SACRAMENTO — It took four or five tries to get the third--and final--heat of the men's 110-meter high hurdles underway in the U.S. Olympic track and field trials at Cal State Sacramento on Saturday.
When the race was finally run before 23,361, Dominique Arnold posted the fastest qualifying time with a 13.36 clocking that put him in the semifinals at 3:20 p.m. today along with 15 other competitors.
The final will start at 5:24.
Arnold, an assistant coach at Cal State Northridge, entered the first-round heats as the eighth-fastest high hurdler in the world this year with a time of 13.32. But five of the athletes ahead of him are Americans, including world leader and defending Olympic champion Allen Johnson.
"I've never been to the World championships," said Arnold, 26. "I haven't been to the Olympics. So what I need right now is confidence. I have the ability. I just have to have the confidence. To win my heat is a good step forward and hopefully [today] and later on [today] will be even better for me."
Johnson, co-American record-holder at 12.92, got out ahead of Arnold in the third heat. But Arnold pulled alongside him midway through the race and finished .06 ahead of him.
"I was somewhat sluggish at the start and I got a little twisty for the last two hurdles," said Arnold, the 1996 NCAA champion for Washington State. "But the middle of the race is coming together. If I put the start and middle of the race together, I should be all right."
Arnold's start wasn't helped by the fact that there were two false starts in his heat and another two or three times when the starter instructed the hurdlers to stand up out of the blocks for various reasons.
The final incident occurred when Sheila Hudson, from nearby Rio Linda High, was up for one of her attempts in the women's triple jump and the crowd along the backstretch was clapping in unison to encourage her as she sprinted down the runway.
Leading the qualifying round in an event doesn't guarantee success in the final.
Vanitta Kinard was proof of that Saturday when she placed sixth in the women's triple jump in 44-3 1/4 after leading qualifying with a wind-aided 45-4 1/4 on Thursday.
Kinard, runner-up in the 1993 state championships for El Camino Real High, bounded 43-3 on her first attempt of the final and 43-7 1/4 on her second before fouling her third.
She leaped 42-4 1/4 in the fourth round and 43-4 1/4 in the fifth before improving to 44-3 1/4 in the sixth.
That jump moved her from seventh to sixth in the standings, but left her more than 16 inches out of the top-three finish needed to make the Olympic team.
"I just couldn't run off the board," Kinard said. "It was hard for me to run off the board. I think I was just really excited and nervous at the same time."
Brandi Prieto of Cal State Northridge, who qualified 10th, finished in the same spot in the final with a disappointing leap of 41-4 1/2.
Prieto bounded a Northridge school record of 44-3 1/4 to place second in the NCAA championships in June, but she fouled on her first two attempts Saturday before leaping 41-4 1/2 on her third.
She was not awarded another three jumps because she was not among the top eight jumpers after the first three rounds.
"Mentally, I didn't have it [Saturday]," Prieto said after concluding her Northridge career. "I just couldn't put it together."