Lister pulls out dramatic triple jump triumph |

Lister pulls out dramatic triple jump triumph

Dave Price

SACRAMENTO – On a day when surprises were the norm – including the withdrawal of Marion Jones from the women’s 200 meters – one working class hero leaped to the front of the class Saturday afternoon at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.

Melvin Lister may not have come in as one of the favorites in the men’s triple jump, but he left Sacramento State University’s Hornet Stadium with a gold medal after flying 58 feet, 4 inches – one of the best jumps ever by an American.

Not bad for a guy who took time off from his regular day job installing car stereos for Circuit City in Fayetteville, Ark., to compete at the Olympic Trials.

“It’s hard. I’ve got to work a full-time job and then go out to practice, but I love the sport so I want to keep on working to get to where I want,” said Lister, who will get to celebrate his 27th birthday on Aug. 29 with a trip to the Olympics in Athens.

On Saturday, he posted the No. 1 mark in the world for 2004 with a jump that improved his lifetime best by more than two feet. It also put him up to No. 5 on the all-time U.S. top 10 list.

Walter Davis finished second with a personal record 57-10 1/4 that moved him into a tie for No. 6 on the all-time U.S. list with Kenta Bell. Bell placed third at 57-8 1/4.

Lister was fourth in the competition to start the final round when he brought the crowd to its feet with his winning jump.

“I’ve never pulled out anything that dramatic before,” said Lister, who hadn’t even competed in the triple jump in the past three years and had set his previous personal best of 55-7 3/4 coming into the trials in winning the 2000 NCAA title for Arkansas. “I had nothing to lose. I was not the favorite coming into the triple jump.”

Davis, a 2000 Olympian and silver medalist at the world indoor championships in 2003, came up with his second-place mark on the next jump.

Perhaps the biggest upset came when Bryan Clay surpassed 2003 world champion Tom Pappas to win the decathlon. Clay trailed by three points after Friday’s opening day, but pulled away to win with a lifetime best 8,660 points while Pappas finished second with 8,517.

Some called it an upset, but Clay wasn’t surprised after his performance earlier this year in the heptathlon at the world indoor championships in Paris.

“My score was second all-time by an American indoors, a lot of people don’t realize that and it is something I’m proud of,” he said.

“This was a big p.r. (personal record) for me and I’m happy about the score. I feel there were a lot of points left out there so I don’t feel I’ve peaked yet.”

Clay took the lead for good in the second event of the day when he threw the discus 170-11 and then he slammed the door shut with personal record efforts of 16-8 3/4 in the pole vault and 224-3 in the javelin.

Paul Terek pulled out third-place with 8,312 points, aided by a lifetime best throw of 161-6 in the discus and a personal best 4:24.28 in the 1,500.

Another surprise winner was Monique Hennagan, who outran a talented field in the women’s 400 meters final.

Hennagan, running in lane seven, improved her lifetime best time by a full second with a 49.56 clocking, fifth fastest on the all-time American list. University of Texas star Sanya Richards captured second in 49.89 and Tennessee’s Dee Dee Trotter, this year’s NCAA champion, finished third in 50.28.

“My first round, I felt really good so I knew at that time I was ready to run 49,” the 28-year-old Hennagan said. “I just stuck to my race plan. I knew that if I was in the right position and executed at the right time that I was capable of dropping the way I did.”

Breaux Greer, who sustained a torn ACL less than a month ago and wore a knee brace for the men’s javelin competition, locked up gold on his first attempt with an Olympic Trials and stadium record throw of 270-4. For Greer, this marked his fifth U.S. title in a row, including two Olympic Trials gold medals.

In one of the top news developments on Saturday, defending Olympic champion Jones withdrew from the 200 competition.

“Overall, my reason for pulling out of the 200 was fatigue, no other reason,” Jones told reporters at a press conference. “After the round yesterday, I was exhausted. It happens. It just hadn’t happened in the past. I’ve always told myself in the past that if I can’t give 100 percent, I won’t go out there.”

Jones qualified for the Olympics with her victory in the long jump on Thursday.

Contact Dave Price at or 881-1220.