The anticipated UCLA-BYU dual track and field meet came to Provo Monday and promptly fizzled under the hot mountain sun. The Bruins barely showed up. Roll call, please. Olympic champ Steve Lewis? Not here. Sprinter Mike Marsh? Not here. Hurdler Derek Knight? Nope. Distance runner Mark Dani? Ditto.
With four of their top athletes injured, the Bruins requested that Monday's meet not be scored as a team competition, apparently to protect their unbeaten streak of 43 consecutive meets. This is the rough equivalent of the Chicago Bears asking that the scoreboard be turned off because Jim McMahon's arm hurts, but the BYU coaches agreed, although not happily."That's the way you preserve (the streak)," said BYU Coach Willard Hirschi. "But it should be scored. It creates more interest. When we went to LSU (last month), we knew we were in trouble. We didn't take a lot of people either, because we were injured. But we scored it."
Without the likes of Lewis to watch, without a team race to cheer for, the 200 or so fans who gathered at BYU for Monday's meet settled for the weekly rerun of The Frank Fredericks Show, plus a gritty steeplechase race. There was also a bonus: Jackie Joyner Kersee, the Olympic long jump and heptathlon champ, accompanied her husband, Bobby Kersee, the UCLA women's coach, to Monday's meet and took a bow. Somebody should have put her on the program, say, in the women's 200, which was canceled for lack of interest. No one entered the race.
As has become his weekly habit, Fredericks, BYU's unbeaten sophomore sprinter, won the 100- and 200-meter dashes handily, but he wasn't perfect. After all, he made up only 91/2 meters of a 10-meter deficit while running the anchor leg of the 4x100 relay, which was won by an unattached team of current and former BYU athletes - Ken Henderson, Paul Scarlett, football player Stacy Corley and Joe Ngassa.
It looked like it wasn't going to be Fredericks' day when, minutes later, his blocks slipped at the start of the 100. He stumbled, but, not to worry, he recovered to run 10.46 - into a headwind. Fredericks returned later to win the 200 with a letting-off-the-gas time of 20.72.
"I felt someone at 70 meters, so I shifted into another gear, but then I felt my hamstring twinge and let up at the end," said Fredericks, who rates among the dash favorites for the NCAA meet, which will be held May 31-June 3 in Provo.
Like Fredericks, steeplechasers Kris Cary of Weber State and Ted Mecham of BYU found themselves racing mostly the clock Monday, but for entirely different reasons. Both still needed to meet the qualifying marks for the NCAA meet.
Mecham, a runner-up in the NCAA championships steeplechase a year ago, already has been tabbed this year's NCAA favorite by Track & Field News, but, with the meet just four weeks away, he has yet to meet the qualifying time of 8:48.00 (or 8:59.0 at altitude). Ditto for Cary, who three times had come within one second of qualifying for the NCAA championships, the last time by a scant .04 of a second.
"He hasn't been aggressive," said Weber Coach Chick Hislop, but this time Cary was too aggressive. He opened with a 66-second first lap - a pace so stiff that his rabbit, Brad Barton, never was able to lead the race. "He put everyone in oxygen debt right away and it hurt them," said Hislop.
Cary, slowing to more sensible 70-second laps, was never challenged and was on pace for the qualifying mark throughout the race. Mecham labored at the back of the pack, 25 meters behind. "Everytime I hurt I thought of Mike Murphy," said Cary, referring to a teammate who has been hospitalized for two weeks since undergoing emergency brain surgery following a pole vault accident. "I told him I'd qualify today."
With two laps to go, Cary slowed to a 73-second lap and Mecham closed, but Cary turned a 70-second gun lap, coming home in 8:57.08 - two seconds below qualifying; Mecham, losing his first steeplechase of the year, was a distant second, at 9:07.07.
Wanting to be invited to its own party, BYU hoped to qualify several Cougars for the NCAA meet, but it didn't happen. Sue Christiansen, the often-injured senior hurdle star, hoped to meet the stiff qualifying mark of 13.60 while running against a superb group of UCLA hurdlers, but the best she could do was 14.00 and fourth place.