Fleet field leaves Lewis in dash dust Torrence tops Devers in women's 100 meters

June 16, 1996|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- The 100-meter finals in last night's U.S. Olympic track and field trials had the air of a much-hyped Vegas boxing show. It began with Gwen Torrence chasing down Gail Devers, and ended with Carl Lewis down on the track after finishing dead last.

Lewis, looking to make his fifth Olympic team, never got out of the blocks after suffering from a cramp in his calf prior to the final. It isn't known whether the injury will affect Lewis' bid to make the team in the 200 meters or long jump.

"I thought I could run through it," said Lewis, 34, who had also reported a twinge in his hamstring during a lackluster semifinal performance. "On the first step, it happened. I never had a chance."

With Lewis pulling up lame, the battle of America's fastest men was won by 1992 Olympic bronze medalist Dennis Mitchell in 9.92 seconds. Former Olympian Michael Marsh finished second and Jon Drummond came in third.

The women's 100 lived up to its hype. Torrence tied her personal dTC best of 10.82 seconds to beat Devers and reigning NCAA champion D'Andre Hill.

The grudge match between Torrence and Devers, the Tonya and Nancy of women's track, started with Devers taking the lead before being passed by Torrence in the last 20 meters and nearly by Hill at the wire.

But their rivalry, which dates to the time Torrence finished fourth at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and implied that gold medal winner Devers was among four women to use drugs, seemed to be put aside last night. They were downright civil to each other, hugging briefly on the track after the race and putting up a united front in the post-race news conference.

Neither seemed too concerned about the results.

"I really didn't know what to expect," said Torrence, the reigning world champion. "I just wanted to run my 10.8 to assure myself a place on the team. I knew it was going to be fast.

"I've just been invited to the party. I still hope to dance in July."

Devers, who as recently as a month ago was bothered by hamstring problems that threatened her career, didn't appear to mind losing the race, even to her bitter rival. Considering that she finished sixth in her only meet this year, here at Olympic Stadium, she came a long way in the past month.

"I achieved my goal," said Devers. "My goal was to come here and leave healthy and be on the team for the 100. I did what I wanted to do. . . . It was about making the team."

That's also what it was about for Hill, who recently graduated from Louisiana State. After coming out of the semifinals with a personal-best 10.97 seconds, Hill lowered that by finishing comfortably in third in 10.92 seconds, .01 of a second behind Devers.

All told, five women broke 11 seconds in the final.

"I knew I had to run my best to make it to the finals," said Hill. "After the semis, I was confident I could finish in the top three. But it's still a shock. This is a thrill."

It was such a thrill for Mitchell that he announced to the crowd over the public address system that he was "Barcelona-bound," apparently forgetting just where these Olympics will be staged.

Though he cramped up after the race, Mitchell's tears were of joy, not pain.

"I cried because I said, 'Hey Dennis, you made three Olympic teams,' " said Mitchell. "It's very important for me to go into that stadium holding the American flag. It's quite an honor."

Said Drummond, who qualified for his first Olympic team: "The only thing I can say is that everybody in the final did his best. It's a case of the strongest being the ones that prevail."

Asked if the eliminations of Lewis and Leroy Burrell, who finished a disappointing sixth, represented a changing of the guard in the 100, Drummond said: "Since I'm the youngest of that guard, then I guess you can say that."

While his recent comeback seemed to take a detour on a hot and muggy evening at Olympic Stadium, Lewis indicated that he may not be done writing his Olympic legacy. The long jump competition begins tomorrow and the 200 meters starts Friday.

Saying that dehydration, not age, was at the heart of his problems last night, Lewis was not ready to give his concession speech -- or his retirement speech.

"If people feel sorry for me, don't," he said. "You can celebrate. I still have two more chances. I'm going to go out and long jump like crazy."

NOTES: Two local athletes advanced to their respective finals. Reigning national champion Meredith Rainey of Silver Spring won her heat to make it through to tomorrow's 800 meters final, and Torrance Zellner of Woodlawn hung on to qualify for tonight's final by finishing fourth in his heat after leading much of the way.

Pub Date: 6/16/96

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