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The Long Run

BEST OF SPORTS / TRACK AND FIELD

Track and Field in L.A. Has a Storied History and an Uncertain Future

December 29, 1999|EARL GUSTKEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Johnson, of course, was four years away from an epic matchup with a UCLA teammate from Taiwan, C.K. Yang, in the Olympic decathlon in Rome. The two close friends battled each other for two days, and came to the final event, the 1,500 meters, with Johnson leading by only 24 points. Johnson ran a lifetime best of 4:49.7 to win the gold medal.

And those among the 7,750 who were there will never forget the 1964 Compton Invitational when, for the first time, the first eight finishers in the mile--led by Dyrol Burleson--all broke four minutes.

USC athletes--who won 26 NCAA championships--dominated the first seven decades of the century, but UCLA's rose to world prominence in the later years.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee--who also played basketball at UCLA--broke the world heptathlon world record four times in a 26-month period between 1986 and 1988. She dominated the event for 10 years, winning Olympic gold twice. Often, in major meets, she competed in the heptathlon and long jump, often winning both.

UCLA sprinter Evelyn Ashford twice broke the world record in the 100 meters (10.79 and 10.76), and won the Olympic championship in 1984. She won relay golds in three Olympic Games.

UCLA's Gail Devers, at Atlanta in 1996, became the first woman sprinter since Wyomia Tyus in 1968 to win the 100-meter Olympic title twice.

High jumper Dwight Stones, also from UCLA, broke the world record three times between 1973 and '76. Another Bruin, John Smith, ran the 440 in 44.5 for a world mark in 1971.

All in all, for most of it, a grand century.

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