Man, the guys Dominique Arnold races against are mouthy jerks.
They’re always saying nasty things to him.
Talkin’ trash. Puttin’ him down. Momma-this, sissy-that.
You can’t hurdle a lick.
At least that’s what they say in the scenes that play in Arnold’s teeming imagination.
“I need to keep my level of intensity up, so, sometimes before the race I make myself upset,” Washington State University’s senior hurdle ace explained. “The thing I usually think about is that someone was saying they were going to beat me by five hurdles or something like that.
“I know if I don’t have the adrenaline rushing, I’m not going to do well. And, I have a vivid imagination.”
These conjured confrontations have agitated Arnold well enough, as his 13.80 seconds clocking in the 110-meter high hurdles stands as the quickest in the Pacific-10 Conference this season.
With more competitive meets such as the Penn Relays and Mt. San Antonio College Relays on the docket, Arnold should surely clip off the necessary .06 of a second from his PR to earn an NCAA automatic qualifying time.
“The competition is what’s important, so I think I’ll be able to post faster times,” Arnold said. “I think I can run a 13.60 because right now, I’m just going off the strength work from the fall.”
Hurdling is a lot more than just running fast and trying not to break the furniture.
“The big thing is that rhythm and tempo are absolutely critical,” WSU coach Rick Sloan said. “If you’re racing somebody and think, ‘Well, I’m going to put more into it,’ you try harder and it usually results in disaster. You can’t force that stride because you end up getting too close to the hurdles and that’s detrimental.”
Technique alone, though, is not enough to allow a person to confidently attack a flight of 10 wooden barriers - each a formidable 3-foot, 6-inch obstruction.
“There’s a toughness involved, more so than in a lot of events,” Sloan said. “And that requires a lot of discipline.”
Although Arnold has been involved in several spectacular crashes, the effects of the friction created when one’s face meets the track is not something a hurdler can frequently contemplate.
“You can’t be scared,” he said. “You have to realize the hurdles have no feelings and they can’t jump up and grab you.”
Although he’s felt them clutching at him on occasion.
“At the end of the race, it seems like they get higher and they’re reaching for you, but you can’t be afraid of them.”
This relationship with the hurdles is actually relatively new for Arnold, who competed in track only his senior year in high school in Long Beach, Calif.
Mostly, he had concentrated on being a football receiver team and drawing recruiting interest from the likes of Colorado.
But Arnold didn’t have the requisite core courses, and, as the result of casual counseling, didn’t take the college boards.
With the football put away, his hurdling skills blossomed at Long Beach City College, and as a sophomore, he was the California JC high hurdle champ.
As it is for many athletes uprooted from Southern California and transplanted in Pullman, the transition for Arnold was initially shaky.
“I always wanted to get out of the city because you get tired of it - I used to get serenaded to sleep by the sounds of sirens,” Arnold said. “The first semester here I was kind of antsy and uncomfortable because you are so used to other things, but I adapted. It’s a small town, so you learn to get along.”
Arnold has had no difficulty in that area, as he views his fellow Cougars not only as teammates, but also as an audience.
“He is a fun guy to be around,” Sloan said. “He entertains everybody all the time; he’s very interactive with people, always joking around. He does a nice job of keeping us all, uh, enlightened.”
Arnold majors in fine arts, and looks forward to a career as an advertising illustrator. Apparently, he has the skills. If only he can get other artists to say bad things about him before he starts to draw.
Track shorts: WSU’s last home track meet is scheduled for Saturday, with Washington and Idaho visiting Mooberry Track.
In the first Pac-10 list of best marks, WSU has several conference leaders.
Aside from Arnold in the high hurdles, sophomore Rasto Kiplangat paces the conference in the 800 (1:49.54) and freshman Francesca Green has the best marks in the 100 (11.75) and long jump (20-6-1/4).
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: THE ARNOLD FILE Year: Senior Height, weight: 6-1, 187 pounds Event: 110-meter high hurdles PR: 13.80, fastest in the Pac-10 Hometown: Long Beach, Calif.