The open and masters track and field competition of the Utah Summer Games came and went Thursday afternoon and the name of the game was beat the heat. With temperatures well over 100 degrees on the track, shade was a valuable commodity. Spectators huddled at the top of the Thunderbird Stadium stands in the shade of the press box, gradually moving down as the sun dropped into the western sky. Athletes hid from the strength-sapping sun under scaffolding set up for closing ceremonies, venturing out just long enough to race and then quickly returning to their hideouts.
"I can't believe how hot it is out on the track," said miler Gordon Hyde.But if the temperatures were hot, so were some of the day's performances. Before the day was finished, so many meet records had fallen that Games officials had yet to tabulate them all.
Hyde himself had a hand in rewriting the record book - twice. Three weeks ago he was outkicked by Darrell Gardner in a TAC meet at East High School, but this time he turned the tables. He blew past Gardner on the homestretch to claim the gold medal and a time of 4:24.3. That mark broke the meet record by some two seconds, but Hyde was nonetheless unimpressed.
"When I run a 4:24 mile, something's wrong - the heat takes a lot out of you," he said.
The heat was especially tough on the longer races, which made Hyde's double all the more impressive. Earlier in the day he pulled away from Ed Murrell midway through the 5,000-meter run and won the first gold medal of the day, with a time of 15:32.4, 17 seconds under the meet record.
Despite the heat, the records continued to tumble throughout the long, hot afternoon, partly because many of the records are just plain soft, partly because the talent is improving and partly because two weeks ago the track was resurfaced.
"This is a much faster surface now," said long jumper Adrian Sampson.
Sampson then went out and leaped 25-21/2, breaking his own meet record by two inches but missing his ultimate goal. "I needed 26 feet to qualify for the Olympic Trials," said Sampson, who will go to California in search of another 10 inches and more competition. His only competition Thursday was his identical twin brother, Aaron, who finished second behind Aaron for the second consecutive year, with a mark of 23-103/4.
Unlike the Sampsons, Terry Okelberry, a Weber State All-American, has already qualified for the Olympic Trials in the javelin. She appeared to be in fine form on Thursday, throwing the spear 171-51/2, which broke the meet record by some 48 feet and just missed her personal record.
One of the day's most impressive performances came from Dan John, a religion teacher at Judge Memorial High who dabbles in poetry and discus throwing on the side. He unleashed a throw of 169-10 to break his own year-old meet record by 10 feet.
"That's my best throw since college," said John, who threw 190 feet as a senior at Utah State in 1980. "I had to throw that far this year; the competition was very tough."
But not everyone had serious competition to push them to top marks. Some had to do it by themselves. Take Shaun McAlmont, for instance. He finished some eight meters ahead of the field in winning the 110-meter high hurdles, yet he clocked 14.31, which broke - you guessed it - his own meet record (14.88) and his own personal record.
"I really got rolling," said McAlmont, a BYU student from Canada who hasn't stepped on the track since falling on one at the NCAA championships three weeks ago. "I think the rest has really helped me," he said. He hopes to make the Canadian Olympic team later this summer.
Perhaps the day's best master's performance belonged to Paul Bilay, who dashed 400 meters in 51.64 - a creditable mark considering Bilay is 35 years old and didn't begin training until three months ago. "I just want to see how fast I can run," he says. His performance Thursday smashed the master's meet record by more than six seconds.
On the distaff side, Kathy Webster and CaryLynn Davis dominated the scene (aside from Okelberry's national-class performance). Webster, a Cedar City resident, swept the sprints, and Davis, a prep state champ from Ogden and Weber High, won the 1,600- and 800-meter runs, the latter in a meet record time. But the painful truth is that they were among the few bright spots in a woefully weak women's field. The Summer Games, which appears to be gaining momentum, still has yet to draw any significant depth in the women's competition.
There are other problems as well, which perhaps are to be counted as growing pains for the infant Games, now in its third year.
The masters competition unfairly includes the 35-to-39-year-old athletes, who rarely are a match for true masters athletes (40 and over). Bob Tobler, once the top-ranked quartermiler in the world while at BYU and now a 45-year-old school teacher, finished a distant fourth in the masters 400-meter dash - behind two 35 year olds. Tobler got a measure of revenge later. He won the masters 200, with a 24.30 clocking, then hinted at retirement.
"This might be it for me competitively," he said. "It's too hard to train with a family, a job and other obligations."
But Tobler's interest might be renewed come next year. "We're considering creating a sub-masters (ages 35 to 39) category next year," said race director Ben Stowell.