Defending champion Rob Muzzio of George Mason University came from 175 points behind in the last event tonight to overtake Gary Kinder of New Mexico and win the decathlon at the NCAA outdoor track and field championships.

The heptathlon was won by Lauri Young of Northeast Louisiana, who swept from fourth place to first in the final event of the competition, the 800-meter run.

Muzzio, the first to win consecutive NCAA decathlon titles, led for much of the two-day grind but fell behind after the pole vault, the eighth event, and dropped 175 points behind Kinder after the javelin.

In the final event, the 1,500-meter run, Muzzio rallied from well back in the field to post a time of 4:23.64 that earned him 787 points. Kinder finished last in the event to gather 607 points with a time of 4:52.01.

Muzzio thus finished with 7,964 points to Kinder's 7,959.

Muzzio, a 6-foot-2, 193-pound junior from Fairfax, Va., took this year's title without finishing first in any of the 10 events. His best finishes were third places in the 110-meter high hurdles and in the 1,500.

Last year, when he set the meet record with 8,227 points, Muzzio was first in the shot put and the discus throw, and never worse than fourth in any event.

With one event to go in the heptathlon, Young trailed Maryse Ewanje-Epee of Arizona, defending champion Sheila Tarr of Nevada-Las Vegas and Conny Eckl of Washington State.

But with a clocking of 2:18.40 in the 800 meters, she passed all of them to finish with 5,723 points -- the ninth best ever by an American. Tarr was next at 5,649 followed by Eckl with 5,637 and Ewanje-Epee with 5,607.

The heptathlon was weakened by the absence of UCLA's Jackie Joyner, who would have been the overwhelming favorite. Joyner chose to save her energy for the open events in which she was entered.

"I had heard that Jackie might drop out," Young said, "and then I knew I had a better chance. This is really special because last year was a real disappointment. I suffered a stress fracture in my foot last year and it was too late to redshirt so the season was shot."

Ewanje-Epee, who finished fourth for France in the high jump at last year's Olympics, faded from first to fourth because of a slow time of 2:31.72 in the 800. That earned her only 671 points in the event.