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Deon Mayfield, 20, should have known that no good can come to an athlete who spreads his efforts over three events as demanding and specialized as the high, long and triple jumps. The muscles and techniques developed for one to a degree work against those of the other two.
But because Mayfield, a 6'1�" junior triple jumper at Arizona State, wasn't wholly aware of this, he had no way of knowing how difficult it was to compete as well in the high and, when he could arrange it, the long jump. Besides, he was excelling in all three.
In a dual meet last March with Tennessee, Mayfield long-jumped 25'2�" (good for a second) and won the high jump (7'0") and triple jump (54'2�"). One week later, against Houston, Mayfield cleared 7'2�" to finish second in the high jump and leaped 24'10" and 54'10�" to win the long and triple jumps, respectively.
A number of names come up in the search for Mayfield's predecessors as multiple jumpers. Ron Livers, a 5'9" San Jose State jumper, once cleared a bar 20 inches above his head on the same day that he tripled 54 feet. Willie Banks, now a UCLA law student, has often combined the triple and the long jump. But so far no track nut has uncovered anyone who has come close to Mayfield's marks in all three events.
How did he do it? The most important fact, says his jump coach of last year, Ralph Lindeman, now an assistant at the University of Arizona, "is that the guy has got springs in his legs. And he was willing to train and train and train, even when I told him not to."
Mayfield's greatest difficulty is keeping his takeoff techniques in order. In the long jump one arm is forward and one back, with the knees driving for vertical thrust. In the triple, the thrust is all horizontal and both arms move forward, as they do in his Fosbury flop high-jump launch. But in the high jump, his thrust is all upward.
As if that weren't confusing enough, two of the events are often held simultaneously, so Mayfield often must change shoes and run between pits as many as six times. "One of the things Deon has going for him," says Lindeman, "is his ability to relax in competition. He's mellow enough to change gears from one event to another without getting too confused."
Mayfield is, by his own description, "a pretty laid-back guy." His mother, Margorie Black, puts it differently: "I thought he would sleep his life away—and he would if you let him."
Mayfield grew up in Pasadena, Calif., and when he was in the ninth grade his parents divorced. His mother remarried and moved to Wichita, but she let him stay behind in California with her sister and brother-in-law, Deloris and Calvin Gums, because he was so happy at Pasadena's John Muir High. "It was a very big thing for her to do," says Deloris, "and we never minded having Deon for half a minute."
"He's a whiz with anything mechanical," says Calvin, a medical assistant in a program for alcoholics and drug addicts. "He'll fix anything, from a blender to a truck." Mayfield intends to follow his uncle into medicine, probably as an X-ray technician.