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Brenner Gives Freshman a Lesson : He Throws Shot 71-5 1/2 to Win; Barnes Is Second at 70-10

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Former UCLA shotputter John Brenner, who has held the NCAA record in the event since 1984, was tired of hearing about the latest collegiate sensation, Texas A&M; freshman Randy Barnes. Brenner wanted to see him.

So even though Brenner had not planned to enter the Mt. SAC Relays Sunday, he reconsidered when he learned Barnes was in the competition.

But while Brenner said he has been making corrections in his technique and expected to lose by “two or three feet,” he surprised himself by winning with a throw of 71-5 1/2 on the last of his six chances.

“I came in thinking I was going to get wiped out,” he said.

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When the shot hit the ground, Brenner jumped about five feet into the air, which might have been the most notable athletic accomplishment of the day considering that he weighs 295.

It was a dramatic conclusion to an event that included six throws of more than 70 feet by three different performers, an outstanding competition at any time and especially for this early in the season.

Brenner’s winning throw, the best of his three 70-footers Sunday, was the third best in the world this year, the second best outdoors.

It also broke a 13-year-old meet record, Al Feuerbach’s 70-9 in 1973.

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Barnes, whose throw of 71-9 1/2 nine days ago is the best in the world this year, broke Feuerbach’s meet record on his first chance Sunday with a throw of 70-10.

“I thought it was a safety throw, just to make the finals,” Brenner said. “I thought, hell, here we go.”

But that was the best throw of the afternoon for Barnes, who finished second. The other 70-footer Sunday was by the New York Athletic Club’s Gregg Tafralis. He threw 70-4 1/2 to finish third.

Asked for his first impression of Barnes, Brenner said: “Scary.”

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Barnes, 19, said he was just scared.

“I was excited to do as well as I did against these guys,” said Barnes of a field that also included American record-holder Brian Oldfield. Oldfield finished fifth with a best of 66-2.

“I was really nervous,” Barnes said. “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen these guys face to face. Actually, I saw them at a meet in Dallas. But I didn’t really meet them until today.”

Brenner, 25, said he thought the field might have been even better if some of the other highly ranked shotputters hadn’t been intimidated by Barnes’ presence in the field.

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“When you look in the paper and see an 18- or 19-year-old kid throwing three feet ahead of you, that’s hard to take,” said Brenner, who represents the Mazda Track Club.

“It’s embarrassing. People say, ‘Why can he throw that far and not you?’ They’re right. I should be throwing that far. I’m older.

“But the way I look at it, when someone like Randy comes around, it gears you up again. It’s like when Michael Carter was a high schooler. I saw him throw 81 feet (with a 12-pound shot instead of the 16-pound shot used by the older throwers) in high school and said, ‘Why should I go on?’ Either you can quit or work harder.”

Brenner said he has been working so hard to improve his technique with UCLA’s throwing coach, Art Venegas, that they decided it would be better to train over the weekend instead of competing.

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“But things started picking up Thursday,” Brenner said. “Then, when I heard that Randy was coming, that made me want to throw. The thought of him throwing 73 or 74 feet scares the heck out of me. But if he’s going to do it, I want to be there to see it.

“I’d like to know what the Russians and Germans are saying about this kid. If I were in Europe and reading about this kid, I’d be dying to see him.

“When I read that he was throwing 66 and 67 feet, I thought that was something for a college freshman. Then, he threw 69, and I thought that was unbelievable. When he threw 71, I thought, ‘Oh my God, where’s he going to stop?’

“He’s got no barriers. As we get older, we put mental barriers on ourselves. But I think he’s going to show us that 73 and 74 feet is attainable.”

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Still, there’s no question that Barnes has some things to learn.

When asked about his 70-foot throws Sunday, he said: “They were calling them out in meters instead of feet, so I didn’t know what was going on.”


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