There were no elbows thrown, no punches exchanged. The only fight that took place in the women's 1,500-meter run in Saturday's Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. Championships at UC Irvine was the one to the finish.
Trena Hull of Nevada Las Vegas, who was reprimanded by the PCAA earlier in the week for her actions in an altercation with UC Irvine runner Jennifer Abrahams in a meet three weeks ago, regained the lead early in the last lap and held off a strong kick from Irvine's Jill Harrington and Buffy Rabbitt to win a fast and furious 1,500 in a PCAA-record time of 4 minutes 16.40 seconds.
The pace was so fast that Harrington (4 minutes 16.73 seconds) and Rabbitt (4:16.83) finished ahead of the previous conference-record time of 4:18.18. The performance enabled Rabbitt, a freshman from Newport Harbor High School, to qualify for the NCAA championships June 3-6 in Baton Rouge, La. Hull and Harrington had already qualified.
Hull went on to set a meet record in winning the 800 with a 2:05.23 clocking and run the third leg of the Rebels' winning 1,600-meter relay. The championships in the 1,500 and 800 were her second straight. Hull came into this meet with her behavior under close scrutiny. She left it as she did in 1986--as the PCAA women's athlete of the year.
Her performance, though, wasn't enough to keep Fresno State from becoming the first team in PCAA history to win the men's and women's team championships. The Bulldog women held off a late charge from the UNLV sprinters and hurdlers and finished with 159 points. UNLV had 127. Irvine and San Diego State tied for third with 92, and Cal State Long Beach finished fourth with 79. Fresno State had 209 points to win an unprecedented fifth straight men's title, well ahead of Irvine (162) and UC Santa Barbara (84).
Irvine distance specialist Gus Quinonez was named the men's athlete of the year. Quinonez led UCI's 1-2-3 sweep of the 5,000, outrunning teammates Richard Graves and Pete Vicencio in a time of 14:25.94. Quinonez set a meet record in winning the 10,000 on Friday.
But the main event Saturday was the women's 1,500, and it was a thriller. Hull took the early lead, but was passed by Harrington with two laps to go. Harrington held a slight lead when the runners headed into the last lap, but Hull made her move on the backstretch. Rabbitt began to make a move on the leaders with an intense kick, but Hull held off both Anteater challengers down the stretch.
"The girl's got leg speed," Harrington marveled. "No doubt about it."
Hull's time was a personal record, but she said she wasn't particularly surprised by the fast pace. "I knew it was going to be that fast," she said. "I know Harrington and I know she's an athlete. I knew she was going to fight to get there. I felt both of them behind me, and I knew there was no way I could relax. I just held on to what I had."
Rabbitt became the first Irvine freshman ever to qualify for the NCAA championships. The trip to Baton Rouge will be a new experience for her. "I've never been out of the state, let alone across the country," she said.
Said UCI Coach Vince O'Boyle: "I don't think she realizes how good she really is. My gosh, I thought she was going to win that thing the way she came off that (last) turn.
"The race went exactly the way Jill and I talked about it. I told Buffy, 'Just run with them and you'll be right there.' "
A look at other highlights from this meet:
--Karin Grelsson of UCI, who narrowly missed qualifying for the NCAA championships in the pentathlon last season, made it this time around by compiling 5,367 points, well ahead of San Diego State's Marian Nowak (4,749). "I'm finally there," Grelsson said. "The reason I qualified was that I put it together in the long jump and javelin. I was really shaky in both those until my third tries."
--UCI's George Wainscoat, trailing by seven points entering the pole vault, set a personal best of 15-5 in that event and went on to win the decathlon. He had 7,076 points to outscore Tim Baker (6,651) and Dave Crume (6,427) of Fresno State. Crume led much of the way, but was shaken up when he partially missed the landing pit on a pole vault attempt and was unable to finish the 1,500.
--Fresno State sprinter Rick Jones won his third straight 100-meter title in 10.39 seconds and finished second in the 200.
--UNLV's Tanya Davis qualified for the NCAA championships by winning the the 100-meter hurdles in 13.49 seconds.
--Harrington came back from pushing Hull to the limit in the 1,500 to win the 3,000, convincingly, in a time of 9:38.28.
--Abraham held off Fresno State's Janine Ogas to win the 5,000 with a time of 17:06.05. Abraham and Hull did not compete against each other in this meet.