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Running / Barbie Ludovise : Scott Changes Tactics Again, Makes His Third Olympic Team

Twelve years ago, a 20-year-old sophomore from UC Irvine stood on the Hayward Field track at Eugene, Ore., awaiting the start of the men’s 1,500-meter final of the 1976 U.S. Olympic trials.

The runner, mistakenly identified on television as “Mike Scott,” placed seventh in the race, establishing himself as a new hope on the American miler scene.

Once they got his name right, Steve Scott was on his way.

Last Saturday at the U.S. Olympic trials in Indianapolis, Scott, now a longtime--and somewhat sentimental--favorite, managed a second-place finish in the men’s 1,500-meter final.

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The race, which rewarded the top three finishers with spots on the Olympic team, came down to tactics. And survival.

“The way it turned out, it was a totally bogus race,” said Scott, a Fallbrook resident. “It came down to whoever had (the best) positioning . . . It was just a roll of dice to see who made the team, and the dice rolled kind of funny this time.”

With 300 meters remaining, the tight pack began to unwind. With 150 to go, Scott had to push and shove his way among several runners before sprinting to the finish.

Scott finished in 3 minutes 41.12 seconds, a half-step back from Jeff Atkinson of Manhattan Beach, who won in 3:40.94. Mark Deady of Moline, Ill., was third in 3:41.31, just edging 1984 Olympian Jim Spivey, the pre-race favorite.

Making his third Olympic team was really all that mattered for Scott, the American record-holder in the mile (3:47.69, set in 1982). Of course, he said that winning the race would have been nice, too.

“I felt bad getting second,” Scott said. “I really wanted to win. But, as Earl Bell (who made the team in the pole vault with a second-place finish) said, there’s no winner in the trials.

“I made it, and I’m very thankful for that. It could’ve very easily been me (who did not qualify) instead of Spivey.”

Scott will be in Coto de Caza Saturday to run the Mid-Summer Night’s Dream 12K--"just for fun,” he said. He has a little less than nine weeks to tune-up for the Olympics at Seoul.

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The first round of men’s 1,500-meter preliminaries is scheduled Sept. 29.

“Right now, I’m just getting myself the best prepared I can,” Scott said. “I try to do all the right things and stay consistent. Though I have made some drastic changes in my training this year.”

Scott, who has been basically self-coached for the past three years, now takes direction from New Zealand’s Arch Jelley.

Jelley, who also coaches New Zealand’s John Walker, put Scott on a schedule that involves a longer Sunday run (20 miles, instead of 13 to 15) and lighter, less demanding track workouts.

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“In the past, I’d do one monster track workout a week,” Scott said about his days at Irvine. Under former Anteater Coach Len Miller, he often ran a 10-by-1-mile workout at a 4:40 pace each Monday afternoon.

“But I’ve gotten to the point where I can’t do those huge, bulk workouts anymore,” Scott said.

“Now, I’m on the track three times a week doing just three or four longer intervals like 1,000, 2,000, 1,000 (meters) or 2-by-3,000. They’re not all that fast, just under control.”

Translation? Scott runs his 3,000-meter intervals at an 8:15 pace.

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“It’s very tough mentally. But basically, that’s the idea.”

In 1984, Scott attempted a drastic change in race tactics. In the 1,500-meter Olympic final at Los Angeles, Scott shed his usual wait-and-kick tactic and sped to an early lead, passing the 800-meter mark in 1:56.81.

The move cost Scott not only his strength but his famous kick. He faded and finished 10th.

Will he try that tactic again in September?

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“No,” he said, laughing. “You’re definitely not going to see me leading. That’s not my race plan anymore.

“Now that I’m on the team, I feel like there’s a good chance for me to medal. Things have to go right, obviously, but the possibility is there. The good thing this time is I’m not going in as one of the favorites. The pressure’s off, I can just go and enjoy myself.”

Greg Whiteley, a former University High School star now at Brown University, finished 12th in the men’s 5,000 meter final Saturday at the Olympic trials.

Whiteley, 21, stayed with the lead pack through 4,000 meters, running in fifth and sixth place. But with 1,000 meters remaining, the leaders began pulling away and Whiteley faded. He finished in 14:24.30.

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Doug Padilla of Orem, Utah, won the race in 13:37.86.

Brian Theriot, former middle-distance standout at Newport Harbor High and UCLA, finished 10th in his semifinal heat of the men’s 1,500. Theriot, a 31-year-old Costa Mesa resident, was clocked in 3:45.94.

This week’s schedule:

Saturday: Loeschhorn’s Running Club 10-year Reunion Run 5K. UC Irvine’s Crawford Field. 5 p.m. For information, call 964-4567. Reunion party at Irvine’s University Club, 8 p.m.

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A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream 12K and 5K. Coto de Caza, Trabuco Canyon. 5:30 p.m. For information, call 858-1500.

Sunday: Pop Proctor 10K. San Clemente State Park. 7:30 a.m. For information, call 361-2969.

Tuesday: Saddleback College all-comers track meet. Saddleback College, 5 p.m. Three-mile cross-country race at 7 p.m. For information, call 582-4545.

Thursday: Villa Park High School 3-mile Fun Run. Villa Park High School, 6:30 p.m. For information, call 633-2007.

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El Toro 3-mile Cross-Country Series. Sycamore Park, El Toro. 6:30 p.m. For information, call 770-0444.


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