Walt Murphy is one of the finest track geeks that I know. Walt does #ThisDayinTrack&FieldHistory, an excellent daily service providing the true geek’s stories about our sport. You can check out the service for FREE with a free one-month trial subscription! (email: WaltMurphy44@gmail.com ) for the entire daily service. We will post a few historic moments each day, beginning February 1, 2024.

This Day in Track & Field-February 13

by Walt Murphy’s News and Results Service  (wmurphy25@aol.com), used with permission

1988–Three primary records fell at the Vitalis/Olympic Inv., held at the Meadowlands Arena in New Jersey. Two of the record-setters were familiar names to most fans. Romania’s Doina Melinte, the 1984 Olympic Champion at 800 meters, won the Women’s Mile in 4:18.86 to break Mary Slaney’s 6-year-old World Record of 4:20.5 and Hall-of-Famer-to-be Jackie Joyner-Kersee added 2 inches to her American Record in the Long Jump (23-1/2 [7.02m]).

            But only hardcore fans would recognize the name of Brian Abshire, who won the Men’s 3000-Meters in 7:41.57 to break Doug Padilla’s previous American Record of 7:44.9. Abshire’s feat merited extensive coverage in that week’s issue of Sports Illustrated (see link below). And his AR kicked off a frenzied 30 minutes of action, including Melinte’s WR and Marcus O’Sullivan’s quick 3:50.94 win in the Men’s Mile. Relieved that his World Record of 3:49.78 was still intact was the injured Eamonn Coghlan, who fired the starting gun for the race.

            The front-running Abshire was an All-American steeplechaser at Auburn and had competed in that event at the 1987 World Championships in Rome, but he was hardly a household name. His coach, Auburn’s Kelly Sullivan, who trained Abshire during his collegiate career, had to “beg” to get his star runner added to a loaded field that already included Padilla, Frank O’Mara, the 1987 World Indoor Champion at 3000-meters, sub-3:50 miler Jim Spivey, Joe Falcon, the 1987 NCAA Indoor 3k champion, Kenya’s Yobes Ondieki, and one Sebastian Coe, who was making his U.S. indoor debut. (An out-of-shape Coe dropped out with one lap to go and, embarrassed by his poor showing, later returned half his appearance fee!). Finishing behind Abshire were Ondieki (7:45.87), Terry Brahm (7:47.55), O’Mara (7:47.65-Irish Record), Padilla (7:51.82), Falcon (7:51.90), and Spivey (7:53.10).

            Sullivan convinced director Ray Lumpp’s assistant (that would be me-WM!) that Abshire was ready to run fast. Lumpp agreed to accept Abshire’s entry with the understanding that he would have to make it to New Jersey on his own. A bonus structure was arranged to pay Abshire a certain amount if he won and an additional bonus should he set the American Record. Of course, Lumpp never thought he’d have to pay up! (but gladly did)

            After all of the bargaining to get him into the race, Abshire almost didn’t make it to the starting line–a sore arch almost made him decide to stay home. Sullivan, now the head coach at Seattle University, recalls some other details from that weekend. “…when Brian got to the hotel, his name was not on any rooming list, and he couldn’t reach me. But Padilla (being the nice guy he is) saw him in the lobby and offered to let him sleep in his room on a pull-out couch bed! Padilla, of course, was the current indoor 3k AR holder. “

            “Doug told me later he could ‘sense’ that night/next day that Brian was ready to do ‘something big’ by his mood/confidence. Then in the race, the ‘rabbit’ never got out front after the first 2+ laps, so Brian got antsy, knowing the pace felt slow, and instinctively popped out, went to the front, and turned up the pace. Having no idea how fast he was running on a banked, 10-laps to the mile track, he just ‘raced’ and broke the AR and narrowly missed Emiel Putteman, long-standing WR (7:39.2)”.

            “I was at an indoor college meet at U of Florida with our Auburn team. I called Brian/Doug’s room several times but got no answer. (Way before cell phones/internet!). A few hours later, Doug answered. He said, ‘Hi Kelly, I will let Brian tell you how it went.’ I asked Doug how he did, and he told me his time/place and that he was very pleased. Brian got on the phone and said, ‘It went really well! I won’, humbly but excited to tell me, ‘You’ve now coached an AR holder!!’. Doug was SINCERELY happy for us both. He helped rub out Brian’s plantar, which was sore and would take months to heal. Which is another story leading into that summer’s Olympic trials and our challenge for him to make the team in the steeplechase.” (Abshire won the Steeple at the Trials and made it to the semi-final round at the Seoul Olympics)

Sports Illustrated Vault


Coe Pre- and post-meet articles



1988— East Germany’s Heike Drechsler and Christine Wachtel set  World Indoor Records in Vienna. Drechsler added 2 inches to her mark in the Long Jump (24-2  ¼ [7.37m]), while Wachtel smashed her 800 best with her winning time of 1:56.40. Wachtel had run 1:57.64 just 3 days earlier in Turin, Italy.

1993–Sergey Bubka raised his World Indoor Record in the Pole Vault to 20-1  ¾ (6.14m) in Liévin, France. A 2nd World Record was set by Jamaica’s Merlene Ottey, who won the Women’s 200-Meters in 21.87.