With a strong kick over the last quarter mile, John Gregorek of Georgetown University took third place to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in the 3,000-meter steeplechase Saturday night.
Gregorek's time of 8 minutes 21.4 seconds was only two seconds off the former American record, broken by the winner, Henry Marsh, who ran 8:15.7.
Gregorek went from sixth place to third on the last lap of the race, passing Ron Addison of the Athletics West team only a few meters from the tape.
As Addison fought to retain third place, he moved into Gregorek's path and bumped him with a shoulder and an elbow.
"He moved in front of me and started cutting me off," Gregorek said after the race. "I think I already had third place won, the only thing left for him to do was run me off the track. That's what I think he tried to do." Instead of finishing third, Addison lay sprawled on the track and crawled to the finish line with a broken clavicle. He later was disqualified. c
It was Gregorek's fourth steeplechase race of the season, and his time Saturday was more than 10 seconds faster than his previous best. Gregorek placed sixth in this year's NCAA 1,500 meters in 3:44.1 and earlier had run a 3:56 mile on a relay. It was his speed, he said, that helped him Saturday.
"I think I'm faster than a lot of these guys," he said. "My strategy was just to be toward the front with a lap to go, and then see what I could do. The last 220 I told myself I could take a shot at it, and I did."
Gregorek has just finished his sophomore year at Georgetown and is younger and less experienced in the steeplechase than most of his competition. Marsh and Doug Brown, who finished second Saturday, were the top two finishers in the Olympic trials in 1976 and have dominated the event in this country ever since. Brown also was an Olympian in 1972.
Gregorek explained that the steeplechase is an event which combines speed, which he claims to have, with finesse:
"I need to improve my technique over the barriers," he said, "and I need the experience of running in Europe against the best in the world. Over there, they jostle and surge and throw elbows, and I'm not used to that."
Gregorek will get more experience next month when he travels with the Olympic team to meets against the German national team in Stuttgart, against the British in London and the Norwegians in Oslo. He also hopes to run in major invitational meets in France and Switzerland.
Although he has made the U.S. Olympic team, one major prize may yet elude him. The Olympic Committee will send a team composed only of the first-place finishers in each event to Japan and China in the fall. Marsh, then Brown, will have first chance at the trip. If they cannot compete, Gregorek would step in.
"I'd love to go to China," he said. "Probably it would mean that I'd have to take a leave of absence from school, but it would be worth it."
If he competes in Peking this fall, Georgetown will miss Gregorek for the cross-country season. Last year he placed 27th at the NCAA championships.
If he does not go to China, Gregorek will be back on the Georgetown campus in September, will take only a short break from running, and then will try to peak for the regional and national cross-country races.