EUGENE, Ore. — Mike Conley is tired of the bridesmaid's jokes. After finishing in second place for the second time in two days, everyone's favorite runner-up was running out of patience.
Conley was second in the triple jump Saturday at the USA/Mobil national outdoor track and field championships, just as he had been second in the long jump Friday. In both, the 1984 Olympian set personal records for wind-aided jumps.
In the long jump, Conley went 28 feet 3 inches, becoming the first jumper ever to go more than 28 feet and lose. He was second to familiar rival Carl Lewis, who jumped 28-5 1/2.
Conley thought he would break out of his also-ran rut on his last triple jump. The lanky Chicagoan, who had put together an excellent series in only his second competition of the season in the event, dashed down the runway on his final attempt and sailed to the back of the pit. It was, he said, his "raggediest" jump of the day.
Raggedy or not, Conley's 58-6 1/2 (with a wind barely over the allowable) was a leap that would win almost any triple-jump competition in the world. His experience should have told him it would not win this one.
Charlie Simpkins jumped a wind-aided 58-9 1/2 on his last try to win. Simpkins' jump was the second best triple jump ever, under any conditions.
"I don't know how to feel," Conley said. "It puts me in an awkward position. I should be happy with second place--I got beat by the best of something. Yet, I don't want to settle for second place. I want to win."
Conley said much the same thing at last year's national championships. The former Arkansas All-American jumped 58-1, appearing again to be a sure winner. But Willie Banks jumped 58-11 1/2 for a world record. Conley had the consolation of being the only man to triple jump 58 feet and lose.
His efforts the last two days give Conley the best long-jump/triple-jump double in history. He also becomes the best second-place finisher in the history of the two events.
"I'm becoming the best at second place, huh?" Conley said jokingly.
The mere fact that Conley so often attempts this grueling double in major meets is testimony to not only his athleticism but also his endurance. Both events are tough on a jumper's legs. Few triple or long jumpers can do the other event, much less compete in both at the same meet.
It makes one wonder what would happen if Conley would concentrate on just one of the jumps.
He's thinking about it.
"I think the last time I'll do them both at one meet will be in Moscow (at the Goodwill Games)," Conley said. "I better not say never. But I've proven I'm the best doubler of all time. Now I'm going to prove I'm the best long jumper and the best triple jumper."
Conley has been trying to make that point since 1984. He attempted the double at the Olympic trials but failed to make the team in the long jump. Conley won the triple jump at the trials and placed (all together, now) second in the Games.
"I'm satisfied with my jumping, I'll say that," Conley said. "The only sad thing is, I could have won. You've got to pay your dues. You can't win all the time."
Or, in Conley's case, ever.
Banks got a bit of his own medicine, jumping well but losing. Banks was third with 57-5 3/4, also wind-aided.
Conley said he guessed that the only way he's going to win is to set a world record.
"You have to start somewhere," he said. "With Willie and Charlie (competing), I just have to think, 'Sooner or later.' I can't complain; I got two personal records in two days. I just wish I could win."