A year ago, ULCA's Greg Foster set collegiate and American records in winning the 110-meter high hurdles at the NCAA track championships. Now, Foster is No. 2, rarely mentioned in the same breath with world record holder Renaldo Nehemiah.
"Timewise, I am No. 2," Foster said today after he and Nehemiah posted the fastest times in qualifying for Friday's semifinal. "I haven't done what I should be doing and I've got to get it back.
"I need to get out quicker, to handle the first hurdle better. If I can get a better start, I can establish a better stride through the race."
The former world record holder, Alejandro Casanas of Cube, thinks the 6-3, 90-pounder Foster ultimately could be No. 1.
"Nehemiah is No. 1, but in my opinion the one with the most opportunity to run faster is Foster," Casanas said. "Foster is four inches taller. When he wants to beat Nehemiah, I fell that he will do it."
If just the desire was necessary to reverse the usual order of finish, Foster would be a sure winner Friday.
"I've always been a competitior," Foster said, "Even in elementary school track meets, I loved to compete. I'm the type that hates to lose."
Casadnas' theory on size long has been the standard one, that taller hurdlers have an edge. However, Foster has found himself banging into hurdles because he lengthens his stride and arrives too soon.
"It is a problem." Foster said. "When you pick up speed, you have to know how much you can lengthen your stride. I think I can handle it, and when I get my confidence back, I think I can win the Olympic gold medal."
Foster also is an accomplished sprinter, posting a hurdles and 200 meter double in the Pacific 10 meet, and today he recorded the fastest time in each event. His 20.39, in qualifying for Saturday's 200 semifinal, was by far the fastest, although the wind was slightly over the allowable 4.473 miles per hour. Foster acknowledges the 200 could be in his Olympic plans, too.
"I've thought about that, but the hurdles is still my main event," Foster said. "I've got till next June to decide on the sprints."
Foster has extra incentive Friday, if he should need it. a UCLA junior, he was a high school star in Maywood, Ill.
"Running in my home state means a lot, because two years ago I fell at the finish in the NCAA here," Foster said. "I got third, but I fell and I felt kind of foolish."
Foster clocked 13.49 seconds in today's quarterfinla, as a strong wind behind the runners prompted caution. Nehemiah won his heat in an eased-up 13.57.
"There were six in my heat and I was just trying for the top four," Nehemiah said. "It was very windy and any foolish greediness might have caused disqualification. I wasn't taking any chances."
Georgetown's John Gregorek survived what he called "the stupidest race of my life" to qualify for Saturday's final in the 3,000-meter steeple-chase. The Hoya freshman made up 15 yards on Brendan Quinn of Providence in the last half lap to grab the fourth and final qualifying berth in his heat.
Gregorek led for two laps, then fell back to 14th in the 15-man field. He overhauled runners during the last four laps, but it was a near thing as he clocked 8:42.35 to Quinn's 8:42.49.
"I wanted to be in the lead, but I didn't feel strong enough," Gregorek said."I figured I'd better stay in the pack. Before I knew what happened, the whole pack went by.
"I got so far back I didn't think I'd make it, especially after I took a stuter step before the last hurdle. I thought if I picked up momentum, I'd make the hurdle easy, but I almost blew the whole thing."
Henry Rono, the world record holder, won the first heat in 8:25.38 and Gregorek said of Saturday's final, "I'll run my own race as long as I can, but I have to be realistic. With Henry Rono in there, I can't realistically expect to win. But I'm not saying I won't give it a shot."
Maryland's Ian Pyka had the third best effort, 62-9 1/2, in qualifying for Friday's shot put final. Pyka, sixth in 1978, was pleased with this first step toward his promised 65-foot effort."That's a good start," he said. "It'll be there tomorrow."
Maryland's 1-2 punch in the 400-meter hurdles was wiped out in the quarterfinal, both Chris Person (51.15) and Greg Robertson (51.38) finishing fourth in their heats, with only the top three moving on. Karl Williams of Virginia advanced in 50.58.
Bob Calhoun of Maryland, third in the long jump in 1978, did not compete today. He remained at home with his mother, who is very ill.
Mike Corbin of Maryland was one of 15 who cleared 7 feet 1/4 inch to advance to Saturday's high jump final.
Aubrey McKithen of Georgetown (1:48.60) and Greg Canty of Virginia (1:49.07) finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in their 800-meter quarterfinal and were eliminated. Julian Spooner of Richmond gained Friday's semifinal with a time of 1:49.79. but teammate Henry Kimalel was an also-ran.
Ronnie Harris of Tennessee, out of Albermarle High, posted the best 400-meter time 45.93. Robert Bryant of Delaware State won his heat in 46.29.