A day-long tornado warning reduced the crowd at the 110th U.S. Track and Field Championships tonight, but it hardly matched the startling defeat of Carl Lewis for casting a pall on a meet already suffering from the absence of many standouts.
Lewis, unwilling to test a strained right leg, showed no acceleration as he finished fourth behind Olympic 200-meter silver medalist Kirk Baptiste, Joe DeLoach and Lee McNeil in 10.34 seconds in the semifinals of the 100 meters. Baptiste went on to win the final over McNeil in 10.11, with world record holder Calvin Smith third.
The second day of competition here saw few performances of note. Among them were Rhonda Blanford's meet-record record in 12.85 in the women's 100-meter hurdles and Merlene Ottey-Page's meet mark of 10.94 in the semifinals of the women's 100 en route to a 10.98 final victory.
Olympic champion Roger Kingdom won the men's 110-meter hurdles in a slow 13.37, Dave Laut took the shot put over John Brenner by two inches at 68-11 3/4, Georgetown graduate Suzanne Girard set a meet standard of 15:57.50 in only the third edition of the women's 5,000, and Carol Lewis took the long jump with a wind-aided 22-8 1/2.
Once again, though, it was negative news that rated the headlines -- Lewis' first defeat in the 100 since May 1983, when he was beaten by Ron Brown in the Bruce Jenner Classic at San Jose.
Lewis suffered a strained right leg on May 19, during the long jump at the UCLA Invitational. This was his first competition since and, he said, he felt midway through the race that had he attempted his usual acceleration, he might have suffered severe injury.
"It (the leg) was all right and it didn't hurt, but my body said, 'Just don't try to go any faster,' " Lewis said, lying on his stomach in the medical tent while an ice pack was in place behind his right knee.
"My brain was left on the blocks and my body took over. Technically, it was a good race, but I didn't run fast in the middle or at the end.
"I started fairly well and I ran relaxed all the way. I didn't hurt anything and I'm not really disappointed about it. I ran real well this week, even though I wasn't sprinting hard, and I didn't know how the leg would react.
"I just came to run and have fun. I ran and I had fun. It wasn't a bad race. I should be ready to run in July, when I have some races in Europe, but I like to run here. I live here."
Asked whether he considered simply running all out to test the leg, Lewis said, "I'm too chicken for that. I'm going to run a lot of years and I don't want to do anything that will hurt me permanently. I'd take the whole summer off before I'd do that, but I don't really think it will come to that."
Lewis, who won four gold medals in the 1984 Summer Olympics, has enjoyed a relatively injury-free career, rare for sprinters. The only other problem he experienced was a twinge in the right hamstring during the 1981 World Cup in Rome.
Blanford, the NCAA champion from Nebraska, overtook Stephanie Hightower in the last few strides to maintain her current status as the best U.S. women's hurdlers. Hightower, second in 12.92, is the U.S. record holder at 12.79 and held the old meet standard of 12.86.
Benita Fitzgerald Brown, the Olympic champion from Dale City, Va., who admittedly has not been able to regain her enthusiasm of a year ago, placed third in 13.04.
"Normally, I'm first out of the blocks, but this time I was out with the pack," Blanford said. "Stephanie was really out front, but I caught her by the last hurdle and then it was a matter of who had the best lean."
Girard passed Jan Merrill on the last turn of the 5,000, then fought off the more experienced Merrill down the stretch.
"I ran in lane two all the way, which isn't a good idea, I know," Girard said. "I knew it was a slow race, so it would be whoever was the fastest at the end. I was just watching Jan's shadow, hoping I would stay ahead."
In the first of 13 finals today, Maryanne Torrellas of Clinton, Conn., improved the U.S. record by almost two minutes in the rarely contested 10,000-meter walk, covering the distance in the rain in 48:38.16. Runner-up Teresa Vaill was more than a minute under Sue Brodock's former mark in 49:25.43.
Other winners included Bruce Bickford (28:00.01 in the 5,000 meters); Carol Cady (200-9 in the discus); Cathy Sulinski (197-8 in the javelin), and Louise Ritter (6-3 1/4 in the high jump).
Dwight Stones, six-time national high jump champion, was eliminated when he failed to clear 7-4 in tonight's qualifying. On his third attempt, he ran under the bar without jumping, then ran back to start again. Before he made another try, the red light came on, indicating his allotted 90 seconds were over.
There was a scare after the third semifinal of the women's 400-meter hurdles. Olympian Sharieffa Barksdale, who finished second and qualified for Sunday's final, collapsed and lay on the track for 20 minutes, delaying the start of the men's event.
"I can't breathe; my chest hurts," said Barksdale, who doctors said was hyperventilating. She was wheeled off on a stretcher and received treatment in the medical tent.
Tony Rambo posted the fastest time of 49.42 in the men's 400 hurdles semifinals. NCAA champion Danny Harris and Andre Phillips, who owns the year's fastest time of 48.37, easily captured the other heats.
It was Harris' 26th victory in 29 races over two years. His only losses have been to Edwin Moses -- in the Olympic trials semifinals and final, and in the Olympic final.
Robin Campbell, a Tennessee freshman and graduate of Central (Md.) High School, won her 800-meter semifinal in 2:03.28 but another Washingtonian, Kim Kelly, was eliminated in 2:06.53.
NCAA 400-meter champion Roddie Haley of Arkansas, fortunate to qualify in Friday's quarterfinals, left nothing to chance tonight. He ran away with his semifinal in 45.07, fastest time of the night.