Griffith-Joyner Sets U.S. Record of 21.77 in 200 : Greg Foster Reaches Semifinals in the Hurdles Despite Injury

Times Staff Writer

Within the last week, the expectations of track and field’s fastest woman have become such that the question on many minds after the second round Friday night of the 200 meters was: What’s wrong with Florence Griffith-Joyner.

Instead of coming directly to the interview tent, as she did last weekend after running four times under 10.70 seconds in the 100 meters--including a world-record 10.49--she spent 20 minutes with her physical therapist.

What could it be? A strained hamstring? A sore calf? A broken fingernail?

After all, she had merely run 21.77, breaking Valerie Brisco’s four-year- old American record of 21.81 by only four-hundredths of a second and leaving the world record of 21.71 for another day.


Perhaps today. Presuming that she advances beyond the semifinals and into the final about two hours later, she will have two more chances on the last day of the U.S. Olympic trials to break the world record on the nation’s fastest track at the Indiana-Purdue University Stadium.

Ending speculation that she was injured, by explaining that she had received a routine rubdown from her therapist, thus detaining her from meeting the press, she did not exactly predict a world record for today. But neither did she rule it out.

“If I stay relaxed, the records will come,” she said.

A more complete physical inventory was demanded later Friday night from another former UCLA athlete, Greg Foster, who entered the 110-meter high hurdles despite breaking his left arm in two places during a July 4 workout and despite warnings from his doctors that another accident could leave the arm permanently damaged.

Without his cast but with the arm heavily bandaged, the two-time world champion won his first heat in 13.58. An hour an a half later, he finished third in his second heat in 13.69, advancing one place when Jack Pierce fell after the last of the 10 hurdles, and moved into today’s semifinals. The final also is scheduled for this afternoon.

Against a field loaded with 1984 Olympic champion Roger Kingdom, Tonie Capmbell, Arthur Blake, Cletus Clark and world record-holder Renaldo Nehemiah, Foster’s chances of earning one of three berths available in the event on the Olympic team don’t appear good. But who would have thought two weeks ago that he would make it this far?

“Whatever happens is going to happen, and I have to live with that,” said Foster, the 1984 silver medalist. “But if I make it into the final, my chances are as good as anybody’s.”

There also was drama in the women’s high hurdles, not much different from that of the 1984 trials at the Coliseum, where the first four finishers crossed the line within one-hundredth of a second of each other. Calling it the closest finish in the history of the sport, Swiss Timing officials determined the three members of the ’84 Olympic team only after viewing the photo.


The 100-meter hurdles final Friday night also appeared to have a blanket finish, although the photo revealed that it was not as close as the race four years ago. Jacqueline Humphrey of Eastern Kentucky finished first in 12.88, just in front of UCLA’s Gail Devers Roberts (12.90) and LaVonna Martin (12.93).

Fourth-place this time went to Benita Fitzgerald-Brown, who was ruled the runner-up in 1984, although her time of 13.13 was the same as recorded for the next two finishers. She went on that year to win the gold medal at the Olympics. This time, she will stay home. Her time was 12.94.

In tears afterward, Fitzgerald-Brown, 27, who trains with Martin in Austin, Tex., said, “That’s the place I really didn’t want to get, fourth.

“I wanted to go back to the Olympic Games. Since I can’t do that, I don’t know if I want to run any more. I had a great career. I won a gold medal. To end it right here wouldn’t be so bad. I was going to end it after the Olympics.”


Somehow finding a way to earn a place on his fourth Olympic team was Henry Marsh of Bountiful, Utah, who ran the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 8:24.21, finishing second to Brian Abshire (8:23.64) and ahead of third-place Brian Diemer (8:24.40). Abshire is from El Sobrante, Calif. and Diemer from Kentwood, Mich.

Recently diagnosed as suffering from a stress-related blood disease, Epstein’s Barr, Marsh, 34, has not had a routine training schedule.

“I’ve been bedridden for the last week,” he said. “I would train one day and stay in bed the next.”

But Marsh said he was determined not to make the trip back to Bountiful as a loser.


Just so that no one would consider his path too easy, he fell after clearing the last barrier 200 meters from the finish line Wednesday night in the semifinals and had to make a furious charge to advance to the final. The word around the track was that he had used too much energy to be competitive Friday night.

“I was really worried coming into the race,” he said. “When I fell, I saw my Olympic chances go down the tubes.”

It appeared to the crowd of 12,017 that he might be headed there when he stayed at the rear of the pack for the first few laps, but as he revealed later, that was his strategy.

“I ran conservatively,” he said. “When you run with the pack, you do things, like fall down.”


The only time Marsh fell down in the final was after his last-lap kick carried him into second place and he and his two Olympic teammates took a plunge into the water jump. And people call Marsh unsinkable.

Also making a fourth Olympic team was Francie Larrieu-Smith of Denton, Tex., who finished second in the 10,000 meters in 32:03.63. Lynn Nelson of Phoenix won in 31:51.27, and Lynn Jennings of Newmarket, N.H. was third in 32:07.74.

Mac Wilkins, 37, also has a chance to make his fourth Olympic team as he qualified in the discus throw. That’s nothing. John Powell, 41, who like Wilkins lives in San Jose, has a chance to make his fifth Olympic team in the event.

The question also will be answered today of how fast Griffith-Joyner can run the 200. Her best time Friday was the eighth-fastest of all time, the fastest by anyone other than an East German. She ran 21.96 in the first round.


One of her rivals, Gwen Torrence, predicted this week that Griffith-Joyner can run under 21 seconds.

Another, Michelle Finn, was awe-struck after running against Griffith-Joyner in the second round Friday.

“I never saw her the entire race,” Finn said. “I didn’t see her on the curve. I didn’t see her on the straightaway. She was like a bullet.”