Zola Budd wins first major race; Bruce Smith an unknown No. 1

Zola Budd has had more than her share of troubles over the past several months, first in that unfortunate collision with Mary Decker in the Olympic 3,000 at Los Angeles, then with anti-apartheid protesters attempting to disrupt her subsequent efforts. This week however, the South African-born teen-ager finally got to run in a big race without incident -- and came through with flying colors. Going to the front at the start of the 1985 women's World Cross Country Championships outside Lisbon, Budd widened her lead throughout the race to win by a decisive 23-second margin over runnerup Cathy Branta of the United States. Budd went back to her old barefoot style of running for this race, telling reporters afterward that she had ``instinctively'' taken off her running shoes just before the start. ``There was no rain, no danger of slipping. The climate here is just like South Africa,'' she said.

More than 200 policemen were stationed around the course to make sure there would be no recurrence of the demonstrations that had forced Budd out of the British Championships earlier this year, but there were no untoward incidents and no attempts to interfere with the race.

Budd's time for the 5,000-meter course was 15 minutes, 1 second, while Branta finished in 15:24 to nip Norway's Ingrid Kristiansen for the silver medal. Another American, Betty Jo Springs, came in fourth to help the United States claim the women's team title.

Portugal's own Carlos Lopes, the Olympic marathon champion who is retiring after this year, won the 12,000-meter men's championship in 33.33. Ethiopia, with the 2-3-4-6 finishers, dominated the team competition for the fifth year in a row.

Bruce Smith is not exactly what you'd call a household name. Only the most ardent football fans have probably even heard of him. Yet in the opinion of many pro scouts, he is the most attractive player coming out of the college ranks this year. Confirmation of this occured when the Buffalo Bills announced that they would make Smith the first player chosen during the National Football League's April 30 draft. That, in fact, they have already signed him.

So why is Smith such an unknown? Because he plays in the line -- the defensive line to be exact -- and labored quietly at Virginia Tech, a school that doesn't receive that much attention in the national media.

Smith wasn't overlooked by people in the know, however. He was awarded last season's Outland Trophy, which is presented annually to college football's outstanding interior lineman. He also made consensus All-America. These credentials along with the fact that he's a pro-size 6 ft. 3 in., 277 lbs. explain why Smith may have been more coveted than Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie, who elected to sign with the USFL's New Jersey Generals.

Among other linemen who were No. 1 picks have been John Matuszak of Tampa (by Houston in 1973); Ed Jones of Tennessee State (by Dallas in 1974); Lee Roy Selmon of Oklahoma (by Tampa Bay in 1976); and Ken Sims of Texas (by New England in 1982).

Logically speaking, San Francisco's Joe Montana, the MVP and winning quarterback in the Super Bowl, should be pro football's highest salaried player. He almost is. But in the irrational world of athletic salaries, Flutie actually makes more money according to the New York Times, which places his yearly pay at $1.25 million. The exciting little signal caller may prove to be worth it, too -- especially if he turns out to be as good in the pros as he was in college. Still, it seems odd that a rookie would be paid $350,000 more a year than the best player at his position. The worst record in pro basketball this season belongs to the Golden State Warriors. Things might well be quite different, though, if these former Warriors could be recalled from their current teams: center Robert Parish of the Boston Celtics; forwards Bernard King of the New York Knicks and Jeff Ruland of the Washington Bullets; and guards Gus Williams, also of Washington, and World B. Free of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Together, this quintet would make a legitimate all-star team.

Parish played four years for the Warriors before being traded to the Celtics in 1981, while King, Williams, and Free spent two or more years each with Golden State before leaving via either the trade or free agent route. Ruland never actually played for the Warriors, but the club held his rights until exchanging them for ``future considerations'' from the Bullets.

The University of Cincinnati wound up as this season's most improved major college men's basketball team. A year ago, the Bearcats were 3-25. The current team finished 16-13 during the regular season, then made it to the second round of the National Invitation Tournament before bowing to Marquette. The turnabout was quite an achievement for the team and its second-year coach, Tony Yates, who was a member of the school's back-to-back NCAA champions in 1961 and 1962.

Possibly the most striking thing about an eight-overtime high school basketball game in Kansas City this past season was the final score: 66-63. Neither victorious Park Hill High nor North Kansas City High was exactly firing away at the basket during 56 minutes of action. (That's 32 minutes of regulation, plus 24 for the extra sessions.) On the other hand, they weren't nearly as deliberate as the North Carolina schools that needed 13 overtimes in 1964 to determine a 56-54 winner.

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