They came to honor and to be honored tonight, Americans saluting their Olympic athletes who came home while rivals were pouring into Moscow for the Big One.
This was a little meet by international standards, and the absence of strong competition in many events could have invited cynical disaster. Instead, it worked.
A surprising crowd of 20,111 came out to Franklin Field and cheered at every opportunity, from the welcoming speech of Olympic boycott architect Lloyd Cutler to the late, late 5,000-meter finish of Zaire's Wamegu Nzimbu.
Loudest of all they cheered the American winners who were threats to cart away medals at Moscow -- Mary Decker, Renaldo (Skeets) Nehemiah, Steve Scott, Don Paige, Larry Myricks.
Decker, weary after her American record 3,000-meter race in Oslo Tuesday, set another U.S. mark, winning the 1,500 meters in 4:00.87. It was one of a host of outstanding women's performances, with Franklin Field standards falling in 12 of the 14 female events.
"I was traveling more than 24 hours. I got in here just before midnight last night and I was really tired," Decker said. "But when I heard that crowd I just had to go for it. I wanted 4 minutes, but this will do until I get a chance to race against the gold, silver and bronze medalists in Budapest or Zurich or wherever in August."
Nehemiah, scratched by U.S. Coach Jimmy Carnes earlier today because of an "injury," arrived on schedule from his home in Scotch Plains, N.J., and easily won the 110-meter hurdles in 13.31. Nehemiah, unhurt but training at home after skipping most of the European tour, promised a good attempt at his record of 13.00 on Aug. 10 in Zurich.
"I never had any doubts about coming here," Nehemiah said. "I guess because I didn't come in with the rest of team they thought I wasn't coming.
"The race felt fast, considering I was awfully hot and this wasn't an all-star field. It's starting to come around and I feel like myself. In the old groove again. I did too much talking and the school incident (leaving Maryland's team) had me up in the air. Now I'll let me performances do the talking."
Scott galloped from fourth place past pace-setting John Gregorek on the backstretch and won the 1,500 meters in 3:40.19. Khalifa Omer of Sudan was a close second, just one hour after he had battled Paige to the with World Cup winner James Maina of Kenya fifth.
Myricks captured the long jump at 26-10 3/4, setting one of six Franklin Field men's marks. The eclipsed standard of 26-7 by Greg Bell was one of seven dating back to the 1959 U.S.-Russia meet that fell tonight.
Comrades from overseas in the boycott movement received their share of cheers, too. Among those received most graciously were Kip Rono and 18-year-old Billy Konchellah of Kenya, and Chinese high jumper Zheng Dazhen.
Rono fell on the first lap of the 5,000 meters, but he rose to applause, quickly battled his way into a first-place draw with countryman Hillary Tuwei, and sprinted home to a 20-meter victory in 13:37.6.
Konchellah, who attended Mission Viejo High School in California, fought off a late challenge by World Cup champion Kasheef Hassan of Sudan to take the 400 meters in 45:59.
Dazhen set a stadium record of 6-3 1/2 as she took the women's high jump, far outdistancing Canada's Brigitte Reid (6-0 1/2) and Maryland's Paula Girven (5-11).
The Chinese obviously were pointing for this meet, since they won four other titles, all with stadium field-event records.
Shen Maomao set an Asian standard of 292-5 in the men's javelin. Zou Zhenxian took the triple jump, which started lon gafter the running events concluded, at 55-5 1/2. Shen Lijuan won the women's shot and Xie Jianhua the women's discus, each erasing a 21-year-old Soviet held stadium mark.