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USA National Track and Field Championships : Lewis Puts His Mind and Body to Work

Times Staff Writer

The Lakers’ Magic Johnson is fond of saying, “It’s winning time,” when a game is on the line.

Carl Lewis is apparently in the same frame of mind now at the USA/Mobil National outdoor track and field championships, while admitting that he wasn’t focused on the 1986 season previously.

Lewis, who won four gold medals in the 1984 Olympic Games, looked sharp Thursday in first-round heats of the 100 meters and 200 meters and qualifying for the long jump.

There had been speculation that Lewis was writing this season off, dabbling, as he says, in music and acting while looking forward to the 1987 world championships and the 1988 Olympics at Seoul, South Korea.

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Lewis, who has been ranked No. 1 in the world in the 100 for an unprecedented five straight years, was beaten in the sprint by Harvey Glance and Canada’s Ben Johnson in separate meets last month.

But Lewis said his condition is as good now as it has ever been and he’s easing his mind into a more competitive phase.

Lewis won his 100 heat in a fast 10.16 seconds, then cruised to second place in a 200 heat behind Floyd Heard of Texas A&M.; He needed only one jump to qualify for the long jump final, easily reaching 27 feet 4 1/2 inches while taking off far behind the board.

Lewis is only 24 but he constantly made references to his age as if he were 34. It does seem, though, that he’s been around a long time considering his numerous accomplishments.

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“I have weathered so many storms from so many challengers,” he said. “First, there was James Sanford, then Calvin Smith and Kirk Baptiste and now Ben Johnson. But no one has ever had my experience.

“This was, by far, my best 100 of the year, and I still think I can be ranked No. 1.”

Lewis said his loss to Johnson didn’t prove anything.

“He ran one race and he won,” Lewis said, “but the race (national championship) here is more important than that one will ever be.”

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Lewis is competing in multiple events for the first time since the Los Angeles Olympics. He said that his earlier setbacks were mainly due to a lack of concentration.

Lewis said he is more involved in music than ever before and his outside interests make him appreciate track to a greater degree.

He has the role of a policeman in the movie, “Dirty Laundry,” which will be released in December. He has scheduled singing engagements in July and September in his hometown of Houston. He has made two music videos and regularly takes voice lessons.

Lewis also said he wrote two songs in the past two weeks, adding, “That’s as good of an accomplishment as my 100 heat today.”

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Perhaps. But Lewis will forever be remembered for his track accomplishments. It remains to be seen whether his music career will be similarly acclaimed.

Although Lewis is renowned in his sport, he has yet to establish a world record in the 100, 200 or long jump.

“The media loves world records, but they’re not as lasting as the Olympic Games,” he said. “People played a part in the Olympics even to buying a gold coin. Every single American contributed to the Olympics. World records aren’t as important as the people elements.”

Lewis, in a rambling discourse, said, “I’m the Prince, Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie of track and field.”.

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It’s probably more important to him, though, to be just plain Carl Lewis, establishing himself again as the world’s best sprinter. He is virtually unchallenged in the long jump, not having lost in that event since 1981. He’ll be busy today with the long jump final and the 100 semifinal and final.

His other endeavors are on hold for now.

Evelyn Ashford appears to be the clear class of the women’s 100-meter field. She won her opening heat in a wind-aided 11.06 seconds and looked smooth and commanding in doing it.

Ashford, who didn’t compete last year while giving birth to a girl, Raina Ashley, recalls that she made her first Olympic team in 1976 on the Hayward Field track.

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“I’ll never forget it,” she said. “Steve Williams and Houston McTear were pulling muscles, and I was afraid it was going to happen to me.”

Ashford, the world record-holder in the 100 at 10.76, said she’ll pass up the 200 here because the turns are too tight.

“I want to save my legs for Europe,” said Ashford, who has goals of running the 100 and 200 under 11 and 22 seconds, respectively. She wants to concentrate on the 200 this summer because it’s a Grand Prix event.

She said she hasn’t decided whether to compete in the Goodwill Games at Moscow in July, but anticipates she’ll record her fastest times by the end of the season.

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Ashford said she is stronger since the birth of her daughter, adding, “But it didn’t help my speed and that’s what I’m all about--speed.”

Track Notes

Greg Foster, the former UCLA star, won his opening 110-meter high hurdles heat in 13.68 seconds, and was considering scratching himself from the semifinals later due to a tender hamstring. But he decided to run and finished second to former USC star Tonie Campbell, who was one-hundredth of a second faster than Foster, a windy 13.30 to 13.29. . . . Roger Kingdom was delayed 11 hours on a flight from Pittsburgh and didn’t arrive at the stadium until shortly before his high hurdles heat. The Olympic champion said he was tired and stiff and didn’t compete. . . . UCLA’s Kevin Young won his 400-meter intermediate hurdles heat in 49.60, while favored Danny Harris was a heat winner in 49.30. Harris said he is disappointed that world record-holder Edwin Moses and Andre Phillips aren’t competing in the national meet. Young said he isn’t disappointed because Harris is competition enough. . . . Jane Frederick won her ninth multi-events title by winning the women’s heptathlon with 6,230 points. American record-holder Jackie Joyner was an onlooker. Joyner had already been pre-selected for the Goodwill Games. . . . Don Johnson of Puma TC won the decathlon with 8,203 points. UCLA’s Jim Connolly was 10th with 7,509 points. . . . Nan Doak, of Athletics West, won the women’s 10,000 meters in 32:29.86. . . . Roy Martin, the one-time sensational high school sprinter from Dallas who almost made the Olympic team, was eliminated in a 100 heat. Martin, an SMU freshman, barely qualified for the 200 semifinals. Carl Lewis took time to counsel and console Martin, saying there is a tremendous amount of pressure on young sprinters such as Martin and UCLA’s Henry Thomas, whose season was marred by injuries. . . . Kirk Baptiste is the defending national 100- and 200-meter champion. Lewis ran in last year’s meet but was hampered by a leg injury.


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