A track meet at its best is a three-ring circus for adults: you don't know where to look first.
The 1981 Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden was one of those. It had enough action to keep everyone's head turning.
Don Paige of Baldwinsville, N.Y., set a world indoor record of 2:04.9 in the 1,000-yard run, breaking the old record by two-tenths of a second; Suleiman Nyambui of Tanzania set a world indoor record of 13:20.3 in the 5,000 meters, beating the old record of 13:20.8, and New York Marathon winner Alberto ysalazar set an American indoor record while finishing second in 13:21.2; Eamonn Coghlan of Ireland set a Madison Square Garden record of 3:53 in the Wanamaker mile, the third fastest indoor time ever; Joni Huntley of the Pacific Coast Club broke her own American record in the high jump (6-4 1/4) with a jump of 6-4 3/4, and the Brooklyn, N.Y., Atoms Track Club women's mile relay team set a world record of 3:40.9. Whew.
But that's not all. Renaldo (Skeets) Nehemiah, the University of Maryland senior, won the 60-yard high hurdles in 6:98; Benita Fitzgerald, a graduate of Gar-Field High, Woodbridge, Va., who is now at the University of Tennessee, won the women's 60-yard high hurdles in 7:80, and Robin Campbell of Washington won the women's 800 meters in 2:07.3.
It was indeed quite a night at the Garden. The Soviet team, which has three Olympic gold medalists, withdrew 15 minutes before its first scheduled event, protesting the participation of South African Sydney Maree in the 5,000 meters.
Meet director Howard Schmertz said: "The Russian coach and manager, Yurry Kusnetzov and Svetlana Golvanova, came over to me at 7 and asked whether the South Africans were running. I said, 'One is -- Sydney Maree. The IAFF ruled he was eligible because he is a permanent U.S. resident, married to an American girl. The said, 'Is he a citizen? and I Said, 'No.' They said as long as he isn't a citizen they can't run against him if he is not a citizen. I told them, 'If you withdraw, it is the last time you will compete at this meet,' and they withdrew."
Paige, who strained the tendon below his left ankle two weeks ago and had to pull out of a meet last week in Dallas, wasn't hurting tongiht. Mark Belger, his rival and former teammate at Villanova (Belger has never beaten him indoors) set a wickedly fast pact that enabled Paige to set his world record. Later, Belger, who finished third behind Mike Boit, told Paige, "You owe me one."
Paige passed Belger with a lap and a half to go.
"When I saw Mark go out that fast I said, 'I can't panic. I have to keep a cool head and catch up slowly.'"
Nyambui, a student at the University of Texas at El Paso, gave Salazar, the leader of 32 of the 34 laps of the 5,000 meters, credit for "giving me a change for the record. I think he is responsible for my record," Nyambui said.
Salazar, who opened a 30-yard lead while setting a world record pace, had Nyambui at his feet from the 16th lap on. "I knew if it came down to a kick I'd be in trouble," Salazar said. "I haven't done any speed work. Just becasue I won the New Ork Marathon doesn't mean I'm a 5,000-meter man."
The Wanamaker mile, always the glamor event, also lived up to its billing. Craig Masback led for the first three-quarters of the race, but was passed by Ray Flynn of County Longford in Ireland. Flynn led until just before the gun sounded for the final lap, when his countryman, Coghlan, made his move. Coghlan, who was moving so fast he seemed to jump the gun, took second place (passing American Steve Scott) as it sounded and passed Flynn on the backstretch to take the lead for good. "I didn't realize I was blowing him (Flynn) away," Coghlan said. "I thought Scott was catching up."
Overshadowed by the records were Jeff Woodward of the Philadelphia Pioneers, who won the high jump at 7 feet 6, and Stanley Ford, who won the 60-yeard dash with a mere mortal time of 6.15. Floyd, who won 23 of 25 races outdoors last season, was upstaged by sixth-place finisher Herschel Walker, a Bulldog of a sprinter and a football all-American from Georgia who ran a 6.29. A bit disconcerted by his own anonymity, Floyd said, "Maybe in order for me to get some recognition, I got to start playing football."
Nehemiah, who won his race in not especially impressive fashion, was nonetheless impressed by the sellout crowd of 18,211. As he surveyed it, his medal around his neck, he said, "I ran for New York."