Track and Field : Evelyn Ashford Hasn’t Slowed Down; She Has Just Learned to Relax

When Evelyn Ashford was pursuing her goals of winning Olympic gold medals, she was single-minded, tense and rarely available for interviews.

By her own estimation, she said Monday at a track luncheon, she was a driven, tense woman.

But now that Ashford has achieved her goals--gold medals in the 100 meters and 400-meter relay in the 1984 Olympic Games--she is more relaxed. She is still dedicated, but she says she is running for fun now.

It was a rather grim, uncommunicative Ashford, who trained diligently for the Olympics after pulling a hamstring midway through the 100 meters in the World Championships in 1983 at Helsinki, Finland.


That injury heightened her resolve. Ashford wanted three goals medals in the Olympics, but a leg injury kept her out of the 200 meters. “Two golds wasn’t too shabby, though,” Ashford said, smiling.

Then, to validate her claim as the world’s best woman sprinter, she went to Europe for a showdown with East Germany’s Marlies Gohr, who had beaten Ashford in the World Championships and didn’t compete in the Olympics because of the Eastern Bloc boycott.

Ashford beat Gohr convincingly in a meet at Zurich, Switzerland, setting a world 100-meter record of 10.76 seconds in the process. With no immediate worlds left to conquer, Ashford became pregnant, missed the 1985 outdoor season, and gave birth to a daughter, Raina Ashley Washington.

A radiant Ashford brought her family to the track luncheon--Raina, who will be 10 months old May 30, and her husband, Ray Washington, who is the basketball coach at Mt. San Jacinto College.

Ashford will compete in the 100 Sunday in the Puma-Mt. San Antonio Relays against a field that is expected to include Valerie Brisco-Hooks, a triple gold medalist in the 1984 Olympics.

“The last three years I was focusing on the Olympics and that took some fun out of (running),” Ashford said. “Now I’m getting reacquainted with running, and my training is going surprisingly well.”

Ashford isn’t so relaxed, though, that she doesn’t still want to excel. She is looking forward to running under 11 seconds on the fast Mt. SAC track and tuned up for the meet with a wind-aided time of 11.08 Friday in a meet at Cal Poly Pomona.

Ashford has parted company with her former coach, Pat Connolly, and now coaches herself, with some assistance from her husband.


“I have a different attitude on life now and I’m more relaxed,” said Ashford, who celebrated her 29th birthday last Tuesday. “I have a nice family and I’m well rounded. But I don’t regret any of it. I felt I had to be the way I was. I was single-minded and I had tunnel vision. Now it’s time for a change.”

Ashford hasn’t profited by commercial endorsements to the degree that, say, gymnast Mary Lou Retton has. But she said she’s working on a new shoe contract and has a television show called “World Class Women,” dealing with up-and-coming collegiate athletes.

Once reclusive regarding reporters, Ashford has a different outlook. “I understand now what you guys go through,” she said.

Ashford said she plans to concentrate more on the 200 meters this year because it’s a Mobil Grand Prix event, and anticipates that she will compete until 1990.


Although Ashford may be more relaxed these days, she remains a determined competitor. “I always want to be the best and if I can’t, I don’t want to run,” she said.

Track Notes It seems just a matter of time until improving USC pole vaulter Steve Klassen breaks the school record of 18 feet 2 3/4 inches held by Dave Kenworthy. Klassen cleared 18-0 1/2 in the Jenner invitational Saturday at San Jose and USC Coach Ernie Bullard said that Klassen had close attempts at 18-4. “He’ll be a 19-foot vaulter in 1 1/2 years,” Bullard said. “He has speed and gymnastic ability.” Klassen, a former decathlete, is concentrating on the pole vault. He’ll compete in Sunday’s Mt. SAC meet. . . . George Porter, USC’s highly regarded freshman hurdler from Lompoc, will redshirt this season. He has a lingering hamstring injury. . . . Veteran sprinter Harvey Glance was also a luncheon guest. Glance, 29, has endured in an event that has a high attrition rate. He was fourth in the 100 in the 1976 Olympics, made the team in 1980 when the United States boycotted the Moscow Games, and was an alternate in 1984. He’ll be in a Mt. SAC 100 field that includes Carl Lewis, Terry Scott and USC’s Pancho Morales. Asked if he believes that Lewis can make a comeback from a 1985 hamstring injury, Glance said: “He’s a very, very tough competitor. Whatever challenges there are, he’s capable of meeting them.” . . . UCLA Coach Bob Larsen on Texas A&M; freshman shotputter Randy Barnes, who had a throw of 71-9 3/4, second best in collegiate history, Saturday in Waco, Tex.: “He was fouling throws at 73-9 and he’ll break the American record of of 72-9 3/4 . He’s a 300-pounder with a spinning technique and he is going to retire some people.” Barnes will also compete at Mt. SAC. . . . Decathlon and heptathlon competition will be held Thursday and Friday with a distance carnival scheduled Saturday night at Walnut.