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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | SYDNEY SPOTLIGHT

Blanton's Surge Has Silver Lining

September 26, 2000|From Staff and Wire Reports

Before former Pepperdine All-American Dain Blanton knew it, he had helped put himself and partner Eric Fonoimoana in the men's beach volleyball final.

Blanton's two aces sparked a five-point run in five minutes to win the semifinal, 15-12.

"We battled for an hour to get 10 points, and then I scored 50% of that in five minutes," Blanton said Sunday of the sudden surge that gave him and Fonoimoana a victory over Portugal's Luis Maia and Joao Brenha.

It guaranteed the ninth-seeded Americans at least silver. And the lightning-quick rally was not a surprise to at least one competitor--former UCLA All-American Kevin Wong, who lost in the quarterfinals with teammate Rob Heidger to Blanton and Fonoimoana.

"Every other team we played against was in slow motion and these guys were at light speed," Wong said.

Then came the semifinal against Maia and Brenha, who finished fourth at Atlanta four years ago and upset fourth-seeded Paul and Martin Laciga of Switzerland on Sunday to reach the final four.

The match lasted more than an hour, and at one point, 28 successive serves failed to produce a point. Such a defensive struggle brought frustration and emotional outbursts, with Blanton getting two warnings from Australian referee Peter Hreszczuk for arguing calls.

With Portugal leading, 11-10, Fonoimoana--the target of nearly every Portuguese serve--called time out. When he fiddled with his glasses instead of immediately taking the court at Hreszczuk's signal, the referee flashed the red card and awarded Portugal a point to make it 12-10.

"It was a terrible call," Fonoimoana said. "This is a very fast-paced game. We were going at it . . . there wasn't much rest. It was ridiculous."

It also served a purpose.

"I think it kind of woke us up, fired us up," Blanton said. "We were at a point where we had to take control of the match or it was going to spin out of control."

*

It wasn't the winning performance he'd hoped for, but Mark Crear's third-place finish in the men's 110-meter high hurdles Monday gave him his second Olympic medal.

Crear, a Valencia resident, has been hampered by strained abdominal muscles for much of the season. But the 1996 Olympic silver medalist clocked 13.22 to finish a hundredth of a second ahead of defending champion Allen Johnson, who has been slowed by a hamstring injury.

"I'm very thankful and grateful," Crear said. "To repeat the medal is a great thing."

*

Adam Setliff of Valencia posted his best finish ever in the Olympics or World championships with a fifth-place effort of 216-7 in the men's discus.

Setliff missed all of last season because of a hernia, but his effort Monday bettered a seventh-place finish in the 1997 World championships and a 12th-place performance in the 1996 Olympics.

"I got over 66 meters (216-6)," Setliff said. "I would have liked to have gone over 68 (223-1). That was my goal coming in, to get over 68, hopefully over my [career best of 224-9]. But you know, it didn't work out. I can't really be unhappy with fifth place."

*

The women's eight rowing crew, with Westlake High graduate Amy Fuller, was shut out of the medals for the second consecutive Olympics. They finished last in the six-team final on Sunday.

"It never came together," said Fuller, a member of the last three U.S. women's eight. "I can't even pinpoint what went wrong. In '92, when we got the silver, it was a lot of work but it just clicked off from the start. Both in '96 and today, it felt off from the first stroke."

Fuller is off to Stanford to start a coaching career.

In three races, the U.S. women averaged six minutes and 17 seconds per race, and had their best time, 6:16.87, in the final. Twice during qualifying the Americans had better times than finalists Australia and Belarus.

*

Shelia Burrell completed a disappointing heptathlon competition Sunday with a 26th-place finish.

Burrell, an assistant track coach at Cal State Northridge last year, totaled 5,345 points after sustaining a knee injury--and failing to clear a height--in the high jump on Saturday.

Burrell had totaled a career best of 6,422 points in June, but her failure to score any points in the high jump ended any chance of topping that mark.

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