- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Del Davis, a junior majoring in mathematics at UCLA, watched in wonder last Friday afternoon as the high jump unfolded at the NCAA Track and Field Championships at BYU in Provo, Utah. Davis had drawn the 22nd spot in the field of 22 jumpers, all of whom had made the qualifying height of 7'1½" two days earlier. He made 7'2½" on his first try after passing the opening height. But 18 others cleared the height or passed. And now, even before his first attempt at 7'3¼", 15 men had made that height. Davis' personal record was 7'4". But he sensed that the coming hours were to be special. He went to UCLA Assistant Coach Bob Larsen, who works with the Bruin jumpers.
"Can I pass?" Davis asked. He knew that even if he made it, the competition would be settled at a much greater height. It would be of no advantage then to have cleared 7'3¼".
"But 7'4" is as high as you've gone," said a dubious Larsen.
"Let me pass and I'll guarantee you 7'5"," said Davis.
Larsen nodded, and Davis passed.
Across the field, Milt Ottey was startled. Ottey, a sophomore at Texas-El Paso, is a Jamaica-born Canadian from Toronto. Having finished second to Navy's Leo Williams in the last three NCAA high jumps, two indoors and one outdoors, he burned to win this one. "I thought that was crazy, passing at his lifetime best," he said. "Then I got scared because he made 7'5" on his first jump."
But eight jumpers cleared 7'5", including Ottey and Williams. The bar went to 7'6". Ottey made it on his first try. So did Brent Harken of Washington State and Davis. Williams cleared on his second attempt, Jeff Woodard of Alabama on his third. Five men over 7'6". In the 1980 Olympics, in which Gerd Wessig of East Germany set the world record of 7'8¾", the field had been pared to four at the same height.
The bar went to 7'1¼", equal to Dwight Stones's American record. Ottey, who is only 5'10", sailed cleanly over on his first try.
Williams' first jump was heartbreakingly close, his left calf brushing the bar off after he was over. "As high as the thing got," he said, "it didn't look any higher." Williams consulted with Navy Coach Al Cantello and then missed again, as did Harken and Woodard. "Lord, give 'em all credit," said Cantello. "They're giving the best they have." But one by one Williams, Harken and Woodard went out. If Davis missed once more, Ottey would win.
Davis ran at the bar. His approach is a seemingly gentle glide, which makes his final spring so astonishing. He cleared by an inch and a half, to pandemonium from the 2,000 fans who had stayed on, rapt in the golden mountain evening.