Steve Williams felt Olympian agony long before the treat of a Moscow boycott. It was about the time the world was getting its first long whiff of Jimmy Carter that Williams suffered perhaps the most expensive muscle pull in sport.

Times and timing are the two most important words in a runner's vocabulary -- and when he arrived here almost exactly four years ago for the U.S. Olympic trials, Williams was the world's fastest human. For an American, that is a unique distinction, both in terms of glory and money.

The table under which Williams and his financial angles were dealing was whispered to be one of the largest ever in amateur athletics.If he could win four gold medals at Montreal, which seemed a reasonable possibility at the time, Williams might generate income surprisingly close to seven figures.

But Williams had been injured before he came here -- and on July 19 his star, once the brightest in the athletic galaxy, plummeted. In the quarterfinals of the 100-meter dash, Williams' leg refused to be pushed one instant longer. He stopped abruptly, his face contorted in pain, and failed to finish.

There were screams that he should be given a place on the team anyway, that his record clearly merited it. That request was denied -- and properly so. And U.S. runners failed to place in the 100 at Montreal.

"I ran too much prior to '76," Williams said late Sunday. Four years later, Williams' face still showed deep disappointment, for he has to add: 'I didn't run enough prior to 1980."

He had returned here again, healthy but far less famous, and failed to become an Olympian in the 100. He finished sixth.

"At 55 meters, I had a great chance," he said. "But I got complacent or something. I never would have done that before. I'll be moving to the 400 after I play out my final hand in the spints. But I'm here; I was here.

"Why don't you talk with the winner?"

America's swiftest runner now was a miler, when Williams was in his '76 Olympic depression. At 14, Stanley Floyd has a terrific kick in the distance events but never indicated world-class potential.

"Then one day two friends of mine got to arguing about who was faster at 100 yards," Floyd said. "I was standing close to the starting line when they ran their races -- and I took off after them a second or so after they began. I caught 'em and won.

"That's when I knew I ought to be a sprinter."

Nineteen today, Floyd is a freshman at Auburn because he wanted to be taught by and to run against Harvey Glance, America's most consistently excellent sprinter. Glance won the 100 in the '76 trials and finished second to Floyd in Sunday's final.

"After the 100 finals in Montreal (when he finished fourth)," Glance said, "I couldn't wait for '80 to come around. And it's tough to stay around in the sprints. I'm proudest I did that, made the team for two straight Olympics."

"So many guys get hot for one year and then vanish. Who knows? Maybe I'll try for a third Olympics."

Floyd's winning time was an ordinary 10.26 seconds, partly because the final was held in a driving rain. But it allowed him to stay unbeaten in a dozen meets this year. And six months after being in such awe of Glance, Williams and some others he was tempted to asks for their autographs, Floyd is running them off the track.

With his victory here, Floyd completed a rare sprint sweep. He won the NCAA 100, in 10.1 and the Athletics Congress 100 in 10.19. Jesse Owens (1936), Ralph Metcalfe (1932) and Bobby Morrow (1956) are the only others to accomplish that triple.

"He had a great indoor season, Glance said of Floyd, "but I think it shocked people in the outdoor season when he did so well. He has a really tight form earlier. But he's loosened up a lot -- and that's helped tremendously.

"And it was espically tough for him last week and here because he had to run nine races in the NCAA meet. It's awfully hard to come back after the NCAA's."

"At one point this year," the new king of the sprinters said, "I thought things were happening too fast. I stated thinking about what was going to happen when I lost. Then I just stopped thinking about that and started thinking about each race at a time. I really didn't expect this would happen.

"I was lying in my room before the race thinking that if I won I would be the first freshman in history not to lose a race. So far, I haven't had a slope. It's been a continuous going up for me.

"Harvey's teaching, helping me come out of the blocks, has meant so much. I've been running against my teacher -- and at the same time running to please my teacher."

Floyd said he will drvote another year to running, then try a run toward the National Football League as either a 162-pound tailback or a 5-10 flanker at Auburn. Like every winner here, Floyd is both deeply frustrated and mildly hopeful.

"what I want to do," he said, "is go against the guy who wins at Moscow. Then we can say who really deserves the gold."