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EXCERPT | Feb. 18, 1980
Mary Decker ran to a record at the Millrose Games
Decker had been a sensation since she began winning distance races in 1973 at the age of 14. But her electrifying performance at the Millrose Games heralded a dominant three-year stretch that included 10 world records and two world championships. Joe Marshall was on hand for SI.
From the start Mary Decker was running all alone. After just two of the 10¼ laps in the 1,500-meter run at last Friday's Wanamaker Millrose Games, she had opened a 15-yard lead over the six other runners in the event. All too obviously the field offered no competition, but at the quarter-mile mark the jammed-to-the-rafters crowd in Madison Square Garden suddenly became aware that Mary Decker was in a race—a race with track history.
As she neared the finish, the Garden crowd was standing, the spectators stamping their feet and screaming, the athletes, the officials, even the gaudily uniformed specials in the infield applauding and cheering her on as she pounded down the backstretch, leaned into the final turn and headed for home, the strain of her lonely effort now showing in her face. When she flashed across the line, the clocks high above the arena froze at 4:00.82. Decker, her head hanging in exhaustion, didn't see the time. A meet official grabbed her, thrusting a stopwatch in front of her face. "I thought I'd run 4:05," she said later. "I couldn't believe it when I saw that double zero." She looked up, dazed, and then threw her arms up and hugged her head as she was engulfed by a mob of media people, meet officials and athletes. Her official time of 4:00.8 had broken the world indoor record by 2.2 seconds, the American record by a staggering nine.
Thirty years later, Decker's time remains the Millrose record.
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SI.com's Paul Daugherty profiles Cincinnati freshman guard Lance Stephenson, the top scorer in New York State high school basketball history, whose problems away from the court threatened his eligibility and forced an attitude adjustment
The high school basketball player they called Born Ready was anything but, at least away from the basketball court. The amazing thing about that was that he was the first to realize it. "I needed to be away from New York to learn how to be a man," said Stephenson (33), who is averaging 12.2 points and 4.8 rebounds for the Bearcats. "I was glad to come out here to change my life.'' Out here is Cincinnati, a small place compared with where Stephenson is from. They'll give him elbow room in Cincinnati, everywhere but in the lane. The locals are respectful of their sports stars. They're grateful enough to let their heroes breathe. Stephenson could not have known any of that when he agreed last June to play quasi-amateur basketball at Cincinnati. What he did know was that New York City was starting to smother him. Breathing was a problem. So was being the next Next. New York is always looking for the next Next. That was Stephenson, who got Next from Sebastian Telfair, who inherited it from Stephon Marbury by way of Kenny Anderson. When your high school team wins four city titles and you break the state's alltime scoring record (held by Telfair, who took it from Anderson), you are going to be pampered. Or as Stephenson put it, "respected too much. In New York, everything was given to me. Out here, they keep me grounded."
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Steve Smith, the pole vaulter from Long Beach, Calif., wowed the crowd at the Millrose Games, clearing 18'¼" to break his own world indoor record of 17'11", set six days earlier in L.A.
Dick Buerkle, a 30-year-old former long-distance runner from Buffalo, won the Wanamaker Mile by holding off Filbert Bayi, the world-record holder in the 1,500 meters.
Eamonn Coghlan, of Ireland, cut a whopping 2.3 seconds off the world indoor mile record, breaking the tape in 3:52.6 on a fast track at the San Diego Sports Arena.
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Photograph by MANNY MILLAN
FLYING SOLO Decker had planned to run the first half-mile in 2:10—her actual time was 2:05.9.
JOHN D. HANLON (SMITH)
MANNY MILLAN (BUERKLE)
ROBERT HAGEDOHM (COGHLAN)
RICH KANE/ICON SMI (STEPHENSON)
BOB ROSATO (COLSTON)
JIM LAVRAKAS/ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS/AP (MCGWIRE)
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (GARNETT)