ASU freshman wins heptathlon

Posted: Friday, June 11, 2004

AUSTIN, Texas Arizona State freshman Jacquelyn Johnson used a burst of energy down the stretch of the 800 meters to win the heptathlon Thursday at the NCAA track and field championships.

The 19-year-old from Yuma, Ariz., edged defending champion Hyleas Fountain, who held a slim lead going into the 800, the last of the heptathlon's seven events.

Johnson finished with 5,807 points, 204 more than her previous best. She had personal bests in the 100-meter hurdles, javelin and 800. Fountain, bothered by a sore right hamstring, was second with 5,785.

Johnson is the first freshman to win the heptathlon since Sheila Tarr of UNLV in 1984.

''She's awesome,'' Fountain said. ''She's going to be doing some great things. People are going to have to watch out for her.''

With the 800 remaining, Fountain led Johnson by 21 points. Johnson had to beat Fountain by 2.4 seconds to win. She finished in 2 minutes, 19.60 seconds 3.22 seconds ahead of Fountain's 2:22.82.

The freshman's winning surge began as she completed her final turn.

''To tell you the truth, I didn't know how far she was behind me,'' Johnson said, ''but I just knew I had to go, so I just went. I got that last bit of energy. I was like 'I'm almost done. Let's just get out there. You're gonna hurt, so just hurt.'''

Johnson is Arizona State's first NCAA track champion since Pal Arne Fagernes won the men's javelin in 1996.

Fountain said she's confident her injury will heal in time for the U.S. Olympic Trials next month.

''Yeah, I'm probably a little upset. This is my last year, you know,'' she said. ''But I have bigger and better things to look forward to.''

After they completed their first event, the heptathletes had to wait nine hours through a torrential storm before resuming competition at 9:45 p.m. They didn't finish their first day until 12:50 a.m. Thursday.

''I mean, who wants to sit for nine hours?'' Fountain said. ''And then have to warm back up. I don't know anyone that jumps that late at night and feels great.''

After rain and lightning wiped out most of Wednesday's schedule, Thursday's competition came under mostly clear skies. The schedule was shortened and some qualifying heats were elimianted.

In the women's 100-meter preliminaries, Lauryn Williams of Miami won her heat in a wind-aided 10.94 seconds, the fastest time under any conditions in the world this year.

''It was way beyond what I expected,'' Williams said. ''I was really, really nervous. I was kind of disappointed after not getting to run yesterday. I woke up this morning kind of achy. ... But I still had it today.''

Williams, pushed by wind of 2.8 meters-per-second, advanced to a finals' showdown with LSU's Muna Lee, who won her heat in a wind-aided 11.01 seconds. Williams, a junior, ran the world's fastest wind-legal 100 this year at 11.01 seconds at the Gatorade Classic on April 10.

In the men's 100, Marc Burns of Auburn led all qualifiers with a wind-aided 9.99 seconds. Tyson Gay of Arkansas won his heat ina wind-aided 10.01.

The NCAA games committee rejected an appeal to the disqualification of the Texas women's 400-meter relay team for using an improper exchange zone marker while winning its qualifying heat on Wednesday.

The disqualification was a major blow to Texas' hopes for a team championship on its home track. The Longhorns' used tennis balls that had been sliced in half to mark one of the exchange zones, and the NCAA ruled only tape was allowed.

LSU head coach Pat Henry and sprints coach Dennis Shaver filed the protest that led to the disqualification.

Texas, LSU and UCLA were the pre-meet picks to fight it out for the women's team title. With Texas out, UCLA moved on to the finals. Before the ruling, the Bruins had missed the finals by six-thousandths of a second.

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