught in the pack with 100 meters remaining, had to outsprint Jim Spivey of Glen Ellyn, Ill., third in the 1987 World Championships. Deady ran 3:41.12 to Spivey's 3:41.52.

As the alternate, Spivey may still go to Seoul because Deady has not met the Olympic qualifying time of 3:38.50. He has until September.

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