Hartwig, Jacobs finish championships in style

He sets pole vault mark

she is only double-winner

Track and Field

June 28, 1999|By CHICAGO TRIBUNE

EUGENE, Ore. -- Rules and injuries made this a national meet without a prime-time showdown, but yesterday's finale of the USA Track and Field Championships was a compelling show for the brunch-hour crowd of 8,913 at Hayward Field.

From the 9: 50 a.m. start of the pole vault, which included a U.S. record of 19 feet, 9 inches by Jeff Hartwig, to the 1: 20 p.m. finish of the women's 5,000 meters, in which Regina Jacobs became the meet's only double winner, this was the sport at its up-tempo best.

It starred the entire track and field troupe -- big guys to calendar models, high fliers to land speeders, aerial acts to feats of strength, fence jumpers to chest thumpers, all performing at levels that earn worldwide acclaim.

There was Hartwig adding a half-inch to his own record and playing second-story man, with three misses at the 20-foot height of an average two-story building; Jacobs becoming the first to win the 1,500-5,000 double at nationals; 285-pound John Godina throwing a 16-pound iron ball 72 feet, 3 inches, farther than anyone has for two years; Gail Devers defying the ills her flesh is heir to; Maurice Greene and Marion Jones keeping up with their fast talk.

For these athletes, pleasing the most appreciative and knowledgeable track crowds in the country wasn't the only compunction. They were looking for places on the U.S. team for the world championships Aug. 21-28 in Spain, which meant finishing in the top three unless they had a bye as defending world champion.

Those byes eliminated a Jones-Devers matchup in the 100 meters, which defending world champion Jones skipped while two-time Olympic champion Devers finished second. They allowed Greene, fresh off his world record in the 100, to pass on that race and concentrate on the 200 matchup with Michael Johnson, world record-holder and reigning Olympic champion at that distance.

Greene beat Johnson the last time the two met at 200 meters, in the Prefontaine Classic 13 months ago. A sequel planned three weeks ago in New York fell through because Johnson stayed in Texas to attend his grandmother's funeral. There was no rematch here because Johnson went back to Texas after straining a leg muscle Thursday in training.

"How unfortunate could that guy [Johnson] be?" deadpanned Emanuel Hudson, Greene's manager. "Every time a 200 comes along, something happens."

Jones won the women's 200 in a relatively pedestrian 22.10 seconds, giving her a shot at four world gold medals -- in the 100, 200, long jump and 4 x 400 relay. And Devers won her first hurdles race since 1996 in a stunning 12.54, aided by a tailwind barely over the wind-aided limit of 4.4 mph.

(Results, 9D)

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