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TRACK AND FIELD BEGINS // Slaney won't retire after failing in 5,000

The Games ended quickly for Mary Slaney, perhaps America's greatest female distance runner but never an Olympic medalist.

Slaney was seventh in her 5,000 heat in 15 minutes, 41.30 seconds Friday night and failed to advance to Sunday's final.

"I thought I would feel better tonight," she said. "I honestly don't know why I didn't."

Slaney, 38, who captured America's attention as a precocious 14-year-old, still holds every American record from 800 to 3,000 meters. But she is largely remembered for the horrible night 12 years ago when she fell to the infield during the Olympic 3,000 after getting tangled with Zola Budd.

"This was a lot better than '84," Slaney said. "That was a lot tougher."

The race was out of Slaney's reach early. Never one to rub elbows in a pack, she faded far outside and then began to lose ground.

"There was a lot of pushing and shoving early in the race and I thought I should drop back and then push it later on," she said.

The crowd of more than 80,000 cheered loudly when Slaney crossed the finish line. Later, she was ushered into the interview room, a place usually reserved for medalists and soon-to-be medalists.

"I think I'm old enough and wise enough to know that you can only do so much with what you have," she said, "and what I have is 5{ months of training behind me after nearly three years of not running."

Slaney denied that she was finished. "I'm just starting basically, because I'm still in the midst of a comeback."

She even talked of the next Olympics, when she would be 42.

"Maybe I'll try the marathon," she said, "or the 10,000, or even another 5,000."

MEN'S 400: Michael Johnson, wearing gold shoes, jogged the final 20 meters to finish second in his heat at 45.80. "There's no sense in doing anything but to get to the next round," Johnson said. Butch Reynolds and Alvin Harrison also advanced.

MEN'S 100: The fastest time was 9.93 seconds by Frankie Fredericks of Namibia. Ato Boldon of Trinidad ran a 9.95. Americans Dennis Mitchell, Mike Marsh and Jon Drummond joined Fredericks and Boldon in today's semifinals, as did reigning Olympic champ Linford Christie and world champion Donovan Bailey.

WOMEN'S 100: Gail Devers and Gwen Torrence advanced to the semifinals, but Torrence, who was hampered by a sore left quadriceps at last month's trials, grabbed her right thigh after each heat. Jamaica's Juliet Cuthbert and Merlene Ottey also advanced.

WOMEN'S 800: World champion Ana Fidelia Quirot of Cuba and former champion Maria Mutola of Mozambique won their heats. Britain's Kelly Holmes had the fastest time in the first round, winning her heat in 1:58.80.

MEN'S HIGH JUMP: Charles Austin was the only American to advance, clearing 7-2{.