Usgaard, Zebold step to front of the line

Arcadia coverage

ARCADIA, Calif. – Tori Usgaard made friends with Alyssa Thompson during the first day of the heptathlon, which made it hard for the Dana Hills senior to dig to her deepest competitive place.

“She was so nice and genuine so it was kind of hard,” Usgaard explained. “If she was mean or something it would have felt different because I was wanting to be more competitive.”

Thompson took the lead from Usgaard it the long jump, and then Usgaard cut into the lead with a better javelin throw.

The two came to the starting line for the 800 meters – the last of seven events – separated by two points (3,697 to 3,695). So the final event was winner-take-all.

Usgaard positioned herself in front of Thompson (Salpointe Catholic of Tucson, Ariz.) and decided to stay in front and then save something for the kick off the final curve. Thompson lurked behind Usgaard by a second or two and planned to go by late.

“I was (running scared) the whole time,” Usgaard said.

But as Thompson made her move, Usgaard pressed the accelerator at the same time. Usgaard held on to finish in 2:26.54 for a two-second PR. Thompson ran 2:28.99, slower than her best.

Usgaard graduated from an eighth-place finish in 2011 to the title, scoring 4432 points. She improved by 402 points.

Thompson was disappointed not run a little bit better in the 800 but was pleased with the overall result (4,404), improving by about 100 points from her heptathlon best.

“I was trying to stay close and then push through at the end,” Thompson said of the final race. “But she had a good kick too. We both tried hard.”

Usgaard said her previous experience in the competition at Arcadia was an advantage. It’s one Thompson hopes to have in 2013.

“I’ll definitely be back here next year,” she said.

Shaina Burns of Lakeville, Minn. was third overall with 4,227 points and freshman Lauren McCluskey of Pullman, Wash. was fourth with 3,976.

Zebold leads wire to wire

Grant Zebold, a junior from Cathedral Catholic (San Diego) took the lead in Thursday’s first event and never let it go.

Just as things started getting tight with two events to go, Zebold bested the field in the javelin with a throw of 144-3 to open it back up again.

Even a huge effort by Scott Snow (Carlsbad, Calif.) in the 1,500 meters (4:14.05) wasn’t enough to get close to Zebold, who scored 6,211 points. Keith Messinger of Dana Hills was second with 6,077 and Connor Hall of San Luis Obispo, Calif. was third at 6,031.

Zebold came up with PRs in eight of the 10 events. Like Usgaard, the heptathlon champ, he was eighth in this event last year.

“I was coming here thinking 6,000,” he said. “I was a little bit sick but I PR’d in the first event and kept the momentum going.”

Messinger had cut the lead to 25 points at the end of eight events (5,103 to 5,078), but Zebold threw 21 feet further in the javelin.

“I was extremely nervous going into the 1,500,” Zebold said of the final event. “I was looking through the score sheets and trying to do the math for what I needed (to win).”

He figured five minutes flat should do it, and then he went out and ran 4:51.83.