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Bell Rises Above Marquee

Mt. SAC Relays: Outshining better-known stars, he sets stadium mark with year's best triple jump.


He lacks the name recognition of Marion Jones, Adam Nelson, J.J. Johnson, Angela Williams, Miesha McKelvy and Amy Acuff in U.S. track and field circles.

But of all the athletes who won events in the 44th Mount San Antonio College Relays at Walnut on Sunday, triple jumper Kenta (pronounced KEN-tay) Bell was the only one to post the best outdoor mark in the world this year and set a stadium record.

Jones, perhaps the best-known track and field athlete in the world, won the women's 400 meters in 50.46 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year.

Nelson, the silver medalist in the men's shotput in the World Championships last year, defeated three-time world champion John Godina with a put of 70 feet 3 inches.

Johnson, the big find on the world sprint scene last year, won the men's 100 in 9.95, best of his career.

Women posting world-leading marks were: Williams with 11:06 in the 100, McKelvy with 12.86 in the 100 high hurdles and Acuff with 6-43/4 in the high jump.

Bell, 25, who bounded a world-leading 57 feet 101/4 inches on his sixth and final effort in the men's triple jump, broke the stadium record of 55-91/4 set by Willie Banks in 1984.

Granted, a 55-91/4 triple jump isn't in the same statistical class as some of the other stadium records such as 9.86 in the men's 100 or 73-103/4 in the men's shotput. But it was hard to top Bell's effort for drama or surprise as it vaulted him from fourth to first place and crushed his previous best of 56-63/4 set in 2000.

"I was hoping to jump well today," said Bell, who has never been on a U.S. national team. "I thought I was capable of jumping 57 or 56-10. But [57-101/4] was a shock."

Bell, who placed eighth in the 1999 NCAA championships as a senior at Northwestern State Louisiana, was in second place after the first four rounds with a best of 55-41/4. But he dropped to third when LeVar Anderson jumped 55-51/2 in the fifth round to move into second and slipped to fourth in the sixth round when Julien Kapak of USC bounded 55-81/2 to temporarily take the lead before Anderson followed that with a 55-101/4 effort.

"That definitely got the adrenaline flowing," Bell said. "I have to give credit to my competitors because I didn't want to lose."

With many spectators clapping in unison to encourage him, Bell sprinted down the runway, hit the takeoff board and produced the best jump by an American since Kenny Harrison set the U.S. record of 59-41/4 in winning at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996.

"The triple jump has been down [in the U.S.]," said Bell, who moved to fifth on the all-time national performer list with his effort. "In my mind, I feel like we've let [athletes like Kenny Harrison] down because we haven't been doing what we're capable of doing. But hopefully, this is the beginning of something "

Jones, the world's top-ranked women's 100 and 200 sprinter for the previous five years, won the 400 for the fourth time in the last five years at Mt. SAC after placing first in a 300 last year. Her 50.46 clocking was well off her career-best and stadium-record time of 49.59 set in 2000. "I'd love to be talking about how I ran 48 seconds, 49 seconds," said Jones, competing in her first race of the year. "So in that way, I'm a little disappointed ... I was really hoping for a personal best today."

Jones had a three- or four-meter lead when she came through the first 200 in 23.7. But she slowed in the final 50 while finishing more than a second ahead of runner-up LaDonna Antoine.

Johnson got off to a solid start in the 100 before powering away in the final 35 meters. "It felt pretty good," said Johnson, who ran with a sore ankle that has bothered him for two to three weeks. "I haven't been able to do much block work. So my start needs some work, but I was happy with the way I ran."

Chris Rawlinson of Britain won the men's 400 intermediate hurdles in 48.49 to break the meet record of 48.50 set by Edwin Moses in 1979.

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