SACRAMENTO, CALIF. — `Lance Deal, the most prolific hammer thrower in the United States over the past decade, is ending his career in style. Deal's style was nearly immaculate Friday night as he won the hammer throw for the second straight time in the U.S. Olympic trials.
Not only did the American record-holder win the competition at 258 feet, 9 inches, he had the five best throws among the 12 competitors. Runner-up Kevin McMahon was more than 18 feet back, at 240-6.
The victory earned Deal a ticket to the Olympic Games, where he won the silver medal in 1996.
The 38-year-old Deal has said this is his final year of competition, and he would like nothing better to cap his career with a gold medal at Sydney.
"The amount of energy it takes to throw far is too substantial," Deal said of his decision to retire. "I don't know whether it's because I'm old, hurt or bored, but I'm ready to move onto something else."
Deal didn't appear old, hurt or bored Friday night as he won his eighth national title in his final appearance on American soil. Only on the final throw of the competition, when Deal's Olympic berth and victory were assured, did he foul.
So what will Deal do when he's not throwing?
Manufacture throwing wires and hammer cages, what else?
Stacy Dragila, the world record-holder in the women's pole vault, is taking the event higher and higher. On Sunday, she plans to reach another plateau. "I hope I'm at ease like I was going into today," Dragila said Friday, after clearing 13-21/4, during the preliminaries to reach the final.
"I felt fast, I felt light and quick. If I go into Sunday feeling I did today, I think you're going to see another world record."
Kansas' Andrea Branson no-heighted and will not advance.
Dragila began the year sharing the world outdoor record with Australia's Emma George at 15-1. She became the sole owner of the mark by soaring 15-13/4 in Phoenix on May 6. Dragila also cleared 15-5 in Santa Barbara, Calif., last month, but the mark was unacceptable as a world record because the competition was held over an illegal runway on the beach.
Two-time defending U.S. champion Chris Huffins' lead in the decathlon dropped to 18 points over 1999 NCAA champion Tom Pappas after eight of the 10 events.
Huffins, the 1999 world bronze medalist, began the day 112 points ahead of Pappas after Thursday's first five events. He lost five points of that advantage in Friday's opening event, the 110-meter hurdles, running 14.31 seconds to Pappas' 14.27, padded the lead with a discus throw of 164-11 to Pappas' 153-6, but saw it nearly disappear in the pole vault when he cleared only 14-9 to Pappas 16-83/4.
Still to go were the javelin and 1,500.
The decathlon lost much of its lustre when Olympic gold medalist Dan O'Brien withdrew with a foot injury.
Charles Austin, the 1996 Olympic gold medalist in the men's high jump, was among 11 jumpers who advanced to Sunday's final by clearing 7-21/2.
Matt Hemingway, the U.S. indoor champion and world leader with an indoor clearance of 7-93/4, also made the final.
Five finals were scheduled Friday night the men's decathlon, 5,000 and hammer throw, and the women's shot put and 5,000.