SAN JOSE, CALIF., JUNE 24 -- Before Tim Bright became an Olympic decathlete, he was an outstanding pole vaulter at Abilene Christian College. Today, Bright's specialty proved the difference, as he defeated George Mason's Rob Muzzio by 206 points to win the decathlon at the 112th USA/Mobil Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
In finishing second with 8,134 points, Muzzio joined Bright (8,340) and Gary Kinder (8,053) on the U.S. team for the world championships in Rome, Aug. 29-Sept. 6.
The other champion crowned today was Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who captured the heptathlon with 6,979 points, third best total in history. A poor performance in the javelin cost Joyner-Kersee a chance to eclipse her world record of 7,158. (She also owns the second-best score, 7,148.)
Muzzio, avoiding the disasters that riddled much of the competition, moved into the lead by 44 points after capturing the seventh event, the discus, at 162 feet 2.
But the recent George Mason University graduate was eliminated from the next event, the pole vault, before Bright attempted a height. Bright eventually cleared 18-0 1/2, a half-inch off his U.S. decathlon record, for 1,067 points. Muzzio's 14-5 1/4 was good for only 731, and the 336-point differential eventually proved decisive.
Slipping to third, 35 points behind Kinder, after a 196-11 javelin throw, Muzzio pulled out second place by 81 points, "kicking" home in 4:36.36 in the concluding 1,500 meters.
Afterward, Muzzio lay on the ground for some time while friends and relatives dashed up to check his condition, then offer congratulations.
"I'm fine," Muzzio said. "I'm just enjoying lying here. Isn't this great? That race is harder than it looks. I didn't want to kick so soon, but I realized the rest of the guys were starting to move."
Muzzio was concerned throughout by a sore knee that restricted his training after his second-place finish behind Jim Connolly of UCLA in the NCAA championships three weeks ago.
"I really haven't been able to practice," he said. "I got a shot of cortisone, then I did nothing for seven days. I did a little workout and came out here. But most of the hard training had been done and it carried me through."
Mike Ramos, the premeet favorite, withdrew Tuesday after unwisely waiting until 6-5 to enter the high jump competition, failed to clear a height and was awarded a zero.
Defending champion Dave Johnson suffered a foot injury in the long jump Tuesday and was 14th when he dropped out after the discus today.
Sheldon Blockburger, second behind Bright after Tuesday's five events, managed only a token 109-4 in the discus, after fouling on his first two tries when his toe nudged the raised surface beyond the ring as he pivoted.
Joyner-Kersee, a bit disappointed with Tuesday's total of 4,130 points for four events, went through the full cycle of emotions today.
She is the American open record holder in today's opening heptathlon event, the long jump, and she turned in the outstanding performance of her life, 23 feet 9 1/2 inches. That earned her 1,257 points, the most ever for a single event in the heptathlon, and seemingly put her on target to break her world record of 7,158 points.
In one of those incongruous situations that make track and field incomprehensible to the layman, Joyner-Kersee's distance was acceptable for heptathlon record purposes -- her old mark was 23 feet -- but did not officially eclipse her open long-jump standard of 23-9.
The following wind, a rarity most of the day, was measured at 5.10 miles per hour. The limit for individual-event records is 4.47 mph; for heptathlon marks, it is 8.95 mph.
One thing was clear to Joyner-Kersee, after the official went down on hands and knees to be certain a spike had not marred the surface beyond the takeoff board. It was a heck of a jump. She jumped again, for joy, on hearing the measurement and her husband and coach, Bob Kersee, had to come close to a record for a standing high jump from his vantage point in the stands.
Both came crashing down in the sixth event, the javelin throw. Joyner-Kersee's first two attempts sailed to the left and landed outside the sector. She was forced to play it safe on the third, an unspectacular 132 feet down the middle. While it assured her first place here -- she outdistanced runnerup Jane Frderick by 590 points -- it cost her any chance of breaking her world record.
Joyner-Kersee's disappointment increased when she ran the 800 in 2:13.07, leaving her short of 7,000 points. But Bob Kersee felt the day's travails would be a long-term benefit.
"The only person who can beat Jackie Joyner is Jackie Joyner," he said. "It's a blessing in disguise that the javelin went poorly. Now she has to face the possibility that she may have to come back in 2:05 to win. It will make her a better heptathlete."
The major portion of the five-day meet will begin Thursday. Only one final is scheduled, in the women's 10,000.
Carl Lewis is set for trials Thursday in the three events he is favored to win -- 100 meters, 200 meters and long jump.
Edwin Moses and Danny Harris will compete in the 400-meter hurdles, their first confrontation since Harris ended Moses' 10-year unbeaten streak in Madrid June 4. Andre Phillips will be an absentee because of a stress fracture.
The open 400 promises some thrills, too, as Antonio McKay challenges Butch Reynolds, whose 44.10 earlier this year is the best ever without benefit of altitude.