Marie Philman of Huntington Beach has won national championships before in AAU track and field meets. But none of those championships meant more to her than the title she won Monday in the heptathlon in Knoxville, Tenn.
Philman, 15, won AAU championships at national meets in Tallahassee, Fla., and Rochester, Minn., in 1991 and 1992. Both times she expected her grandfather, Clyatt Philman of Denver, to attend the meets.
But each year, Clyatt Philman, with his airline ticket already purchased, suffered a heart attack just before the meet and couldn't attend.
Monday, after two heart surgeries, he was in the stands at the University of Tennessee's Tom Black Track and saw his granddaughter win another title.
"I felt a lot of pressure," said Marie, who has won four AAU championships. "But it was good pressure. I usually get nervous before events, but not this time.
"I was very determined and it helped my performance a lot that he was there. It was beautiful."
Philman, a sophomore at Edison High School and a standout on the varsity basketball team, originally didn't want to perform in the seven-event heptathlon.
"I was dogging it. I was doing more to get out of doing it than I was trying to improve," she said. "I was used to doing the pentathlon. The two events added (javelin and 200) for this are hell."
Philman finished with 4,170 points. She beat another Huntington Beach athlete, Kerry O'Bric, who finished second with 4,132 points.
Bianca and Rachel Ziemann, 10-year-old twins from Huntington Beach, finished one-two in the triathlon Sunday. Bianca won the national championship with 1,086 points and Rachel was second with 1,060.