For Benita Fitzgerald Brown, gold fever has been replaced by a feeling of contentment. So folks who expect the Olympic hurdles champion to win every event she enters have been disappointed frequently this year.
Brown, who won the Olympic 100-meter hurdles in 12.84, has not been under 13 seconds in a season of also-ran finishes. Tonight, she clocked 13.09 to win her semifinal, after a 13.17 quarterfinal triumph, in the 110th U.S. Track and Field Championships.
With NCAA champion Rhonda Blanford running 12.95 in a quarterfinal, fastest by an American this year, it is obvious Brown is in for a battle in Saturday's final. Blanford matched Brown's 13.09 semifinal time, following a 20-minute delay caused by two redraws of the heats.
"I peaked for this meet, I'm healthy and, as long as I'm competitive, I could win it," said Brown, a graduate of Gar-Field High School in Dale City, Va., and the University of Tennessee who now lives in Austin, Tex., with her husband, Laron.
"It's been hard for me to come back. There's been a letdown since I won the Olympics and so much has happened to me in the last year.
"I got married, I won the gold medal, I graduated from college, I moved to a new town and I've started working with an industrial engineering company in Austin. They're all major events and most people would only face one of them in a year.
"It's all been emotionally draining for me. I'm not as hungry about my running. I come to the races and I try to get up, but it's just not there. My goals are still there, but they're kind of on hold.
"I didn't want to stop running this year, so this is kind of a happy medium. I'm still running, I'm still competing, but I'm not upset if things don't go just right. Next year should be a lot different."
Although she is the Olympic champion, Brown is ranked only ninth in the world. She would like to rise a few notches in the next few years, as well as break Stephanie Hightower's American record of 12.79.
"My No. 1 goal is to set an American record, because I've never done it," Brown said. "I'd like to dominate the hurdles in the States and then vie for the No. 1 spot in the world some day. I think it can be done. I've gotten as far as I have with a poor start. If I can improve it, I should be able to cut a lot off my time."
Laron Brown, a defensive back who will be eligible to play for Texas' football team in the fall after transferring from Tennessee, qualified for Saturday's 400-meter semifinals in 46.73. Reggie Henderson of Washington, D.C., moved ahead in 46.53 and NCAA champion Roddie Haley of Arkansas, although a struggling fifth in his quarterfinal, advanced in 46.67. Olympian Sunder Nix, a victim of recent hamstring problems, was a nonqualifying sixth in 47.38.
The women's hurdles is one of 13 finals to be contested Saturday. Twenty-five more titles will be settled on Sunday.
In the only individual championship decided tonight, Francie Larrieu-Smith took her 10th national outdoor title with a meet-record time of 32:18.29 in the women's 10,000 meters.
For Larrieu-Smith, 32, it was the second impressive 10-kilometer victory in two weeks, following her success in the L'eggs Mini-Marathon in New York. Tonight, she finished 125 meters ahead of Kirsten O'Hara.
Mary Decker Slaney, who skipped this meet to run in British Columbia, holds the U.S. record of 31:35.3. Mary Shea set the meet standard of 32:52.5 in 1979.
Today's schedule was decimated by withdrawals and the sparse crowd was disapppointed when quarterfinals were canceled in both the men's 100 and 200 meters. That left Carl Lewis a spectator for a day and he watched sister Carol qualify for Saturday's long-jump final at 21 feet 7 1/2 inches.
Some of the trials that were held proved ludicrous, notably the women's 100-meter quarterfinals. Twenty-seven women were scheduled to advance to Saturday's semifinals and because of a late withdrawal only 27 wound up running in the four heats tonight. The unnecessary exercise proved more upsetting to Robin Benjamin than anyone else.
Benjamin, a Tennessee freshman out of Central High in Seat Pleasant, Md., suffered a cramp in her right hamstring approaching the finish and limped off, although she insisted she would be able to run Saturday.
Georgetown graduate Chris Gregorek gained Sunday's final in the women's 1,500 meters in 4:16.78. John Hinton of Virginia just missed a men's 1,500 berth in 3:41.50. Ray Humphrey of Georgetown leaped 25-0 3/4 to gain Sunday's long-jump final.
The most excitement of the day was generated at an entrance to the press box, where meet director Sam Bell, the Indiana track coach, became involved in an altercation with a security guard.
Although Bell's cap and shirt both bore the words "meet director," Bell was refused admittance because his press badge did not contain a green circle. When Bell attempted to push his way in, he was thrown down and wound up with a bloody right hand.