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Original Issue

Wariner Sprints To the Forefront New 400 Star

Jeremy Wariner is a rare bird. Not just because he won the 400
meters last week at the Olympic track and field trials in
Sacramento and ran the fastest time in the world this year (44.37
seconds). The 20-year-old Wariner, a 6'1", 153-pound junior-to-be
at Baylor, is more starkly distinguished because he is white--the
first white male, in fact, to represent the United States in the
Olympic 400 meters since gold medalist Mike Larrabee and Ollan
Cassell in 1964. "I hear about it sometimes," Wariner says. "Fans
and media bring it up. I've finished races and hear people say,
'Is he white?' My parents always taught me not to worry about
race, gender or age."

Wariner, who's from Grand Prairie, Texas, didn't run track until
his sophomore year in high school but scorched a precocious 48.5
in the 400 that season. By his senior year he was a double state
champion in Texas and among the nation's fastest high school
sprinters in the 200 and 400. He was drawn to Baylor by the
reputation of coach Clyde Hart, who coached Michael Johnson, the
world-record holder and two-time Olympic champion in the 400.

Wariner failed to qualify for the NCAA finals as a freshman, but
he won the indoor and outdoor titles this season. At the trials
he took control from the start of the 400 final and rolled home
three meters clear of the field. It was a seasoned performance
from an inexperienced runner. "It didn't surprise me," says
Johnson. "He didn't let anything affect him throughout the
trials--he just ran his race. He's a very mature guy. I think he
has to be the favorite in the Olympics."

When a college runner stretches his season into the Olympic
summer, there is always a worry that he will tire, having peaked
too soon. Hart frequently has given Wariner weekends off
throughout the season and keeps a photograph of a mountain on his
office wall, its top shrouded in clouds, to send the young star a
message. "Around him," Hart says, "we don't believe in
peaks." --Tim Layden

COLOR PHOTO: HEINZ KLUETMEIER (WARINER) If Wariner earns Olympic gold in the 400, it'll be the thirdstraight by a Baylor runner.