The recent signing of Rob Muzzio, 17, a senior at Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax, by George Mason University shows that GMU's time may have arrived.

A major difficulty in building a nationally competitive track and field program at GMU has been attracting premier athletes to the school.

"We have two or three blue-chip athletes in track and field," said head coach John Cook. "Schools we're competing against have eight or 10."

Muzzio, however, is one of the best all-around athletes in Northern Virginia. He chose George Mason over offers from big-name schools such as UCLA, Tennessee, Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania, and his acceptance of a full scholarship at GMU is widely regarded as a major coup for the school.

"He could have gone anywhere," Cook said of Muzzio, who set a Virginia decathlon record in the 19-and-under age group last summer. "He bolsters our program in so many ways--shot put, discus, hurdles, long jump. He's a national-caliber decathlete. By his freshman or sophomore year he can score nationally in the decathlon."

Muzzio, who also turned down offers to play football for several schools (he was an outstanding linebacker at Robinson), holds four Northern District track and field records--in the shot put, long jump and hurdles indoors, and in the discus outdoors. When he set the state decathlon record, he had never before competed in the pole vault, long jump, quarter-mile dash, 1,500-meter run or the javelin.

Muzzio said he chose GMU because "it's close to home, it has excellent facilities and coaches, and a good business school--which is what I intend to major in.

"I think they (GMU coaches) will use me in the shot, discus, hurdles and any other events they think I can score points in. Plus, I'll be their decathlete."

Could Muzzio carry GMU's banner into the Pan American Games, or perhaps even the Olympics?

"I'll take it as far as I can," Muzzio said thoughtfully. "If I have that chance, I'll go after it."