The National Invitational Indoor Track Meet moves onto its second decade Friday, Jan. 13, at Cole Field House. In some circles Friday the 13th is considered a good day only for remaining in bed, but meet director Bob Comstock claims to be unafraid of potential misfortune.
"I figured nothing could be worse." Comstock said, in words guaranteed to raise the insurance rates on Cole. "When I think of the thinks that have befallen me in the past 10 years, and I've never hit a Friday the 13th, everything might work in reverse. The sun might be shining and it might be 50 degrees."
Cole might be swallowed by an earthquake, to. This is the same Comstock who, advised the freezing rain was a possibility on meet night a year ago, equipped. "Don't worry about it. We've got connections up there where it counts."
The unintimidated freezing rain turned the night into winter's worst, with traffic at a crawl for the 6,027 track nuts who confirmed that appellation by strugglign to and from Cole. Comstock drove some of the athletes over ice-covered roads to Dulles airport afterward and was only about two minutes ahead of a tractor-trailer accident, in which a truck driver was killed.
Although weather has been a continual problem during the meet's 10-year history, the 10th edition was the only one that lost money for the sponsoring Catholic Youth Organization and Maryland M Club. So the decision was reached easily to continue the area's only major invitational track meet.
"It's been successful over the years." Comstock said. "I believe we have the right date and format. I just don't know why we don't have the big advance sale."
If he could sell all his $7 and $4 tickest for Christmas stocking stuffers, Comstock could concentrate on acquisition of athletes, enough of a task for any human. In the past, Comstock has encountered enough problems with foreign athletes to qualify as a State Department trouble shooter.
"There have always been problems with foreign athletes because we have not control over them," Comstock said. "The AAU tells us who's coming, asks us if we want them and then lets us know when they supposedly well arrive. I'm batting about 1,000 - wrong way."
This week the AAU asked if Comstock was interested in a group of Soviet athletes, including a long jumper and triple jumper, for which the Cole meet has no competition. It took only a brief recollection of last year for Comstock wound up the less celebrated segment and the results, even if air far to Moscow had been considerably cheaper, proved horrendous. Yuri Prokhoryenko did not clear a bar in the pole vault, Aleksandr Aksinin failed to qualify for the final of the 60 and Tatyana Prorochenko was last in the women's 440.
A desirable Polish du, Olympic champion high jumper Jacek Wszola and the world's best vaulter of 1977, Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz, was scheduled for a Jan. 20 arrival. On Comstock's behalf, the AAU asked if they would move up their trip to include the Jan. 13 Cole meet. Back came the reply: "Will arrive jan. 27."
The National Invitational began at D.C. Armory in 1968 with its first and only sellout. When tickets, ran out late-arriving fans just strolled in free. The next year, fans wandered around the track and it was decided to move to Cole. The elements and the foreign element have been a volatile mixture ever since.
1970 Australian distance runner tony Benson tried jogging on an ice-covered road and returned Down Under with a sprained ankle, and without having competed.
Ethiopia's celebrated Miruts Yifter, scheduled for a 6 a.m. arrival at Dulles Airport, prompted Comstock to rise at 4:30 and traverse snow-covered roads for pickup. It was in vain. Yifter had never obtained a visa.
In 1974, Kenya's great Ben Jipcho was signed and sealed, but not delivered as his nation's track leaders feared a kidnap in the States and sent Jipcho by another route to the Commonwealth Gams in New Zealand.
In 1976, a pair of Pole vaulters failed to appear at Baltimore-Washington Airport. Comstock eventually traced them to a friend's house on Long Island. At least, when they finally got here, they had their poles. Loss of same is another challenge for Comstock, who was delighted, for future counseling sessions with frantic vaulters, when Dave Roberts set the world record using a borrowed pole.
There are hints that Tanzania's great miler, Filbert Bayi, will come here after running in the season-opening Muhammad Ali meet at Long Beach, Calif., Jan. 7. Comstock, however, plans to peddle tickets on the basis of more dependable performers.
Dan Ripley, Mike Tully and Earl Bel in the pole vault, Wilson Waigwa and Paul Cummings in the mile, James Munyala and Marty Liquori in the two-mile, Mark Enyeart and Peter Lemashon in the 880, Rory Kotinek and Franklin Jacobs in the high jump, and Joni Huntley and Debbie Brill in the women's high jumb are all matchups designed to whet a track buff's appetite. Comstock hopes they are enough to sell out Cole before the world comes to an end the afternoon of Jan. 13.