With the US Track and Field Championships returning to the Californian capital of Sacramento this week for the first time in a decade, SPIKES looks back at six magic ‘Sac-Town’ memories of yesteryear.
The US Championships back then had separate gender editions and the men’s 100m competition held at the Hughes Stadium in Sacramento will linger long in the memory. Known as the ’Night of Speed’ three sprinters smashed through the 10-second barrier for the first time.
In one semi-final Jim Hines clocked a hand-timed 9.9 along with Ronnie Ray Smith. Meanwhile, Charlie Greene also clocked 9.9 in another semi-final. Greene edged Hines in 10.0 in the final.
Hines, who went on to win the Olympic 100m title in Mexico City in a world record time of 9.95 later that year, said: “There will never be another night like it. That was the greatest ever.”
Carl Lewis announced himself as a future superstar at the 1981 edition by bounding out to a monster long jump of 8.62m (then the second longest jump of all-time) on his 20th birthday. Lewis also secured the 100m title in 10.13.
As a measure of the quality of his 8.62m effort only 11 men in history, including Lewis himself, have ever jumped beyond this distance.
Not since 1899 had a man completed the 200m and 400m double at a US Championship but Michael Johnson achieved the feat, recording a scintillating 43.66 – at the time the fourth fastest time in history - en route to winning the latter event at the Hornet Stadium.
Later that summer, MJ secured that same unusual double at the Gothenburg World Championships.
The eagerly awaited men’s 200m showdown at the US Olympic Trials between Johnson (yes, him again) and Maurice Greene did prove dramatic but for unexpected reasons.
Greene had triumphed in the 100m and Johnson the 400m, yet but both pulled up lame in the half-lap final. John Capel capitalised to take a shock win in 19.85.
Before Yelena Isinbayeva, the coolest ‘chick on a stick’, was Stacy Dragila. The Californian had set her first world record with 4.60m in Seville at the previous year’s World Championships and had subsequently matched the mark indoors and then cleared 4.62m in Atlanta.
In Sacramento she added a further 0.01 to the mark to take victory at the US Olympic Trials. Dragila would set or equal ten world records in her career.
The last time the US Championships rolled into ‘Sac-Town’, spots for the Athens Olympics were up for grabs. Sheena Tosta (52.95) impressed dipping below 53 seconds to secure the 400m hurdles title.
Yet 37-year-old veteran Jearl Miles-Clark provided the most heart-warming story taking the women’s 800m title in 1:59.06 – some 11 years after being crowned world 400m champion.