WSU's Powell Finishes Fourth in NCAA Decathlon

June 12, 2003

PULLMAN, Wash. -- Washington State University's Darion Powell scored the first points for the Cougars Thursday at the NCAA Div. I Men's and Women's Outdoor Track & Field Championships at A.G. Spanos Sports Complex on the Sacramento State campus.

Powell, a redshirt freshman from Kirkland, Wash., scored a PR 7,511 points to claim fourth place and All-American honors in the decathlon. His point-total, in only his third collegiate competition, ranks second all-time in WSU records behind Simon Shirley's 8,036 points scored in Seoul Olympic Games in 1988. Powell's finish gives the Cougar men five points in the team standings.

Tennessee senior Stephen Harris, the first-day leader, won the decathlon with 8,061 points. Will Thomas, junior from Connecticut, took second place with 7,894 points and Maurice Smith, junior from Auburn, finished third with 7,854 points.

After scoring a PR first-day total of 3,968 points, Powell had a sluggish start to the second day's decathlon events. He finishing eighth in the 110m high hurdles with a time of 14.96, well back of his PR time of 14.52. He had the fourth-best discus throw at 140-4 (42.14m), pole vaulted 13-9 1/4 (4.20m) which was 17th best, and threw the javelin 181-11 (55.44m), seventh best mark of the day. Going into the 1500m, Powell was in fourth place with 6885 points, 299 points behind Auburn's Maurice Smith and with a 72 point lead on fifth place competitor Trey Hardee, a freshman from Missississippi State. Powell collapsed at the finish line of the final heat of the 1500m after running a PR time of 4:48.86 and holding onto fourth place.

'Coach Sloan told me to stick with this guy (Hardee),' Powell said of the 1500m race. 'I was third on the first lap. I told myself I have to stay with Hardee. He pulled a way a little and I just kicked it in the last 100. It was a good thing I did because it was pretty close.'

'I expected to come here and be an All-American. To finish fourth is a great stride in my career,' Powell said. 'I was rolling the first day. The second day I fell behind, but still I was pretty solid in every event. There was no eye popping numbers, but I can't be disappointed with fourth place. Next year, I want to move into the top three and contend for the title. It was a great year for me in terms of making strides in every event.'

Washington State Head Coach Rick Sloan, a former decathlete himself and Olympian Dan O'Brien's coach, was impressed with the Cougar redshirt freshman's performance at the NCAA Championships.

'It was a great competitive effort by Darion. He kept battling,' Sloan said. 'The pole vault wasn't very good. The hurdles was the worst time of the year. But, everything was steady. He didn't really have any bad performances and competing remarkably for a freshman. He went beyond my expectations in both. My expectation was for him to compete hard and see what happens.'

'I've never worked with anybody as big as Darion,' Sloan continued. 'He has a remarkable blend of size, power and speed. That is what you're looking for in a decathlete. Now he has shown he has some guts too. He can run the 1500m and do what he has to do. I think this performance is going to be a big confidence builder for him in the future. He believes he belongs at this level and can compete at this level. Next year, I think he can go beyond this.'

Senior Whitney Evans (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) was one of 13 women to advance to the final of the high jump, all clearing 1.79m/5-10 1/2 in the qualifying round. The six-time All-American in the high jump cleared the opening height of 5-7 1/4 (1.71m) on her first attempt and then cleared 5-8 3/4 (1.75m) and 5-10 1/2 on her second attempts. There were 28 women competitors in the high jump and among the 15 women not advancing to the Saturday final was the 2003 indoor champion, Nevena Lendel, a senior at Southern Methodist University. This is the first year of the newly-formatted qualifying rounds for field events and means the athletes will compete twice in three days.

'I have done it before,' Evans said of the competition schedule. 'Everything is fine. My health is good. Getting through (to the finals) was the important thing and I did that so, I am not worried. I am just looking forward to Saturday. There are a number of people who can win. Gina Rickert (Iowa State senior) was at my pit and Chaunte Howard (Georgia Tech freshman) made it. But, there are a number of people who can win.'

Eric Dudley will race in the men's 400m intermediate hurdles final after clocking in with the last qualifying time in the semifinals. Dudley, an All-American after finishing fifth at the 2001 national championships, finished Thursday's semis in a time of 49.94. Dean Griffiths, a senior from Auburn University, ran the fastest semifinals time at 48.57. Dudley's PR in this event is 49.59, run this season. Finishing the race Friday night will mean a second All-America certificate for the senior team captain from Bellingham, Wash., and the only other points for the Cougar men's team.

'Fourth in my heat, it was too close for comfort,' Dudley said. 'The race was a little bit rough, but the time turned out to be okay because at this point in the season we're peaked and you can get away with a rough race and a pretty good time. The thing that hindered me was a little bit of sloppiness. It is a long and really technical race. I clipped the ninth hurdle and had to add another step between nine and 10. Also, off the first hurdle, I landed pretty stiff. If you start off with a mistake, you have to expend a little extra energy to get back on your race plan. That hurts at the end of the race.'

'It looks like I am going to be stuck in lane one,' Dudley continued. 'I had to run at Mt. SAC in lane one. I didn't run that well and was pretty upset about it. I talked to coach and realized it was an important learning experience in case I got stuck there at nationals. It turns out that's what happened here. Winning from lane one is not unheard of and people have come from unexpected places to win. I have to make the start clean and the finish clean and run my heart out. If I put something together tomorrow, I can get a really good time instead of a pretty good time.'

Tiffany Giles, a senior from Seattle, Wash., did not advance in the women's 400m dash, after running a 53.46 in the prelims, 19th out of 29 competitors. The Cougars women's 4x400m relay team of Giles, Monique Jessie, Angelita Green and Tamara Gulley did not make the final after running a 3:37.34 in the prelims: third-fastest in heat two but the 12th-fastest time of the day with eight relay squads advancing to the Saturday final. The WSU coaches changed the relay order, moving Gulley to anchor and putting Green, running in place of usual anchor Ellannee Richardson, in the third slot.

Bree Skinner, junior from Pasco, Wash., did not advance in the women's triple jump after leaping 11.75m/38-6 3/4 in the qualifying round.

Washington State competitors in Friday's events include heptathletes Ellannee Richardson and Diana Pickler and Eric Dudley in the men's 400m intermediate hurdles final.

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