NEW YORK, FEB. 27 -- The USA/Mobil Indoor Track and Field Championships provided a study in contrasts Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
This was the 100th anniversary of the national indoor meet and, to celebrate it, some of the great names of indoor running history jogged around the banked track -- Glenn Cunningham, Gene Venzke, Joe McCluskey and even, at age 95, Abel Kiviat.
At the other end of the spectrum was Dave Johnson, one of the nation's foremost horse racing announcers, giving his experimental "call" as Ray Brown won the men's 800 meters.
One item has remained unchanged over 100 years, however, despite the development of the most refined phototimers. It still is impossible to separate two runners at the finish of a close race, at least to the satisfaction of both.
Two official dead heats were recorded after lengthy appeals and review of the photo finishes. The most notable occurred in the women's 55-meter dash.
Although both Gwen Torrence and Evelyn Ashford were timed in 6.66 seconds in the 55, Torrence originally was declared the winner, extending her indoor sprint winning streak to 40 over 25 months. But Ashford appealed and eventually Bert Lyle, the referee of the women's events, changed the decision of the photo panel to a dead heat.
The altered finish was announced almost three hours after the race, when a handful of spectators remained to watch a three-man jumpoff in the high jump.
The principals had left the Garden, but Torrence can only wonder how much her postrace statement might have influenced Lyle's ruling: "I wasn't sure if I won; I thought Evelyn nipped me at the tape."
The other dead heat occurred in the afternoon, during the semifinals of the men's 55 meters. Again, it resulted from a review of the photo following an appeal of the initial decision.
Lee McRae, the defending champion, was awarded second place in the first of three semifinals, behind the eventual winner of the event, Emmit King.
However, both McRae and Greg Barnes of the Virgin Islands were timed in 6.26 seconds and Barnes appealed.
Because of the dead heat, McRae and Barnes engaged in a runoff 25 minutes before the evening final. McRae won, 6.18 to 6.20, but he was no match for King in the final, finishing third in 6.21.
As for the attempt to inject the horse racing call on the track scene, Johnson began with a stirring "And they're off," then tailed off, no doubt in part because three of the eight 800 finalists were named Brown -- Ray, Lorenzo and Butch.
Ray Brown, a University of Virginia graduate from Washington, D.C., had no concern with the phototimer Friday, because he scored a clear victory in the meet-record time of 1:47.66.
However, the vagaries of photo interpretation were on Brown's mind earlier. He had picked up a program, looked at a photo of last year's 800 finish and insisted he still felt he had beaten Stanley Redwine, who was adjudged the winner.
Perhaps if Brown had appealed with a bit more force a year ago, he, too, could have been part of a dead heat.
If some track events were too close to call, the field events proved almost as difficult to decide Friday.
Four pole vaulters cleared 18 feet 6 inches, with Dave Kenworthy and Soviet Rodion Gataullin in a flat-footed tie, while Scott Davis and Earl Bell were placed third and fourth on fewer misses.
After Kenworthy and Gataullin missed three times each at 18-10, they settled into a jumpoff. Each missed once at 18-10, 18-6 and 18-2. Both cleared 17-10 1/4. Gataullin won by topping 18-2 while Kenworthy missed.
Soviet Igor Paklin, the world indoor champion, survived a jumpoff in the high jump to defeat Jimmy Howard and Tom McCants after the trio cleared 7-6 1/4. Howard and McCants obviously were shaky during the jumpoff, after each had slipped and fallen during his approach while trying 7-7 3/4.