Modesto Invitational Track and Field Meet : Joyner-Kersee Sets U.S. Hurdles Record

Times Staff Writer

Jackie Joyner-Kersee said that the 100-meter hurdles race she ran Saturday night at the S & W Modesto Invitational was merely a training procedure for her heptathlon competition. It was more than a good workout, though, as she established an American record in the race with a time of 12.70 seconds.

The record had been lowered to 12.71 seconds April 9 in Fresno by UCLA’s Gail Devers, who was encouraging Jackie from the middle of the infield.

The record was kept in the family to the extent that Bob Kersee coaches both his wife and Devers.


“Gail will come back and better it,” Joyner-Kersee said. “It makes us both hungry.”

Conditions weren’t ideal for record purposes. It had rained in the San Joaquin Valley during the day, letting up early in the evening. Still, it was overcast and cool when Joyner-Kersee exploded out of the blocks and easily put away her competition.

Devers was shouting at Joyner-Kersee to use her arms during the race. Jackie said she couldn’t hear Gail, but she got the message.

The record race merely enhanced Joyner-Kersee’s status as the world’s premier women’s track athlete. She is the world record-holder and world champion in the heptathlon. She is the co-world record-holder in the long jump with East Germany’s Heike Drechsler at 24 feet 5 1/2 inches. And now she has the American record in the hurdles.

It was Joyner-Kersee’s first hurdles race since she tripped and fell over the last hurdle in The Athletics Congress indoor championships last February in New York. Moreover, she hasn’t run a full flight of outdoor hurdles since her heptathlon competition in the World Championships last September in Rome.

Joyner-Kersee was gasping for breath after her race, using an inhaler to soothe her allergies and an asthmatic condition.

“Bobby (Kersee) said I was ready for a fast race,” Jackie said. “I thought I was capable of running anything from 12.69 to 12.77. I want to run 12.63 in the heptathlon because that would be a world heptathlon record and also get me a lot of points.”

Even though Joyner-Kersee set a U.S. record, American women lag behind the Europeans in the 100-meter hurdles. Ginka Zagorcheva of Bulgaria is the world record-holder at 12.25 and Joyner-Kersee was the only American ranked among the top 10 (7th) in the world last year.

But Jackie has another agenda and the hurdles are only a means to an end for her heptathlon program.

“I’m happy for Jackie,” said Devers, who earlier won the 100 in 11.14 seconds. “I knew she was fast enough to do it.”

Gail and Jackie have different schedules, so it’s doubtful they’ll race against each other in the hurdles until the summer, if at all. But they will work on starts together at UCLA, a routine that should benefit both of them.

Joyner-Kersee will try to break her newly earned record May 28 in the Jenner Invitational in San Jose.

“I felt I was just whipping over the seventh and eighth hurdles and it was hard to get my lead leg down,” said Joyner-Kersee, who added that she has a tendency to lock her arms in the middle of a hurdles race.

Thus, she was reminded by Devers to use her arms Saturday night.

Joyner-Kersee’s previous best hurdles time was 12.80 set last year in the Pepsi Invitational at UCLA.

One wonders what America’s Wonder Woman would do if she exclusively concentrated on the hurdles, or the long jump, or . . .

What’s next for Jackie? She grimaced, smiled and said, “I’m going to run the 400 hurdles next Saturday at the Occidental Invitational--for endurance.”

In another hurdles race, the men’s 110-meter event, Roger Kingdom won in a world’s-best time this year of 13.37. Cletus Clark was second in 13.47, Arthur Blake third (13.49) and Tonie Campbell fourth (13.56).

Kingdom, the 1984 Olympic champion, has been bothered by hamstring injuries since 1985. He became discouraged but hot to the point that he was considering other endeavors.

“I’m where I want to be now, just about 50%,” Kingdom said. “I’ve been working on conditioning, not much speed work,, or even hurdling.”

When Kingdom was struggling, he got some added incentive he said when a meet announcer called him the “forgotten man” of hurdling. He’s back now.

Greg Foster, the world champion in the high hurdles and No. 1 ranked in the world, has yet to make his outdoor debut this season.

Asked if he’s disappointed that Foster wasn’t competing against him, Kingdom said: “If he shows, he shows. “I’ve got something that everybody is working for--the gold.”

Track Notes

Mike Tully won the pole vault at 19 feet inch. He cleared 19-2 last Sunday in a meet at UC Irvine, so he now two 19-foot vaults in one week. . . . Carl Lewis only ran a leg on the Santa Monica Track Club’s 800-meter relay team, not the 100 as originally scheduled. He was timed in an unofficial 19.4 for his anchor leg on the winning SMTC team. Mark Witherspoon, Lewis’ club teammate, won the 100 meters in a hand-timed 10.1 seconds. Kirk Baptiste was second in the same time, but pulled up at the end with an apparent hamstring injury. . . . Ken Flax of the New York Athletic Club, formerly of Oregon, improved his personal best in the hammer throw with a mark of 262 feet 6 inches. Jud Logan is the only American ever to throw farther with a best of 268-8. . . . California’s Sheila Hudon won the triple jump at 45-3. It was the second best performance by an American, topped only by Hudson’s mark of 45-5. . . . Kansas State’s Kenny Harrison won the long jump at 26-11 and the triple jump at 55-9 3/4.