NORWALK, CALIF., JUNE 17 -- The Athletics Congress disguised its yearly ball, the Mobil outdoor track and field championships held Thursday through Saturday, as the qualifying meet for the Goodwill Games.
And thanks to the pull of the Goodwill Games, TAC was not stood up by its star athletes. Unlike last year's TAC championships, all the big names made appearances.
However there were still problems. The meet at Cerritos College drew announced crowds of only 3,500 (Friday) and 8,400 (Saturday), but some observers were left wondering how 8,400 people could have paid their way into a stadium that seats 10,000 when the far stands were only half full and the near stands were just three-quarters full.
Those who did turn out witnessed some startling performances.
Carl Lewis, who boycotted the meet last year and had not run competitively since September, won the 100 meters in 10.05 seconds. In Thursday's preliminary heat, he ran a 10.06 and embarrassed his competitors, some four strides behind, by looking over his shoulder to see what was keeping them.
On Saturday, the meet's final day, Jackie Joyner-Kersee managed the second-best long jump in the world this year when she went 23 feet 2 1/4 into a wind of 2.6 meters-per-second.
If that doesn't sound impressive, consider that a gust of 2.0 meters per second, if at one's back, is thought strong enough to be an aiding factor. Marks attained under such conditions cannot be considered for record purposes.
There were other strong performances on Saturday:
Michael Johnson, a senior at Baylor, took first in the 200 at 19.90, the fifth-fastest time ever turned in by an American and the seventh-fastest ever in the world.
Most impressive, however, was the way Johnson won it -- by doing his best Carl Lewis impersonation.
Johnson came out of the turn even with the pack, then turboed away once he reached the straightaway. A day earlier, Lewis had done the same midway through the 100 meters.
Johnson is 22, the same age Lewis was when he set the U.S. record of 19.75 in 1983. Pietro Mennea of Italy established the world record of 19.72 in 1979.
Johnson's previous best was 20.06, but he expects to drop his time further.
"If I can stay healthy," he said. "I think I'm capable of running some pretty amazing times."
Janeene Vickers turned in the fourth-fastest 400-meter hurdles race of all time by an American woman when she finished first in 54.80.
In doing so, she beat American record-holder Sandra Farmer-Patrick, who placed second at 55.18.
Farmer-Patrick established the U.S. record of 53.73 last year. But this year when both Vickers and Farmer-Patrick came down from the 10th and final hurdle side-by-side, there was no doubt Vickers would win it in the sprint. She had been displaying a deft kick all weekend in preliminary heats.
Vickers is just 21 and a junior at UCLA.
Pattisue Plumer placed second in the 1,500 meters at 4:13.68 (to Suzy Favor's 4:13.47), then came back to win the 5,000 meters in 15:45.67.
And then there was the men's 1,500 meters, the international quasi-equivalent of the mile. It was expected to be a race between the American record-holder in the mile, Steve Scott, and his heir apparent, Joe Falcon.
Well, there was a race between the two all right -- until the halfway point when Scott, 34, could not maintain. The pack passed him by as he finished way back in ninth place at 3:44.59.
In 1982 when he was 26, Scott set a meet record in the event at 3:34.92. Falcon, six days from his 24th birthday, was several seconds behind that mark. He finished first at 3:37.49.