This Day In History: 3 World Records For Mac Wilkins
from the pages of Track & Field News, May 1976

Not Once, Not Twice, But THRICE

by Garry Hill

San José, Calif., May 1—Love that wind!

One could see the big grins breaking out on the faces of all the discus throwers as they arrived for the San José Invitational. That nice steady 5–10mph wind drifting in across the right quarter, occasionally gusting to 15–20. Antelope Valley here we come!

And here was Mac Wilkins ready for this first big confrontation of the season with arch-rival John Powell. With heavy emphasis on the "arch."

He made the most of it.

Powell had some facesaving to do, here at his alma mater, with Wilkins fresh off stealing his World Record.

But Wilkins, who came to the meet "very serious about breaking the record again" wasn't about to let that happen. "And when I saw that wind I was even more psyched. But I really wanted to beat Powell."

Mac's first warmup toss, a thunderous 230-footer, brought screams from a cheering section standing behind a barrier (protecting the vaulters) at about 240 feet.

It was a portent of things to come, as Wilkins went into his quick spin, utilized his great whip and unleashed a toss of 2290. More screams from the cheering 'section (i.e., decathletes Fred Samara, Bruce Jenner and Vince Pluckebaum).

Not even needing the measurement to know he had the record, Wilkins stepped out of the ring and yelled at Powell, "Put it away, John. It's all over."

Over for Powell, perhaps, but not for Wilkins. "I wanted it again," he said. And he got it, this one stretching out to 230-5. "Damn," he said. "I've still got to catch Jay [Silvester's neverrecognized 230-11] and Faina [Melnik's new women's WR of 231-3] ." He did that too, with throw No. 3.

That one firmly established him as the alltime farthest discus thrower. A superb 232-6 (70.86).

In the interim between the prelims and the finals. Mac mentioned to Powell as he passed him, "John, I think you're trying too hard."

Pacific Coast Club coach Tom Jennings commented to Powell, "Gee, Mac's being a little rough on you today, isn't he?"

Powell: "I told you we shouldn't have let the guy on the club."

The final three throws were anticlimactic, if you can downgrade throws such as 219-9, 223-4 and 218-5. (Thanks to official Gary Dàwson for taking the trouble to mark those final, three throws on a day when only best throws were being measured by the judges. "That was too good a series to lose," he said.)

Statistically, the series is awesome, averaging 225-6 ("Curses," said Wilkins on seeing the 218-5 measurement. "I shoulda fouled that one.") That's almost equal to Powell's previous record toss. Only Powell and Silvester have ever thrown farther on even one throw.

Are multiplerecord setting days like this uncommon? Yes. On two other occasions (Adolfo Consolini, 4/14/46, and Jay Silvester 9/17/68) the record was broken twice in a series, but never before three times (although Parry O'Brien once did it in the shot, as did Brian Oldfield.)

Happy (ecstatic is a better word) as he was with his performance, Wilkins still wasn't happy with his technique. "It just isn't there yet," he ventured. "I made some terrible mistakes out there today. Not one of my throws was really technically excellent. I've still got that big one inside me."

Asked if he thought the wind was mainly responsible for the record, Wilkins commented, "Well, it certainly added some distance, yes, but I think I would have thrown over my 226-11 in still air today."

As for his belligerent attitude towards clubmate Powell, he said, "I guess I was at my ass-holiest today. But I was so psyched.

I was ready to go."

To Powell's credit, it should be noted that he kept plugging away, corn through with his best toss, 220-4, on the final round. Behind him, the results were equally spectacular, evidencing that that old wind did its job. In 3rd came Ken Stadel with a PR 215-7, 4th was Norwegian Knut Hjeltnes (a National Record 211-3) and 5th was Larry Kennedy (201-3).

Invited along for a post-meet beer, the somber Powell responded, "Nope, I got some prep to do. I've got a big meet tomorrow. Gotta get ready."

Wilkins had a few.

The only trouble with watching this discus competition (and it was hard to take your eyes off it) was that it meant not paying much attention to the vault, and by this time, both Dan Ripley (a PR) and Dave Roberts had scaled 18-4 and were taking six shots at a world record 18-7. That nice quartering wind was right behind them, as Donnie Baird (18-1, an Australian NR) also managed 18-feet.

Only the third meet in history with three vaulters over 18, this one went to Ripley on the countback, as neither was particularly close on any of the record shots, the long day, and the increasingly chilly wind taking their toll.

So, with all this great stuff going on (plus George Woods' reemergence as a shot force with his 69-1/2), there were no otherwise-headlining performances which received little notice (such as a 10.0 legal/20.4w double by Ron Whitaker; 13.4w and 50.0 by Dedy Cooper, 55-7 1/2w by James Butts and 26-11 1/2w by Arnie Robinson).