Glover Sets World Best in Hurdles


Tuesday, July 18th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Compared to teaching a classroom of second graders, winning the women's 400-meter hurdles at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials was child's play to Sandra Glover.

Glover, who until this year split her time between the track and an elementary school classroom in Sugarland, Texas, made the U.S. team for the Sydney Games with a time of 53.33 seconds Monday that was the fastest in the world this year.

``I had a full-time job and was training at the same time. It was hard,'' she said. ``After working eight hours with 4- and 5-year-olds, it was tough.''

Glover's career-best race came on a quiet night at the trials, with just four finals. Melvin Lister won the men's long jump in 27 feet, 3 3/4 inches, the shortest winning mark at the U.S. trials in 20 years; Lynda Blutreich captured the women's javelin, and Seilala Sua won the women's discus with a throw of 216-2 that was the longest by an American woman in 14 years.

Lister's leap was the only one over 27 feet at the trials. At the 1996 U.S. Olympic trials, five men surpassed that mark.

For the United States, which has won the long jump gold medal in 20 of the 22 Olympics in which it has competed, winning any medal at Sydney is a long shot.

Not counting the boycotted 1980 Moscow Games, an American has won the long jump in every Olympics since 1964. That streak includes a world-record jump by Bob Beamon in 1968 and four straight golds by Carl Lewis, the last in 1996.

Though his winning leap would have been good for just third place at the 1996 U.S. trials, Lister quickly proclaimed himself a gold-medal favorite.

``I'm the one to beat in Sydney. I'm a good jumper just waiting to happen,'' he said. ``A person without confidence might as well stay at home.''

Lister, the NCAA champion in the triple jump this year and the long jump last year from Arkansas, was joined on the U.S. team by Dwight Phillips and Walter Davis. All three are collegians and will be competing in their first Olympics.

Fourth-place finisher Robert Howard was livid, claiming he was cheated of a spot on the team. He contended his best jump of 26-5 3/4 was improperly measured by seven inches. He yelled for a remeasurement, but it was too late — the pit already had been raked.

``That cost me second place,'' Howard said.

Glover led all the way in the 400 hurdles. World record-holder Kim Batten was second in 54.70 and Tonja Buford-Bailey got the third spot on the U.S. team in 54.80 and celebrated near the finish line with 20-month-old son Victor in her arms.

Glover's time was two-tenths of a second faster than the previous best this year, 53.53 by Morocco's Nezha Bidouane, and immediately turned Glover — who failed to qualify in two previous trials — from an Olympic hopeful to a gold-medal contender.

Following her victory, she turned to Batten and proclaimed, ``Sorry, Kim, but your record is going down this year.''

She attributed her remarkable improvement — the time was almost a third of a second better than her previous best — to a spiritual awakening and the chance to train fulltime this year.

``I didn't do it at 22 or 23, but I'm here and I'm grateful,'' Glover said. ``Thirty-one years old and running strong.''

Glover's time was so good that it might cost her husband his day job. Don Glover, who never ran track but studied hurdling so he could coach his wife, is a chemical engineer for Phillips Petroleum. Now he'll help Sandra focus on Sydney.

``I am going to take a leave of absence from work,'' he said. ``Hopefully I'll have a job when I get back.''