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Skipper passes Pre.

Byline: Curtis Anderson The Register-Guard

SACRAMENTO - Tommy Skipper only needed one jump to become Oregon's first five-time NCAA champion on Friday.

The incomparable UO senior cleared 18 feet, one-half inch on his opening height in the pole vault, and when the other two vaulters still alive in the competition couldn't match that effort, he was declared the winner at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

Skipper wanted to give the announced crowd of 8,151 at Hornet Stadium a few more clearances to savor, but he missed all three attempts at 18-4 1/2 .

`I was actually pretty disappointed with the results,' said Skipper, who collected his third outdoor title to go along with two indoor crowns. `I would have liked to have gone out a little better, but you can't dwell on it. I'll move on and do better at the next meet.'

Coming into the NCAAs, Skipper and legendary distance runner Steve Prefontaine were the only two Ducks with four national titles. Pre collected a trio of 3-mile victories at the meet in 1970, '71 and '73, plus a 5,000-meter crown in '72.

Skipper did not take the accomplishment lightly.

`I'm honored,' he said. `I'm thankful for all the things that have happened to me at Oregon. ... I know it will be a great steppingstone to the next level, and hopefully, I can always come back to Hayward Field, and have the fans there, and hear the roar.'

Skipper's immediate plans are to prepare for the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Indianapolis in two weeks.

He continues to recover from a torn calf muscle suffered last February, and he said he would most likely sign with an agent within the next two weeks, a decision that will determine where he will set up his training base heading into the Olympic Trials.

`Talk to me in two weeks, and I'll tell you,' Skipper said. `I do intend to come back and finish school next year by taking some online classes. I've had a good run at the UO, and I'm ready to go on. I want to thank all the staff at Oregon, everybody has been very gracious to me, and the coaches have always been behind me.'

Vin Lananna, the UO director of track and field, had no doubt that the future is very bright for the Pac-10 outdoor and UO record-holder in the pole vault at 19- 1/4 .

`How can you not like Tommy Skipper?' he said. `He's got it all. He's a phenomenal athlete and a phenomenal personality. He has done a tremendous amount for the University of Oregon, and I also believe the university has done some great stuff for him. We've both benefited, and I hope that everything he wants to do, he does.'

Remarkably, Oregon's work at the NCAA meet is now done, at least on the men's side.

The Ducks finish with a total of 20 points. Skipper scored 10 points with his win, junior Galen Rupp added eight with his second place in the 10,000 on Thursday, and senior Ryan Brandel closed things out with two points after taking seventh in the javelin.

It was a tough night for Brandel.

The Pac-10 champion, who stands third on the UO all-time list with a PR of 238-0, only got two fair throws out of six attempts. His best mark - 225-11 - came on his first throw, and he wasn't able to improve after four straight fouls.

`I really wanted to win, but it just wasn't there,' Brandel said. `The other guys were better today. I've had a great year, and I have to keep my head high. I'm grateful for all the support I've gotten over the years from the coaching staff, my teammates and my family. It's something I'll walk away with for the rest of my life.'

Although he won't score, UO junior Marcus Dillon added his name to the growing list of all-American quarter-milers at Oregon. The New Orleans native placed fourth in his semifinal heat of the 400 with a PR of 46.18. He missed today's final by four-hundredths of a second. Dillon was slowed by a groin injury this week, and when it came time to power down the stretch, he couldn't find that extra gear.

`On that last 100, I felt great,' he said. `I was trying to get the kid from LSU, but my body didn't want to participate.'

Dillon, who was displaced by Hurricane Katrina and competed in three junior colleges before enrolling at Oregon this year, finished ninth overall as the fastest non-qualifier. However, he still earns an all-American certificate as a top-eight finisher from the U.S. because Florida State junior Ricardo Chambers, who won his heat at 45.46, hails from Jamaica.

`This is just the beginning,' promised Dillon, who stands sixth on the all-time UO list. `It builds my confidence for next year.'

The Ducks have had 400 finalists in each of the past two NCAA meets. Matt Scherer placed fifth last season, and Kedar Inico was eighth in 2005.

In fact, it was Inico, a former teammate at Barton Community College in Kansas, who counseled Dillon that his times would drop if he stayed true to his training regimen.

`The last time I heard from Kedar was during indoors when my confidence was down,' Dillon said. `He told me, `you're doing better than me when I started, and once you adjust to the workouts, and hitting those hills, your times will come,' and it's just like he said.'
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Title Annotation:Sports; The senior from Sandy becomes Oregon's first five-time NCAA champion
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 9, 2007
Words:923
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