For Navy high jumper Leo Williams, the toughest task at most collegiate track meets is unpacking his luggage.
Such items as a folding chair and a hair brush are indispensable. If the opposition is particularly weak, a portable stereo or television set serves as the diversion.
This week, however, it is championship time, the NCAA Indoors at Pontiac, Mich., where the competition will require Williams' undivided attention. So he will call out the ultimate good-luck charm--his mother, Annie. Her most recent appearance was at the Army-Navy meet here and Williams, despite the absence of competition, soared to a personal best of 7 feet 5 3/4 inches.
"I like for Mom to be there and I always seem to do my best," said Williams, a 6-foot-4 junior from Muncie, Ind. "She was at the NCAAs in Detroit my freshman year when I made all-America. I'd only done 7-1 once before and I did it there.
"Last year she was at the NCAA Indoor (a meet-record 7-5 1/4) and the Sports Festival at Syracuse (7-3 3/4). And then she came to the Army meet and I had my best jump."
That effort was remarkable in that Williams had no competition whatsoever.
"I knew going into the meet that if I just jumped 7-3 I'd win by seven or eight inches," Williams said. "They couldn't top 6-8. So I just told myself that I'd have to be myself and see what motivates Leo to pull out a big jump.
"There was a good crowd and I thought about breaking the Army-Navy meet record and the field house record for them. When I got out there, things started clicking. I went right on up to 2.20 (7-2 3/4), 2.24 (7-4 1/4) and then 2.28 (7-5 3/4), nice and smooth with no pressure. I hit the pit and I couldn't believe it stayed up."
Williams thinks that breakthrough will be a point in his favor when the bar goes up at Pontiac this week, as well as in the big outdoor meets and the European tour that will follow.
"It's nice to know when the bar goes up to 7-4 or 7-5 that I've been there before," Williams said. "That height can be intimidating until you make it. I'm really consistent right now and I'd like to jump at least 2.30 (7-6 1/2) or 2.31 (7-7). Last year I was at a level competing against the world's best and now I want to consistently clear 2.30 or 2.31."
Besides completing indoor-outdoor sweeps of the Heptagonal, IC4A and NCAA titles a year ago, Williams traveled to Romania and became the surprise winner of the World University Games competition, clearing 7-4 1/2 to upset Gerd Nagel of West Germany, No. 2 in the world, and Zhu Jianhua of China.
"A lot of things surprised me at that meet," Williams said. "For one thing, the people were cheering for me--'U.S.A., U.S.A.' The pit was incredibly high, giving me only about three feet to work with. And the apron was very responsive, some substance I had never seen before.
"We had just come out of Russia and we were a little oriented to the Communist way of life. You tend to get used to it as you go along, although of course you never get used to it. We were completely separated from the community, unlike Russia, where it was kind of nice to go on the streets and have people come up to you.
"The Russians wanted us to sell our jeans and they had all kinds of Olympic souvenirs like pins and shirts. I think they were hurt personally by our not coming over for the Olympics. They couldn't understand why we could come over in 1981 and not in 1980."
Williams takes a folding chair with him on every trip, a holdover from his days as a Boy Scout. He has become a familiar sight at collegiate meets, either sitting on the chair or lying on his uniform staring at the sky, or standing and vigorously brushing his hair.
"Some of the other jumpers have threatened to steal my chair," said Williams, who competed in 33 meets last year. "That and the brush are my good-luck pieces. Sometimes I'll take along a Sony or a portable TV, but in a really big meet my mind is on, and I don't need any music.
"The chair goes back to high school, where I graduated in a class of 46. We competed against schools in the county and sometimes we had to jump off tennis courts, or compete on kind of unusual-type tracks. One school actually had a square track.
"Instead of sitting in the mud, or on wet grass, I had this camping chair from the Boy Scouts and I could fold it up and carry it in a shoulder bag. When I went to prep school at NAPS, I didn't bring it and I missed it, so Mom brought it to the junior nationals for me.
"Then I broke it as a freshman, but she got it fixed and brought it back and now I don't go anywhere without it. I took it all through Europe and it'll be there when I go back this summer."
Having won virtually every collegiate competition a year ago, it would seem Williams is left with little to shoot at. As he showed against Army, however, he is capable of self-motivation.
"I've never won the Penn Relays," Williams said. "While I'm in the collegiate ranks, I'd like to win the Penn Relays invitational high jump. And, of course, it would be nice to win all those others again this year and do a little better."
So far, he has improved his Heptagonal record from 7-3 to 7-3 1/2 and his IC4A mark from 7-2 1/2 to 7-4 1/2. There is no specified goal in the NCAA this week, but Williams thinks 7-6 1/2 might be nice