The day before the National Invitational indoor track meet, an official of the cosponsoring Catholic Youth Organization laughed off the adverse weather reports with the comment, "don't worry about it. We've got connections up there where it counts."
He received a lesson in humility Friday night, and probably also learned something about chipping ice from glazed car windows. Some stars inside Cole Field House were humbled too, as the dominant personalities proved to be Montreal also-rans and hard-luck victims of the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Lorna Forde of Barbados, a disappointed seventh in the Olympic 400-meter quarterfinals, erased the 11-year-old indoor 440 record with a time of 53.8 seconds, then clocked a 53.1 anchor in helping her Atoms Track Club quartet to the mile-relay title. For her labors, Forde became the first woman in 10 National Invitationals to be selected as the outstanding athlete.
Fred Sowerby, the Antiguan who works in a D.C. bank, won the 600 in 1:10.4. He then catapulted the D.C. Striders into the mile relay lead with a 48.5 third leg and the Striders prevailed in 3:12.1, fastest time of the night. Sowerby, too, was seventh in Montreal in the 400 quarter finals.
Running a 46.8 anchor leg for the Striders was Stan Vinson, eliminated by three-hundredths of a second in the Olympic Trials 400 semifinals. Vinson's bad luck seemed to be continuing earlier in the evening, as he was disqualified after edging U.S. Olympian Herman Frazier in the 500-yard run.
Vinson bumped Edwin Moses, the Olympic 400-meter hurdles champion, on the first turn of the 500. Moses fell and, although many felt he was the guilty party, it was Vinson who was officially disqualified. Vinson's coach, Sowerby, claimed that "he was disqualified because Moses is the Olympic champion."
Mark Belger, deprived of an Olympic 800-meter berth by a tenth of a second, captured the 880 in an excellent 1:49.4, then recorded a 1:50.1 third leg for a Villanova two-mile relay team that destroyed Georgetown in 7:29.3. Belger was close behind Byron Dyce at the 880 gun when Dyce's right foot hit Belger's hand and the Jamaican stumbled off balance.
"It was weird," Belger said. "We were running tight and then the race was over. When the gun went off, the crowd stopped yelling. I would have run a much faster time if Byron had been able to finish. I ran a strategic race, trying to surprise Byron."
Dyce was surprised, all right. So were Dwight Stones, beaten by James Barrineau in the high jump, and Dan Ripley, a loser to Mike Tully in the pole vault.
Performances were generally below par, which could be attributed to the distressingly small crowd of 6,000, to the anxieties of some stars who were scheduled for a late night flight to a Los Angeles meet and to post-Olympic blahs.
"A lot of these guys were in training for a long time last year," said Willie Davenport, nipped by Larry Shipp in the high hurdles. "Like myself, some of them didn't start working out until last week. By the end of the season, times will be better."
Maybe not the times of America's milers, however. Eamonn Coghlan, the Irishman who won the last two NCAA 1500-meter titles for Villanova, blitzed the mile field in a pedestrian 4:02.8 and was asked about the disappearance of the U.S. miler.
"I can't understand it," Coghlan said. "Look at (Tom) Byers (who finished last after setting the early pace). Two years ago he was running 3:55 and now he should be doing 3:51. He has speed and stamina. Maybe he just doesn't heave the head."
Some quartermilers in the concluding mile relay were not especially heady either. A Howard runner dropped the baton after a third-leg bumping incident with Villanova. On the final turn of the race, Villanova anchorman Tim Dale tried to pass Seton Hall's Mitch Goings on the inside and knocked Goings high on the banked track. Dale detoured through the infield to the finish line and disqualification.
Then there were the three Soviet entries. Yuri Prokhoryenko did not clear a height in the pole vault, Aleksandr Aksinin did not qualify for the 60 final and Tatyana Prorochenko was last in the women's 440. Afterward, stepping into the freezing rain, they received a taste of what life is like in Siberia. A foretaste, maybe.