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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    A lucky break

    Decathlete Jake Arnold hurls the javelin during the Jim Click Shoot-out March 24. Arnold took a stroke of bad luck in high school and turned it into a national championship last year.
    Decathlete Jake Arnold hurls the javelin during the Jim Click Shoot-out March 24. Arnold took a stroke of bad luck in high school and turned it into a national championship last year.

    Becoming a collegiate decathlon champion is not the normal result of breaking one’s wrist.

    But Jake Arnold is sure that if he did not break his arm snowboarding his senior year of high school, he would never have become the 2006 NCAA decathlon champion.

    Arnold – who was also on his high school soccer, basketball and cross country teams – remembers growing impatient on the track, tired of waiting for his arm to fully heal so he could return to the pole vault. So he decided to try the hurdles with a cast on his arm.

    “”I was like ‘all right, let me try the hurdles just for fun,’ “” Arnold said.

    He ended up setting a new school record.

    He went on to win every 300-meter hurdles event he ran until he reached the California State Championships, where he finished in eighth place.

    “”I just always did events for what we needed,”” Arnold said. “”I was always doing four events at a meet and running around like a madman.””

    Although the Santa Rosa, Calif., native was recruited by nearby California, he decided to attend Arizona after “”falling in love with the campus”” and his desire to have a “”change from home.””

    Arnold walked on to the track and field team his freshman year, where he competed in the decathlon as well as individual events.

    “”People always said I should try out the decathlon because I was good at the pole vault and hurdles, which are normally the toughest for decathletes,”” he said. “”The coaches were still feeling me out. They weren’t training me very well for the whole (decathlon).””

    As a result of improper training, Arnold blew out his shoulder early in his sophomore season. But he still practiced on the track every day, even though he couldn’t do anything with his shoulder.

    The addition to the coaching staff of multi-events and jumps coach Sheldon Blockburger, a former conference champion decathlete at Louisiana State, has dramatically helped Arnold’s track career.

    “”He understands every event really well,”” Arnold said. “”I just have one coach now (as) opposed to several coaches.””

    Blockburger said he added more discipline to the training and mindsets of his athletes.

    “”Instead of turning his mind off once he left the track, I think he is thinking about track 24 hours a day now,”” Blockburger said.

    Blockburger helped Arnold become the NCAA champion in the decathlon in his junior year last season.

    Arnold recently increased his personal decathlon record to 7,946 points at the March 29-30 LSU Combined Events.

    His goal for the season is to break the 8,000-point mark, and he’s eyeing the school record of 8,075 points set by Derek Huff in 1988.

    After he concludes his final year of eligibility after the outdoor season – Arnold graduated in 2006 with a degree in retail and consumer sciences and is now taking graduate-level communication classes – he will continue to train at Arizona for the 2008 Summer Olympics, which will be held in Beijing.

    But until he can get there, he’ll compete in the NCAA Outdoor Championships June 6-9, then in the USA Championships later in the summer, where he will try to qualify for the 2008 World Championships in Osaka, Japan.

    “”I have a real good chance of making those this year,”” Arnold said. “”The (World Championships) are a year off.

    “”If you make that, you’re (among) some of the best in the world.””

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