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AN ABOUT-FACE: FAULKNER QUITS

Shannon Faulkner, who won a 21/2-year legal battle to become the first woman cadet at the Citadel, quit the military college Friday after less than a week, most of it spent in the infirmary.

Faulkner said the stress of the long fight to get into the school took its toll and that she felt isolated in the all-male corps.Citadel cadets cheered, honked car horns and did push-ups in the rain to celebrate Faulkner's decision to withdraw.

"This is a great day to be an American!" shouted one cadet from a third-floor window of the white-walled barracks where Faulk-ner had stayed only two nights.

"I don't think there's any dishonor in leaving," Faulkner, near tears, told reporters in a driving rain outside the school. "I think there's dis-justice in my staying and killing myself just for the political point.

"Maybe it would have been different if there had been other women with me," she said.

Faulkner, 20, had been taken to the infirmary with heat exhaustion on Monday, the first day of rigorous drills and marching during what freshmen call "hell week." She never returned to duty.

School spokesman Terry Leedom said he knew of no cadet who had missed the crucial first week and then went on to graduate. Twenty-three other cadets also dropped out of the freshman class this week.

One of her lawyers, Suzanne Coe, said Faulkner was overcome by nerves, just one week after two U.S. Supreme Court justices paved the way for her to join the corps at the publicly funded 152-year-old college.

"She has no one to confide in, and her stomach is in knots every minute," Coe said. "It's no way to live your life."

The decision ended a week of speculation about Faulkner's fitness that began when she was taken to the infirmary, suffering from the exhaustion caused by drills in 100-degree heat.

She spent most of her first week in the infirmary and was treated for dehydration and had trouble keeping food down, her family and a school spokesman said. She was taken to a hospital for tests Thursday and cleared to return to duty Friday.

But she again missed activities Friday morning after infirmary staff said she was not ready.

"Monday, I thought I did very well," Faulkner said. "If you ask any member of the cadets, I was keeping up with everyone. Unfortunately, I began to have some difficulties physically."

Heat illnesses are not uncommon at the college. One cadet was taken on a stretcher from a physical fitness test Wednesday for treatment of heat stress, officials said. Two others were taken to the hospital Thursday for treatment.

Faulkner has been under continual stress since early 1993, when she launched her court fight. The Citadel had withdrawn its acceptance of her college application when officials realized she was a woman. References to her gender had been deleted from her high school transcripts.

Faulkner received death threats, and her Powdersville home was vandalized. Bumper stickers and T-shirts appeared with slogans "Shave Shannon" and "Save the Males."

At one point, the college proposed that Faulkner get a crewcut. The school later dropped that requirement, saying she could wear her hair according to U.S. military standards - off the collar and out of the face.

The school also tried to block her admittance based on her weight. A school spokesman had said Faulkner was 20 pounds over weight requirements and that the school doctor had recommended she be rejected.

Faulkner had been allowed to take classes at the Citadel before this week but was not allowed to take part in the military training. A federal judge ruled last year that the college's all-male admissions policy was unconstitutional.

As a way to keep women out of the Citadel, South Carolina wants to create a separate women's leadership program at another college. But plans for that program have not been approved by the courts.

Faulkner said she did not know what she would do next.

"Today has been the hardest day of my life," Faulkner said. "The past 21/2 years came crashing down on me in an instant.

"I know my life is going to be miserable for a while," she said.

While the two Supreme Court jus-tices allowed Faulkner to enter the school this year, the larger question of whether separate but equal educational facilities for women are constitutional has not been resolved by the courts.