With 500 fans looking on, BYU's Frank Fredericks, the world's latest sprinting sensation, ran his final races of the year in the U.S. Saturday night at East High School. It seemed like an unlikely (read: low-key) setting for Fredericks, who, since winning the 100- and 200-meter dashes at the NCAA Championship a week earlier, is suddenly one of track and field's hottest items.
Nevertheless, there he was on Saturday, running the 100-meter dash and anchoring a celebrity/media 4 x 100 relay in the second annual TAC-Utah Track and Field Meet."It's for a good cause," said Fredericks. "I wanted to help promote track and field in Utah."
Fredericks was one of a handful of name athletes who agreed to compete in the meet, which serves two purposes: the proceeds are donated to the construction of the proposed West High International track; it gives local fans at least some taste of big-time track.
But not much. While the likes of Fredericks and Olympians Doug Padilla, Henry Marsh, Paul Cummings, L. Jay Silvester and Blaine Lindgren attend the meet in various capacities, the meet is sadly lacking. Only a small percentage of the invited and advertised athletes bothered to show up, which left some races with as few as one or two entries or forced their cancellation.
"We've just got to get more athletes," said Padilla, one of the meet's biggest supporters.
That notwithstanding, the meet managed to produce some fine performances. With the greatest of ease, Fredericks ran the 100 in 10.34 - well off his wind-aided 10.03 of a week ago - but, with little competition, why bother? "I didn't run fast, just hard enough to win," said Fredericks, who is preparing to compete on the summer European circuit.
Fredericks' BYU teammates also helped to carry much of the evening. Dave Brannon scaled 17-4 in the pole vault and attempted (unsuccessfully) 18 feet. Brent Patera threw the discus 184, beating Dan John, a local school teacher, by six feet (John threw 181-7 in a small meet on the same track 24 hours earlier). Anu Kaljurand won the 100-meter hurdles in 13.70 and NCAA discus champion Ana Mosdell won the shot put with a heave of 47-9. Nicole Birk, another All-American, won a two-woman mile race with a time of 4:52.31.
Then up stepped Padilla, who hoped to tune up for next week's national championships by running a four-minute mile. But, after a handful of athletes failed to show up for the meet, Padilla was left to run half the race alone. Two rabbits pulled him through the half in 2-flat, but, left alone, Padilla faded badly and finished in 4:15.63. It was a far cry from the old Padilla, who in 1983 ran Utah's only sub-four mile, 3:57.23.
"Now I'm really worried about TAC next week," he said.
If nothing else, perhaps Saturday's meet signaled a changing of the guard. Padilla, 34, has yet to return to form this year. Ditto for fellow Olympians Paul Cummings and Henry Marsh. Marsh has tried to return from retirement, but with little success so far (he rabbitted one lap for Padilla on Saturday), and Cummings' career has been on the slide with his health problems (he struggled through the steeplechase on Saturday).
In the meantime, there is a youth movement afoot, and it was evident on Saturday. Windy Jorgensen, all of 15 years old and a sophomore at American Fork High, ran a solo 100-meter dash in 12.29, then came back to run against BYU's Laura Zaugg in the 200. Jorgensen won in 24.66, which broke her state record of 24.71 (although the latest mark won't count as a record).
In the day's best race, Rob Christensen, Jorgensen's prep teammate, ran down BYU senior Russ Muir - a former Western Athletic Conference champion - in the stretch to win the 800-meter run in a personal record 1:53.11 (Muir clocked 1:53.66). That makes Christensen a top threat at next week's Kinney national meet.
Matt Stowell, who just completed his freshman season at Utah State, was a last-minute entry in the 400-meter dash, but won anyway - even without benefit of a warmup - in 48.34. He came in second, however, in the 200, to none other than his younger brother David, a junior at East High. Score it David 22.04, Matt 22.32.