Foster, on last go-round, still holds off all comers At Mobil 1, hurdler shows his consistency

February 08, 1993|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Staff Writer

FAIRFAX, Va. -- Less than 18 months after the third of his world outdoor championships, Greg Foster spent the weekend showing why he's the most consistent high hurdler in history.

Friday night at the Millrose Games in Madison Square Garden, and again yesterday at the Mobil 1 Invitational at George Mason University, Foster held off Olympic silver medalist Tony Dees in the 60-meter hurdles, leading to a pertinent question:

Why is Foster retiring?

"I think I'd rather quit when I'm on top," said Foster, who decided four months ago that 1993 would be his last season. "You see the Sugar Ray Leonards and Muhammad Alis come back and not do so well, then people tell them they should have stayed out of the game. I don't want people telling me I should have stayed out of the game."

Hold on. What about another boxer who's still drawing paychecks, George Foreman? How about Nolan Ryan, Ray Floyd, Robert Parish, other men older than your 34 years who are still performing at a world-class level?

"Nolan Ryan's a big hero," said Foster, who proceeded to discuss the difference between throwing a baseball 60 feet and throwing your body over 42-inch hurdles. "Hurdles are challenging not so much because there's 10 obstacles. Everyone can't do it. It's a very technical race, and you feel you're doing something that 99 percent of the people can't do.

"I don't feel I've lost my sprinting ability. I'm not clobbering hurdles. I'm not losing concentration. It's just time to go. It's funny, I haven't retired yet, and people are already talking about a comeback."

It's telling that Foster compares himself to boxers. In an event played out on the edge, Foster took it to the extreme and paid a physical toll. His falls are as much of his history as Olympic shortcomings, and watching Foster has been like going to a race track -- Come see Greg crash and burn.

The Greg Foster Farewell Tour is a balance on the indoor tour to the anger of 400 record holder Butch Reynolds and his fight with the IAAF, and the sentiment is tinged with irony. Coming out of UCLA, Foster was the West Coast villain to Maryland's Renaldo Nehemiah.

Now Foster's the senior statesman. Nehemiah (12.93 seconds) and world-record holder and two-time Olympic gold medalist Roger Kingdom (12.92) have run the 110 hurdles faster, but his consistency has been unmatched. Foster ran his personal best (13.03) in 1981, and a decade later nipped Morgan State product Jack Pierce at the world championships, where both were timed in 13.06.

Foster needed another favorable reading of a photo yesterday, as he and Dees were caught in 7.65 over 60 meters. Pierce was third in 7.69, and Jerry Roney, of Woodlawn High and James Madison University, was last in the field but still only a yard behind Foster, in 7.77.

The young are restless for Foster to spend more time with his 20-month-old son, Bryce, but he wants to hold on through the indoor world championships in Toronto next month and the outdoor worlds in Stuttgart, Germany, in August. He's the best hurdler never to win Olympic gold -- the U.S. boycott sidelined him and Nehemiah in '80; Kingdom upset him in '84; he broke an arm two weeks before the '88 trials; and last year he missed the third U.S. spot by .02 seconds -- but he's made the world championships his domain.

Reynolds, who refuses to back down in his dispute with track and field's ruling body over his 1990 drug suspension and subsequent court ruling that awarded him $27.3 million in damages, also appears ready for business in Toronto. He took the 400 in a meet-record 45.89.

A handful of others completed a Millrose-Mobil 1 sweep yesterday. Among the men, Clemson's Michael Green led the 60 in 6.55; Algerian Noureddine Morceli, the world-record holder in the 1,500, took the mile in 3 minutes, 55.61 seconds, and Ireland's Eamonn Coghlan easily won the Masters Mile in 4:07.25.

The women's repeaters included Olympic 100 champ Gail Devers in the women's 60 (7.12), Maria Mutola in the 800 (2:01.18) and Yolanda Henry in the high jump (6 feet, 2 3/4 inches).

NOTES: The men's 800 had the best finish of the meet, as Tennessee junior Jose Parrilla, a former Severna Park High star, came from 10 meters down in the final 100 to edge Stanley Redwine and Olympic silver medalist Nixon Kiprotich in 1:49.23. Parrilla is the NCAA outdoor champ, and he'll be challenged indoors by George Mason's Simon Bowen, a transfer from Morgan State who helped the home team to a meet record in the 4 x 800 (7:20.77). . . . A Morgan State star of the '80s, Wendy Vereen, won the women's 200 in 24.07, and former teammate Rochelle Stevens was fourth in the 400. . . . Dan O'Brien, another Olympic absentee looking to make amends at the world championships in the decathlon, won all five events in the first Pegasus Pentathlon, which began with three events in New York Friday and concluded with the 60 hurdles (7.93) and 200 (22.06) yesterday.

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