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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Walk-on decathlete works way up

    Jake Lacey / Arizona Daily Wildcat
    Jake Lacey
    Jake Lacey / Arizona Daily Wildcat

    All-around arnold

    He was a walk-on when he arrived, but you wouldn’t know it by the amount of success he’s had over the past three years.

    Meet senior Jacob Arnold, the multi-event star.

    Today, the 6-foot-3 Arnold competes in the indoor heptathlon, a seven-event competition that features the pole vault and the long jump as well as the outdoor decathlon, for No. 9 Arizona.

    Looking back, Arnold said he realized he wanted to be a track star a long time ago.

    “”I decided to join track and field back in seventh grade,”” Arnold said. “”I just loved doing sports, so I went out there and checked it out one day.””

    Arnold, whose parents were both high school athletes, was an all-around star athlete from an early age.

    During his high school days at Maria Carrillo High School in Santa Rosa, Calif., Arnold was a four-year letter winner in track and field and a letter winner in basketball, football and soccer.

    But he eventually became bored with soccer.

    “”I played soccer for 14 years, and it just sort of got old,”” Arnold said. “”I wanted to try something new, and I just loved the pole vault, so I decided to keep going with that and become a decathlete.””

    So what drove him to compete in multi-events?

    “”In high school my senior year I broke my arm, and at practice one day I couldn’t vault, so I took up the hurdles and did really well,”” Arnold said.

    That year, Arnold placed eighth in state in the 300-meter hurdles, and from then on he knew what he wanted to do.

    “”After that I decided I was pretty good in a lot of events, so why not try the decathlon,”” Arnold said.

    But even with his talent, Arnold did not go to college on an athletic scholarship.

    Arnold said when he applied for schools, he saw Arizona and “”fell in love.””

    “”I just looked at this one, and I fell in love with the school and the weather down here,”” Arnold said. “”I decided to come here, and that led to walking on to the track team.””

    Senior thrower Sean Shields said this attitude is what makes Arnold a great athlete.

    “”To be a walk-on is way harder than a lot of people think,”” Shields said. “”For him to do as well as he’s done, it’s just a testament of how good he is as an athlete.””

    Arizona track and field head coach Fred Harvey agreed with Shields’ assessment, having seen Arnold grow over his Wildcat career.

    Harvey added that he’s a terrific all-around athlete.

    But the transition from high school- to college-level athletics was daunting, Arnold said.

    “”The first couple months I was on the team I almost quit,”” he said. “”The guys on my team were so much better than me.””

    In order to improve his performance and become a competitive threat at the college level, Arnold said he had to work much harder.

    “”In high school it was just, I’d go out there and do my thing and come home,”” Arnold said. “”And now I am putting in a lot more hours, a lot more lifting of weights, and a lot more practice out on the track.””

    The training is also much different, Arnold said.

    “”I think you need to perfect your technique a lot more in college to be at the top level, whereas in high school sometimes you don’t always have to do your best,”” he said.

    Arnold said he has also tried to model his techniques after top decathletes like Brian Clay, Tom Pappas and Dan O’Brien.

    “”You always want to try and get to their level,”” Arnold said.

    In order to get the proper technique down, Arnold said he practices six days a week and trains four to six hours per day.

    “”And that doesn’t include rehab,”” he said.

    Still, Arnold said he doesn’t think he is missing out too much on the college life because he has so many good friends on the track team.

    The hard work has paid off, as Arnold ranks among the best in the nation.

    In fact, during the 2005 indoor season, Arnold established a new Mountain Pacific Federation Championship heptathlon mark and Arizona school record of 5,518 points.

    In the same year, during the outdoor season, Arnold had a season-best score in the decathlon of 7,259 points.

    Arnold has also recently been named to the NCAA Division I Indoor All-America Team for the 2006 season by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

    A first-time All-American in the heptathlon, Arnold also broke the indoor season school record twice with a final score of 5,640 at the 2006 Indoor NCAA Championships, finishing in fifth place overall.

    Arnold said that while there is no perfect score in either the heptathlon or the decathlon, the desired scores are based on the previous world record holders.

    “”It’s very complicated, it’s based on a lot of equations and stuff,”” Arnold said. “”The best score ever for the decathlon is 9,026. Nobody else has scored over 9,000, and that’s pretty much everyone’s goal.””

    For the heptathlon, the standard is set at the NCAA record of 6,200, Arnold said.

    For all his accomplishments in the heptathlon, however, he said he prefers the outdoor decathlon competition.

    “”It’s a lot tougher to run the longer distances indoors,”” Arnold said, “”but outdoor track represents bigger thing. It’s bigger in college. To win outdoors is a lot bigger than to win indoors.””

    Even with his successes and those of other Wildcats on the track and field team, Arnold said he feels not many people have noticed.

    “”Here we are ranked like ninth in the nation as a men’s team for a couple of years now, and it seems like people just don’t know about it,”” Arnold said. “”It’s kind of a bummer.””

    Arnold said he wants to see more fans attend track and field competitions.

    “”It would always be nice to have more people out here to root us on because when we have fans out here, we do a lot better,”” Arnold said. “”It seems like it’s very underrepresented.””

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