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Lewis Nurses Leg Injury, Fails to Qualify in 100

Times Staff Writer

It was an unusual scene. There was Carl Lewis stretched out on a training table with an ice pack strapped to his right leg and explaining why he lost .

Lewis failed to qualify for the final of the 100 meters Saturday night in The Athletics Congress USA-Mobil outdoor track and field championships at Indiana University Stadium.

It was his first competition since straining a muscle while long-jumping in an Invitational meet at UCLA May 18. He finished fourth in his semifinal heat and missed the final by one-hundredth of a second. But Lewis was finished for the evening even if he had qualified. He had tested his leg, didn’t reinjure it, but wasn’t going to risk further injury and forfeit the rest of the season.

So track and field’s superman, who is seldom injured, will pass up the 200 meters today. But his coach, Tom Tellez, expects Lewis to be able to compete again in two weeks.

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Lewis has been the world’s top-ranked sprinter for an unprecedented four straight years. He hadn’t previously lost a 100 since Ron Brown beat him in the Bruce Jenner meet at San Jose early in the 1983 season.

“The clock in my body said to run a smart, smooth race and not to press it,” Lewis said. “My brain was left in the blocks, and my body took over.”

Lewis didn’t accelerate at the 60- or 70-meter marks, the portion of a race where he usually takes command. He finished fourth in 10.34 seconds, behind Houston’s Kirk Baptiste, high school star Joe DeLoach and East Carolina’s Lee McNeil.

There were three semifinal heats, with the first two in each heat automatically qualifying for the final along with the next three fastest finishers.

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USC’s Darwin Cook at 10.24, Dallas high-schooler Roy Martin at 10.32 and McNeil at 10.33 nudged Lewis out of the final.

Baptiste, with a late surge in the final five meters, won the 100 final in 10.11. Cook, the Pacific 10 champion, finished seventh in 10.25.

If Lewis was disappointed, he did an artful job of masking it.

“Disappointed?,” he said, repeating a question. “I don’t know. I came to have fun. I’m not disappointed with 10.34, but that isn’t anything for me. I can run a 10.09 every meet.”

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Not in the national championships, though.

Lewis was careful not to put any undue pressure on his leg, and he simply glided the entire distance without that typical surge at the end.

“I never ran to the point of pain,” Lewis said. “But I’ve kept my condition and I’ve had good workouts.”

Tellez said that Lewis hasn’t been able to run fast in practice since he injured his leg last month.

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“When he tried to accelerate, he couldn’t do it,” Tellez said. “I told him to just run relaxed, or the season would be over for you.”

So Lewis played it safe in order to run another day, the European season beginning with a race in London July 14.

Lewis was undefeated in the 100 and 200 last season. The only race he lost was to Baptiste at an odd distance, 300 meters, late last summer in London.

That was inconsequential. He had already won four gold medals at the Olympic Games--100, 200, long jump and an anchor leg on the U.S. 400-meter relay team--to duplicate Jesse Owens’ feat in the 1936 Olympics at Berlin.

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Sprinters compete at a high intensity level and, like thoroughbred race horses, they can break down at any time.

But Lewis has been injured only twice in his productive career. He pulled a muscle in his right leg during the World Cup at Rome in 1981. He tried to compete in the 100 but had to pull up.

The national meet qualifies athletes for several international meets, including the World Cup Oct. 4-6 at Canberra, Australia.

Lewis was philosophical now that he’s left out.

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“It’s nice to get some new people in on championship meets,” he said.

Lewis’ compensation will be making money on the European circuit.

He has already established his credentials. Meanwhile, Cook, a USC senior, is striving for recognition. He didn’t get it Saturday night. The field closed in on him at 80 meters.

“I got out OK, but it wasn’t one of my better starts,” Cook said. “It’s the same thing. I started running tight and brought people to me.”

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There was a tornado warning for central Indiana after an early-morning rain. But the skies cleared, and the weather was cool.

The athletes responded with some creditable performances, namely:

--Jamaica’s Merlene Ottey-Page easily won the women’s 100 in 10.98 seconds.

--Ottey-Page’s L.A. Track Club teammate, Rhonda Blanford, won the women’s 100-meter hurdles in 12.85, third fastest time ever by an American.

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--Roger Kingdom, the Olympic gold medalist in the 110-meter hurdles, won the event going away in 13.37.

--Dave Laut, the former UCLA star, who has had a quiet outdoor season until now, won the shotput with a throw of 68-11 3/4. John Brenner, also a former Bruin star, was two inches behind in second place.

--Andre Philllips and Danny Harris were impressive winners of their semifinal heats in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles, setting up what will likely be a fast final today.

Track Notes

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Dwight Stones didn’t qualify for today’s high jump final. Fifteen advanced, 11 clearing 7-4 and 4 clearing 7-3. Stones, who also cleared 7-3 but was 16th on the number-of-attempts rule, lodged a protest saying that all 7-3 jumpers (including himself) should advance, or none at all. The protest was disallowed . . . Roger Kingdom, the 110-meter hurdles winner, doesn’t have much opposition now that Greg Foster isn’t competing. Foster had a leg injury and is trying to get back into competitive shape. He has yet to make his outdoor debut in 1985. “It takes away from the race without Foster here, but he has to do what he has to do,” Kingdom said. Foster was the world’s top-ranked hurdler until Kingdom replaced him last year.


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