SACRAMENTO, Calif. - While his wife and the other sprinters postured and preened, C. J. Hunter and the other big men in the shot put promised that their event would be one of the most compelling at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials.
Hunter is the husband of Marion Jones, and he does not appreciate being called "Mr. Jones." He also had to play second fiddle last night, as Adam Nelson popped the throw of his life, 72 feet, 7 inches, in the sixth and final round to win the event and set a trials record.
Only three Americans have ever thrown farther.
Hunter, the reigning world champion, had taken command in the third round with a throw over 71-0, and went 71-9 on his last attempt. Two-time world champion John Godina was the odd man out, as he lost the third spot on the team that will go to Sydney, Australia, when Andy Bloom heaved a personal best 70-10 3/4 on his last throw.
In the club
When Dawn Ellerbe won the women's hammer throw at the 1996 trials in Atlanta, she didn't get to return to Olympic Stadium for the real thing because it was only an exhibition event. Now it's part of the Olympic program, and Ellerbe really reveled in last night's win.
"I've been throwing the hammer for a long time," said Ellerbe, a 26-year-old graduate of South Carolina. "I finally caught my dream, and I'm thrilled. Today is so exciting because everything we've been doing is geared toward this day, and it's finally here."
Ellerbe won with an effort of 227 feet. Amy Palmer and Jesseca Cross were second and third. .
Hartwig misses out
The men's pole vault will be one of the eight finals contested today, and Jeff Hartwig will be conspicuous by his absence.
Hartwig made the Olympic final in 1996 and raised the American record to 19-9 1/2 last month. Friday night he became the first major victim of the put-up-or-shut-up demands of the U.S. trials, as he missed three times at his opening height of 18-2 1/2 in the qualifying round.
In other nations, a selection committee would have made room for Hartwig in Sydney. Instead, at age 32, he'll have to reassess his career.
Hartwig has had problems with his contact lenses, and eyedrops only served to further blur his vision. He had trouble focusing on the vault box, and he was on the verge of tears after his third failure. It recalled Dan O'Brien's no-height in the pole vault at the 1992 trials, which deferred a gold medal in the decathlon for four years.
The women's 1,500 final today may be the best footrace at the trials.
At 36, Regina Jacobs keeps getting better. Suzy Favor-Hamilton has added grit to her cover-girl looks. Marla Runyan is legally blind, and it will be a surprise if anyone bumps out of one those three. Runyan recently missed a month of training with a leg injury, but she looked fit in Friday's qualifying.
There should be considerably less suspense in the men's 400, where world-record holder Michael Johnson waltzed through the semifinals in 44.63. The men's 1,500 final includes Columbia's Matt Holthaus, and the University of Maryland's Vanessa Jones is in the women's high jump final.
Third time a charm
DeDee Nathan knows the frustration of the U.S. trials as well as anyone. Now she knows the jubilation that they can bring.
Nathan was fourth at the trials in the heptathlon in both 1992 and '96, and missed out on Olympic trips to Barcelona and Atlanta. She left no doubt this time, as she won the two-day, seven-event test yesterday with a score of 6,343 points.