Tide track set for NCAA Indoor Championships

Alabama has high hopes for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship, which will be held March 8 and 9 at the University of Arkansas. As usual, the Tide will depend on its "big three" of seniors Miguel Pate and Ron Bramlett and junior David Kimani to bring home the points.

Tide Head Coach Harvey Glance is confident about his team's chances. "We have the big athletes at the top that can carry us, but we'll also need a few things to happen along the way," said Glance. "Everything looks good for us on paper, but for us to make an impact and win this thing we have to perform on the track."

In last year's meet, Kimani won both the 3000 meter and 5000 meter runs, Bramlett was second in the 60 meter high hurdles (just one one-hundreth of a second from the top spot), and Pate had a disappointing sixth place in the long jump. This gave Bama 31 points, to put them in fourth place behind LSU (34 points), TCU (33), and Arkansas (32). Eight places score, with 10 points for a first place finish, 8 for second, and 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 for the next six spots.

Kimani competes at the SEC Indoor Championships. (Associated Press)

Kimani is entered in the mile and 3000 meter runs this year, and may possibly run a leg of the distance medley relay (legs of 1200, 400, 800, and 1600 meters). His qualifying times this year are not overly impressive -- he has the 15th fastest of the 16 entrants in the mile and sixth fastest in the 3000, with 20 entrants -- but he is a threat to win every time he steps on the track.

Kimani is the defending national champion in the both the 3k and 5k events. He has been battling injuries all season; however, that did not slow him down as he won the Commissioner's Award at the 2002 SEC Indoor Championships, the award for the most points scored in the meet.

Alabama's distance medley relay has the fourth fastest qualifying time among the 12 team field, but without Kimani would be substantially slower. To compete in these three events he would have to run a qualifying heat of the mile at 6:35 Friday night, the distance medley 2 hours and 25 minutes later, and the finals of the mile and 3000 Saturday night (at 6:15 and 7:40). This would be a very demanding test, to say the least.

Bramlett has the top time (7.52 seconds) in the nation in the high hurdles by two-tenths of a second, which is a large margin in a race of this length. By way of contrast, there is less than a one-tenth difference in the qualifying time of the other 17 competitors, with all turning in times between 7.72 and 7.81. He hasn't lost to a collegiate runner this year, with his only loss being to Allen Johnson, the defending Olympic and World Champion.

Bramlett will be the overwhelming favorite, and has a decent shot at breaking the NCAA record of 7.47. However, any mistake in a race this short would be impossible to overcome.

Bama's Miguel Pate has recently solidified his rank as a genuine world-class athlete.

Pate will be an even bigger favorite in the long jump, with his 28 feet 2.25 inch jump that won the USA Indoor Track and Field Championship last week being about a foot and a half better than the next best qualifier. This was the longest jump indoors by an American since Carl Lewis set the world record in the event in 1984. Other than Lewis, the only other person in history who has jumped farther indoors is Ivan Pedroso of Cuba, the reigning Olympic Champion in the event.

Pate also is entered in the triple jump, and he has the third best mark of the 14 member field in that event.

In the distance medley, either Jevon Mason (sophomore) or O'Neil Wright (junior) will run the 400 leg and Curtis McBride (freshman) the 800. There are three candidates to run the 1200 and 1600 legs: Troy Henderson (senior), Kimani, and his fellow Kenyan Peter Kiprono (junior).

The only other Alabama team member who qualified for the meet is Latonel Williams (junior) in the 60 meter dash. His qualifying time of 6.68 is tied with two other sprinters as the slowest time among the 16 entrants; the best times are by a pair of Tennessee sprinters at 6-54 and 6.56 (football wide receiver Leonard Scott).

Alabama finished third in the SEC Championship two weeks ago, behind Arkansas and Tennessee. These two teams, along with Alabama and LSU, give the SEC the four top-ranked teams in the field. Arkansas, as always, will be very strong in the distance events, Tennessee in the sprints, and LSU in the field events. Florida, Auburn, and South Carolina are also strong, and all the other SEC teams except Vanderbilt should score.

Since taking over the Tide track team, Coach Glance has steadily built the program into one of the nation's best.

Glance said his goal is to place the highest ever in school history. Bama's highest finish in the meet was last year's fourth place finish, when the Tide finished three points away from a national championship. The men's meet will begin on Friday, March 8 at 1:30 with the high jump and will conclude on Saturday with the final event, the 1,600m relay, scheduled to start at 8:10 p.m.

EDITOR'S NOTE: As we noted inside his earlier scouting report on the Bama baseball team, Grif Carden is one of the most avid (and knowledgeable) Tide fans around. He also has extensive experience serving as a track official on various levels.

John Hayden, of The University's Media Relations Department also contributed to this report.

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