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Dragila Wins Pole Vault Title

February 28, 1998

ATLANTA (AP) _ Kory Tarpenning, two-time Olympian and two-time men’s national pole vault champion, watched the women vaulters soaring over the bar _ and he was mesmerized.

``It’s a spectacular event,″ he said Friday night while sitting in the front row of the VIP section of the Georgia Dome and seeing Stacy Dragila, the nation’s premier women’s vaulter, win her third straight national title.

Not only did the 26-year-old Dragila add to her perfect record indoors _ winning all three U.S. championships and the only world title _ she tied her meet record, then broke it twice, winning with a leap of 14 feet, 1 1/4 inches.

She then tried to equal her American record of 14-5 1/4, but missed three times, coming close on only her first attempt.

``I got too excited,″ she said. ``I wasn’t patient on the last one. I thought I could do it. I always wanted to go for the record, so it was a little disappointing that I didn’t make it. But I put a lot of things together tonight, so I was pleased. Six for six was awesome.″

Dragila was perfect on her first six jumps, clearing 12-5 1/2, 12-9 1/2, 13-1 1/2, a meet record-tying 13-5 1/4, a meet record 13-9 1/4 and the winning height without a miss.

``It doesn’t matter if they clear four meters, five meters or six meters,″ said Tarpenning, 36, who retired after last season. ``People just like to see them sailing over the bar. Clearing the bar provides a lot of excitement.″

Dragila’s performance didn’t provide too much excitement, because only a couple of hundred fans were present.

That didn’t diminish Tarpenning’s enthusiasm.

``The men will clear the bar only two or three times and then miss,″ Tarpenning said. ``Look at the women _ how many heights they’re clearing.″

The women have been clearing heights at a dizzying rate since the event was introduced only a few years ago. Only a week ago, Emma George of Australia became the first woman to surpass the 15-foot barrier. And just last year, Dragila set her U.S. record and matched George’s then-world indoor mark in winning the world title at Paris.

``I never thought I would see women pole vault,″ Tarpenning said. ``When I was asked about it five years ago, I said they’re not strong enough and they don’t have the body types.

``I’ve been proven wrong.″

Now, Dragila and all the other women would like to see the women’s vault become a part of the Olympics at the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia.

``The heights are going up so fast that I think by 2000 the ladies will be going over 16 feet,″ Dragila said. ``With so many new events at the Winter Olympics this year, we’re due for a new event _ the pole vault.″

Only one other individual final was contested Friday night and Von Ware, a 22-year-old former gymnast from San Diego, won the men’s triple jump at 54-10 1/4, a career best indoors or outdoors.

In other finals, teams representing the Reebok Enclave won both the men’s and women’s distance medley relays. The men, anchored by Matt Holthaus, were timed in 9 minutes, 41.30 seconds, and the women, with Tanya Baker anchoring, were clocked in 11:19.78.

After four events of the men’s heptathlon _ a first-time event at the USA Championships _ Ricky Barker led with 3,336 points, 123 ahead of runner-up Trafton Rodgers, the NCAA Division III champion from Abilene Christian.

The women’s pentathlon _ also supposed to make its debut at the championships _ was canceled because there were only two entrants. Preliminaries in the women’s 200 and 800 meters also were canceled because of insufficient entries.

In the men’s 400 prelims, the Harrison twins _ Calvin and Alvin _ had the fastest times in the four trial heats. Calvin ran 45.55, the fastest by an American this year, and Alvin won his heat in 45.80.

The 400 final will be run today, along with 28 other finals, completing the two-day meet.

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