Willie Banks Falls Short of His Record

Times Staff Writer

Willie Banks figuratively came back to earth Saturday in the Footlocker Summer Games at Edwards Stadium.

Banks, the former UCLA star, has been on a two-week “high.” He improved his own American record in the triple jump to 57 feet 11 3/4 inches June 8 at the ARCO-Coliseum meet. He went almost a foot farther last Sunday night in the USA-Mobil outdoor track championships at Indianapolis with a world-record jump of 58-11 1/2.

Even though the crowd was encouraging him to set another world record Saturday, the best that Banks could do was 56 feet on his last attempt.

“It’s hard to jump when you’re not competing against top competition, and the winds were coming every which way,” Banks said.


Banks was the U.S. representative in the Pacific Summer Games. He was jumping against athletes from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. The Invitational portion of the meet will be held today.

Banks also said that the Edwards Stadium runway, which was installed last year, was spongy and not firm like the fast facility at Indianapolis.

With Banks failing to threaten his record, center-stage at the meet belonged to Jim Howard, the American record-holder in the high jump at 7-8 1/2.

Howard won the event at 7-7 and then came close on two attempts at 7-8 3/4. There’s a footnote to his winning height: He broke the stadium record of 7-6 established by Wisconsin’s Pat Matzdorf in 1971. It was a world record at the time.


Howard finished only seventh in the national championship meet at Indianapolis. “I think I was just too eager to jump there,” he said. “The competition was over two days (with trials), and that wore me down.”

Banks was moving fast after the triple-jump competition concluded. He had to catch a plane to Ireland, where he’ll compete in a meet at Belfast Monday.

His European schedule will be full, according to Chuck Debus, who coaches Banks and other L.A. Track Club athletes.

“He’ll have at least two meets a week the rest of the summer,” Debus said.


The extroverted Banks, who gets crowds involved in his performance by orchestrating applause, could be the toast of the Continent.

Track and field is as popular in Europe as the NFL, NBA and major league baseball are in the United States.

“It’s incredible over there,” Banks said. “I may have trouble just getting in and out of stadiums.”

The magic number for European fans in the triple jump is 18 meters--59-0 3/4. That’s Banks’ target.


Track Notes

Penny Neer won the discus at 201-4. Only three other American women have ever thrown farther . . . John Stapylton-Smith of New Zealand won the javelin with a throw of 286-4, a Pacific Games record . . . Brian Stanton, who won the high jump in the national championships, was second to Howard at 7-5 1/2 . . . Stephanie Hightower won the women’s 100-meter hurdles in the meet-record time of 13.34 seconds, and Lillie Leatherwood was the 400 winner in 51.06.