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Burrell, Pappas claim American multi-event titles

Burrell, Pappas claim American multievent titles
Ed Gordon for the IAAF
20 June 2002 - Berkeley, CA (USA) - First-day leaders Shelia Burrell and Tom Pappas continued their dominance over the final disciplines at the US Multi-events Championships in Berkeley as each claimed a second career crown in their respective events.

For Burrell, a final total of 6299 returned her to the top position she first achieved in 1999. 

Pappas had previously won in 2000, when his Olympic Trials victory preceded a fifth-place finish in Sydney. Today’s total was 8398, a level which he has surpassed on four other occasions during his four years at the top level.

If there was any drama during the two days, it came from the ladies’ side, as Burrell escaped the first day’s action with a scant eleven-point lead over the winner of the previous two titles, DeDee Nathan.

Opening today’s competition, the 34-year-old Nathan’s uncharacteristically weak long jump of 6.08, coupled with Burrell’s PB of 6.57, resulted in a 167-point spread after the sand had cleared. 

Burrell’s previous best had been the 6.45 leap which was an integral part of her bronze-medal performance in Edmonton last year. 

As the afternoon winds began to whip menacingly through Edwards Stadium, Burrell was finally able to coast through the remaining two events with a 45.20 javelin throw, and an 800-metre clocking of 2:16.32.

And after being chased to a win in Götzis by Germany’s Sabine Braun only three weeks ago, she was probably eager to have a relaxing finish.

At the end, all talk immediately centred around the long jump and its turning-point role. 

“I wanted to jump at least 6.50,” Burrell said, as part of her aim of becoming the next great American heptathlete. “My goal is to be the best in the world next year [at the Paris World Championships].  And in 2004, I’m making a run for it.”

Nathan, ending up with 5995 for the two days, 304 behind Burrell, expressed disappointment in not winning for a third consecutive year.

“I was not pleased with my long jump, which is usually one of my better events,” said the Edmonton seventh-placer. “These two days were not what I would have liked to have.”

On route to his decathlon victory, the left-handed Pappas perhaps had an anxious moment when he threw the discus only 45.24 against a wind favoring the right-handed throwers. Former US junior decathlon champion Bryan Clay, who had been second after the first day, surprised even himself with a 50.16, and suddenly only 57 points separated the leading pair.

But that was as close as the 22-year-old Hawaiian came to Pappas, who used a 5.00 vault and a 60.30 in the javelin to gain a nine-event margin of 235. A leisurely 4:53.87 in the 1500 was more than sufficient for victory.

Like Burrell, Pappas was happy to have emerged unscathed after two top-level fixtures over the past three weeks on two different continents. “You can never be disappointed with a win,” he remarked, “but my scores were not a good indication of what I was ready for. I really thought I could improve on my Götzis performance.”

Considering that his 2001 season consisted of only one completed decathlon--a third-place finish at the Goodwill Games--Pappas was most pleased at his physical stamina and ability to produce two quality scores in close proximity. 

“It shows that I’m finally healthy. Nothing hurts.” 

The third-placer at last year’s championships, Clay was elated over his PB 8230. “Today was a lot of fun. I had a good discus, and a PB in the hurdles (13.96). My javelin (58.42) was much more than I had expected, because it was the first time I have thrown all season because of a sore elbow.” 

Last year’s runner-up, Phil McMullen, rebounded well after a sub-par first day and took third with 7934 over Chad Smith (7914). 

Almost unnoticed near the bottom of the result sheet was the event’s eminence grise, Dan O’Brien. The 1996 Olympic champion had experienced a mediocre first day and did not finish the 400 metres because of continued plantar faciatis in his left foot. But the DNF kept the door open for a second day of competition.

Today, the 36-year-old former world-record holder gave a solid indication that there is still some life left, with a 14.05 in the hurdles, an apparent PB of 53.60 in the discus, and a javelin throw of 64.47, a mark he has surpassed only three times in his career. Both his discus and javelin marks led the entire field of competitors.   

When asked about his immediate plans, O’Brien was upbeat, saying “the comeback continues.” Stay tuned.