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Arnold defends NCAA decathlon title; Washington State's Picker disqualified

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Jake Arnold of Arizona capped his
college career with his second NCAA decathlon championship.
Heptathlon favorite Diana Pickler of Washington State will leave
school without even one.

Arnold pulled away in the second day of the 10-event competition
to become the first athlete in 22 years to repeat as decathlon
champion in the twilight of Day 2 at the NCAA track and field
championships Thursday.

The former walk-on finished with a personal-best 8,215 points.

Joe Detmer of Wisconsin used a collegiate decathlon record
4-minute, 4.11-second performance in the 1,500 meters, the last of
the 10 events, to finish second at 7,963 points. Jangy Addy of
Tennessee, the first-day leader, was third with 7,808.

Arnold took the lead in the eighth event, the pole vault, by
clearing 17 feet, 4½ inches.

"When I walked on [at Arizona] I couldn't imagine winning
one," Arnold said. "To win two? I can't explain it. It's
amazing."

Pickler's day ended horribly some 4½ hours earlier.

The senior, who had the top college score of the year entering
the meet, had taken the lead by winning her 200 heat, but she was
disqualified for stepping outside her lane.

The rule prohibits a runner's left foot from landing on or
outside the line for two consecutive steps.

"I reviewed the incident with two umpires at the place of the
infraction," meet referee Shirley Crowe said in a statement posted
at the protest tent, "and reviewed the video with [referee] Fred
Newhouse, and it is clearly a violation of running more than two
steps inside of the lane."

Washington State coach Rick Sloan appealed but acknowledged it
was a lost cause.

"I have spoken to a meet referee who is a close friend," Sloan
said. "He's seen the footage and he said basically we're wasting
our time."

Pickler went from what would have been 3,728 points to last
place among the 25 competitors at 2,723 points. With no hope of
winning, she withdrew from the meet in order to concentrate on the
U.S. championships to be held in two weeks in Indianapolis.

Pickler left the track without speaking to reporters.

Her departure left SMU's Gaelle Niare in first place with 3,690
points. The senior from France usually concentrates on the high
jump and was competing in only her second heptathlon, not counting
one she did several years ago when she was not training for the
event.

Pickler's twin sister, Julie, was in seventh place with 3,466
points. Defending champion Jacquelyn Johnson of Arizona State was
fourth at 3,577, nine points behind Bettie Wade of Michigan, who
was in third.

Diana Pickler was third in the heptathlon last year and finished
second to Johnson in the pentathlon at this year's NCAA Indoors.

This was to have been her best, and last, chance to finally
finish first. She had the highest score of any competitor in the
meet, a Pac-10 record 6,205 points at the Texas Relays.

"I don't know if you could put that into words," Sloan said of
how Pickler feels. "Five years leading to this one moment and then
to have it snatched away after doing four events. But that's the
breaks of the game. You can't allow yourself to be in that
situation."

UCLA sophomore Rhonda Watkins won the meet's first final, the
long jump, with an impressive, though wind-aided, 22-10. Brittney
Reese of Mississippi was second at 22-0\. Both are sophomores.

"It definitely helps me a lot because the meets only get bigger
from here," Watkins said. "I feel like the more I compete, the
more prepared I get. I just feel very confident about my next
competitions."

Dashalle Andrews of Cal State-Northridge edged Tone Belt of
Louisville to win the men's long jump. Both jumped 25-2½, but
Andrews had the best second jump. In fact, Belt fouled on all five
of his other jumps. The winning mark was the worst since 1966.

Kenyan Sally Kipyego of Texas Tech won her fourth NCAA title
this year, in the 10,000 meters, and is looking for one more. She's
doubling in the 5,000, with the semifinals on Friday and finals on
Saturday. Kipyego already has won the 3,000 and 5,000 at NCAA
Indoors and the cross country championship.

Another Kenyan, Shadrack Songok of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, ran
down Oregon's Galen Rupp over the final 200 meters to win the men's
10,000.

Florida State sprinters went 1-2 in qualifying for the 200
finals. Freshman Charles Clark was fastest at 20.38. Defending
champion Walter Dix, who set the collegiate record at 19.69 two
weeks ago, was second Thursday in 20.48.

Dix, who has run five preliminary races in the 100, 200 and 400
relay in the first two days of the meet, said he was saving his
best for when it counts the most.

"I'm running in good condition, basically saving like I did
last year," he said. "I'm trying to hold back for the finals.
This is the longest week of my life. Everything's going in place."