Benita Fitzgerald, the Tennessee senior from Dale City, Va., pulled away from the pack at the seventh hurdle tonight and finally ended her bridesmaid role in the U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Fitzgerald was clocked in 12.97 seconds, remarkable time considering the head wind of more than 2 miles per hour, as she ended Stephanie Hightower's string of three straight victories in the 100-meter hurdles.
Carl Lewis and Evelyn Ashford won championships in the 100-meter sprints, but in each case the wind ruled out any chance of a world record. Lewis was timed in 10.27, Ashford 11.24 as they fought off surprisingly tough competition.
Unlike the NCAA meet site in Houston, this facility was not equipped to reverse the direction of the dashes to turn the wind into an advantage, rather than a detriment.
Dark clouds threatened to disrupt the meet all night, but the storm held off until halfway into the men's 10,000-meter run, when the rain came down in sheets. Nevertheless, it developed into an outstanding race, with Alberto Salazar passing Craig Virgin on the final turn and winning in 28.11.64.
Meet records fell in three women's events, as Carol Lewis won the long jump at 22 feet 8 inches, Leslie Deniz won the discus at 206-3 and Sharieffa Barksdale was clocked in 56.09 during a semifinal of the 400-meter hurdles.
Fitzgerald, Hightower and three others seemed within a few inches of the lead after seven hurdles, but Fitzgerald accelerated at the same time that Hightower, in lane five, apparently bumped Kim Turner, in lane four, with both being knocked off stride.
"At hurdle seven or eight, she was right with me, and then she was gone," Fitzgerald said. "I didn't see what happened, and I wasn't about to look, because the only thing I wanted to see was the finish line.
"Finishing second to one person over and over again can be very disheartening. I was accepting second place until last year, figuring if I was second to Stephanie I'd done all right.
"But last year I began working with the attitude that I can be No. 1. A winning attitude is my major difference this year, although I've made some technical adjustments, too. I'm more competitive and I'm getting out of the blocks better. Now I'm on a roll and I'm on an emotional high, even if I'm a bit low physically."
For a further twist on the bridesmaid bit, Fitzgerald revealed that she would be married to Laron Brown, a Tennessee runner who was eliminated in the 400-meter semifinals tonight, "right after the 1984 Olympics."
Lewis trailed Emmit King of Alabama at the 70-meter mark of both the semifinal and final of the 100 meters, then went into overdrive to cross the line first. King was clocked in 10.33 as runner-up in the final. Ron Brown, who beat Lewis earlier this spring, was forced to withdraw after pulling a muscle in the semifinals.
"There's no question that tomorrow will be a very difficult day," said Lewis, who will try to complete a triple Sunday in the long jump and 200, "but I thought all along that the 100 might be the hardest event to win here. There's a big sigh of relief in my mind that this is over, and I'm looking forward to the events tomorrow. My idea is just to take one jump, hope it'll be in the high 28s at least and sit on it and watch how things go."
Ashford was even with Diane Williams and a step behind Chandra Cheeseborough at the midpoint of the women's 100, but she won by a step. Williams was second in 11.28, Cheeseborough third in 11.31. Ashford was not unhappy with the unusual pressure from U.S. sprinters.
"I knew Diane Williams was running good and I had a pretty good idea I'd be pushed," she said. "That makes me better and it makes everybody better. It makes the world know there are other people who can run besides the East Germans."
Salazar was smiling in the rain after beating Virgin, since the meet program featured a story in which Virgin was quoted as saying, "I expect Salazar to push the pace, because his kick is not all that good."
"That's the first time I've outkicked someone in seven years," said Salazar, who rejected an offer from Virgin with four laps remaining to finish in a tie.
Greg Foster easily won the 110 high hurdles in 13.15 with Sam Turner edging Willie Gault for second.
Dave Laut won an excellent shot put competition with a throw of 71-2 3/4, while the women's javelin saw two inches separate veterans Karin Smith, the winner at 187-8, and Kate Schmidt.
Louise Ritter won the high jump as she and Pam Spencer cleared 6-4. Virginia's Ann Bair was fifth at 6-1 1/2.
Sunder Nix of Indiana ran very fast 44.87 in the 400 semifinals, Edwin Moses easily advanced in the 400 hurdles in 49.47, Scott Davis led the 800 qualifiers in 1:47.03 and Robin Campbell clocked a fine 2:01.11 in the women's 800.
Washington area athletes who advanced to Sunday finals included Leo Williams of Navy, 7-3 in the high jump; Ray Brown of Virginia, 1:47.30 in the 800; Alice Jackson of Ms. International, 52.64 in the women's 400, and Georgetown graduate Chris Mullen, 2:02.27 in the women's 800. Eliminated were Oliver Bridges of Howard, 46.20 in the 400, and Al Baginski of Maryland, an unlucky 13th at 188-8 in the discus, with 12 advancing.