Franklin Jacobs, the high jumper, was speaking about height, his own. "Tallness is not measured in inches," he said, "but is determined by your state of mind." Now, Jacobs stands but 5'8", which fact, if you were anyplace but the Millrose Games last Friday night, would lead you to believe that his reasoning had come up as short as his body. But at Madison Square Garden, and after his ninth trip to the men's room, the Fairleigh Dickinson sophomore suddenly believed himself eight feet tall, carried that self-enlargement 14 flying steps across the runway and, much like a man falling up stairs, flew and flopped over the bar at 7'7�" for an indoor world record. "Which," he said upon landing, "wasn't as hard as it looked. Once I got high enough all I had to worry about was falling over the bar backward."
For his grand ungainly leap—one that carried him 23�" above his own head—Jacobs was named the outstanding performer in a meet that was outstanding. Two other world records were set: one by Renaldo Nehemiah, 18, in the 60-yard hurdles (7.07); the other by Houston McTear, 20, in the 60-yard dash (6.11). Then there was a heroic performance by Dick Buerkle, the 30-year-old ex-long-distance runner from Buffalo, who turned back challenges by Filbert Bayi and Wilson Waigwa to win the Wanamaker Mile in 3:58.4. And a grueling double by Jan Merrill, who won with driving stretch runs in the women's half-mile and 1,500.
After his record jump Jacobs was asked if he would like to try an even greater height, which was his right. He declined, explaining to the officials that he didn't feel nervous enough. Unless his stomach is in knots he doesn't think he can compete very well. Besides, he wasn't sure he wanted to make another trip to the men's room.
Instead, he found a metal chair under the stands. There he rested. It had been a long day, most of it spent moving into a dorm on the Fairleigh Dickinson campus 10 miles distant in Rutherford, N.J. Then, en route to the Garden, the car he was in became entangled in heavy traffic in the Lincoln Tunnel. Time crawled. That's when Jacobs' nerves let go.
"Suddenly I felt very afraid," he said. "I thought, ' Franklin, here's another moment under heavy pressure. What are you going to do? Quit? Or are you going to have a good night, Franklin?' I'm not crazy, but I do talk to myself."
After the high jumpers warmed up, the officials announced the opening height: 6'11". It didn't do anything for Jacobs' nerves. "I'm a little guy; 6'11" is like starting at seven feet." Dwight Stones, the Olympic bronze medalist and former outdoor and indoor world-record holder, declined to start at such a lowly height. Feeling for the moment only 5'8", Jacobs made his first try at the bar—and nearly sailed under it.
His one-sided conversation went, " Franklin, what kind of a jump was that? It was awful. All the superstars are here. They're all looking at you. Franklin, are you going to beat the superstars?"
Deciding he was, Jacobs settled down. As the bar went up, the field diminished, losing along the way Jacek Wszola of Poland, the Olympic gold medalist. When the bar reached 7'3", Jacobs made his second poor jump of the night. On his way to the bathroom he passed Bill Monaghan, his coach at Fairleigh Dickinson. Monaghan told him to move his push-off point back six inches.
On his next jump the 150-pound Jacobs cleared the height easily. Greg Joy, the Olympic silver medalist from Canada, made it, too, but then failed at 7'6". Three weeks ago, at College Park, Md., Joy had jumped 7'7" to break. Stones' indoor record. Now Joy was gone, leaving only Stones and Jacobs.
"I knew I'd blow Joy's mind," said Stones, watching as the Canadian thudded into the foam padding for the last time that night. "I knew if I was here he'd come unraveled. If I had been in Maryland he'd never have broken my record. No way."