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Whirling Dervish Gail Devers Is Busiest Bruin : She May Compete in as Many as 8 Events Today Against Trojans at Coliseum

May 03, 1986|MAL FLORENCE | Times Staff Writer

Some track athletes fidget and fuss and waste a lot of nervous energy while they're waiting for their one event.

UCLA's Gail Devers doesn't have that problem. She knows that she'll be busy the entire afternoon.

Devers, a 5-3, 122-pound sophomore, is practically in perpetual motion. She could compete in as many as eight events today in the UCLA-USC men's and women's dual track and field meet at the Coliseum.

"It makes the meet more interesting that way," Devers said. "I don't like to sit around and wait. I know that I'll be in the first event and the last event. Tiring? No. I did it in high school."

Devers is scheduled to compete in the 100, 100-meter hurdles, 200, long jump and triple jump, and anchor the 1,600-meter relay team. There's also a possibility that she will line up for the 400 and run the anchor leg on the 400-meter relay team.

Devers, a three-time State champion from Sweetwater High School in National City, said she started out as a cross-country runner and gradually worked her way down to track events.

She has the best women's collegiate time in the 100 meters this year, 11.14 seconds, and the second-best time in the 100-meter hurdles, 13.24. She has a faster hurdles time, 13.16, set in last year's UCLA Invitational.

Devers' other events with her best marks: long jump 20-9 3/4, triple jump 43-8, 200 23.12 and 400 hurdles 59.26.

Devers is a smaller model of another outstanding multi-event athlete, Jackie Joyner, who at 5-11 and 150 was a one-woman team while competing for UCLA.

UCLA Coach Bob Kersee, who is married to Joyner, marvels at his latest protege.

"She's one of the best I've ever coached," he said. "She's a diamond--good attitude, conscientious and self-disciplined. It's tough to say what her best event actually is.

"We hadn't practiced the triple jump all year until she jumped 43-8. She has the capability to jump 45 feet."

USC's Wendy Brown has the current world-best mark of 44-6 3/4, set while qualifying in last year's NCAA meet.

Devers and Brown will compete against one another in three events today--the long and triple jumps and the 100-meter hurdles. They were also high school rivals.

"I beat her in the the State meet in the long jump when I was a junior, and she beat me as a senior," Devers said.

Kersee also said Devers has the capability of breaking the American record of 12.79 in the 100-meter hurdles with her combination of speed and form, and has world record-beaking potential in the 100.

"She could also become the first athlete, man or woman, to win both the 100 and short hurdles race in an NCAA meet," Kersee said. "Although she's only 5-3, she has the same leg stride as runners who are four inches taller."

Devers is a sociology major who plans to attend graduate school in education. As a student, she said she is a night person, with boundless energy.

Her father, the Rev. Larry Devers, was basically her coach in high school. Her older brother, Parenthesis--honest, that's his name--got her interested in running in the 10th grade.

Now that's practically all she does.

In the men's portion of the meet, UCLA is a substantial favorite to beat USC.

Even so, the Trojans, unbeaten through six dual meets, are an improved team from last year. So is UCLA. The Bruins, 8-0 in dual meets, will most likely be recognized as the dual meet champion of the country if they beat USC.

The Trojans just don't figure to cover enough events. For example, UCLA probably will outscore USC by a 39-6 margin in the distance races and weight events.

"I don't see how we can possibly beat them," said USC Coach Ernie Bullard, who had a stronger team earlier in the season, before injuries hit.

The Bruins are also missing some key people but, as Bullard said, UCLA can absorb more losses because of greater depth.

"I know we're favored, but if we come out a little flat and USC jumps on us, it could be a close meet," UCLA Coach Bob Larsen said. "It's important how we get established. Last year, we knew we were going to win because we could keep putting people in events if things got close. USC will make us work for it this year."

It will be the first time since 1974 that the traditional dual meet has been held at the Coliseum.

Track Notes Women's field events will begin at 10 a.m., men's field events at noon. Running events will start at 12:30 p.m. . . . The women's meet is rated a tossup. . . . There is an outside possibility that USC discus thrower Bernd Kneissler may compete today. The West German athlete has a pulled muscle in his throwing arm but has been working out. . . . UCLA's Henry Thomas, who is coming back from a foot injury, is entered in only the 1,600-meter relay but there's a possibility he will run the 200, which is scheduled near the end of the meet. If UCLA has a commanding lead at the time, Danny Everett may be pulled from the 200.

UCLA's versatile Mike Powell will long jump and run a leg in the sprint relay. He could also be used in the triple jump and high jump if the Bruins need the points. . . . USC sprinter Antonio Manning will run a leg of the 400-meter relay, but a hamstring injury may keep him out of the 100 and 200.

The most competitive race could be the 800, pitting USC's Joey Bunch and Eric Schermerhorn against UCLA's John Stanich and John Phillips. . . . Meet record-holders will be present to add some class to the proceedings. . . . USC has a 38-14 lead in the series, but UCLA has won 11 of the last 13, including seven straight.

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