Mary Decker – 1978
Making a triumphant comeback after surgery for a painful calf muscle problem, versatile Mary logged a series of track, cross country and road racing victories which told the running world her career was far from over.
The transplanted Californian, who set three indoor track records by age 16, refuted those who said she was a burned-out teenage sensation after her hopes for the 1976 Montreal Olympics were dashed by what was diagnosed then as a shin splint problem. She opened her 1978 campaign at the Los Angeles Times Indoor Games by shattering her own world record for 1,000 meters. Less than a week later, she won her ninth straight distance event by taking the Toronto Star Maple Leaf 1,500-meter run with five yards to spare.
Unbeaten in four middle-distance races, she was the New York Track Writers Association selection for outstanding female athlete of the indoor season.
Before leaving for summer competition in Europe, the new University of Colorado standout set another record in the 10,000- meter Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta and placed third in the National AAU 800-meter run in Los Angeles.
In September, she won the 10,000-meter AAU/Diet Pepsi road racing title in New York. Wearing CU colors in October, she captured individual honors over Kent-Denver’s 5,000-meter course for the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) Cross-Country Championship.
ln between, she posted the third-best time of the year for the 880-yard run and anchored a mile relay foursome to the year’s fourth-best time. Not bad for a “burnout”!
Mary, who turned 40 in 1999, continues to compete. Her career, which eventually did encompass the Olympics, is still a work in progress.