Spearmon Positions Self For More Qualifiers

FAYETTEVILLE -- After what Wallace Spearmon Jr. did last week in his first collegiate attempt at 400 meters, it could be another weekend in the spotlight for the Arkansas sophomore sprinter.

Spearmon tied a school record and ran a provisional NCAA qualifying time last week in the 400 at the Arkansas Invitational in the Randal Tyson Track Center. The time of 46.16 crushed his personal best of 49.3 he set while at Fayetteville High.

Beginning tonight at 6:10 p.m., Spearmon looks to continue his reign in the 200, a sprint distance which brought him an NCAA title outdoors last year.

"We had a pretty good meet this past weekend. Wallace Spearmon was exciting. (His 400 time) is not automatic, but it should get him into the NCAAs," said Arkansas coach John McDonnell.

Spearmon will get another opportunity at the 400-meter distance when he competes on a leg of the Razorbacks' 4x400 relay team Saturday.

Both McDonnell and Lady'Backs coach Lance Harter played up the level of competition attending this weekend's Arkansas Invitational.

Besides the top-ranked Arkansas men's team, No. 6 LSU and No. 21 Ole Miss highlight the field on the men's side.

The women's field will be headlined by No. 2 LSU.

Jackson State, Kentucky, Missouri Southern, Oklahoma State, Oral Roberts, Texas A&M and Tulsa will also be competing.

"Every week the standard of competition elevates. This week is one when some of our young people, freshmen and sophomores, meet the Olympians," Harter said. "There is a sprinkle of Olympians throughout the competition on both the men's and women's side."

Besides Spearmon, four other Razorback athletes gained at least provisional qualifiers for the NCAAs -- also to be held at the Tyson Center on March 11-12 -- last week.

Senior Terry Gatson, who qualified with a second-place finish behind Spearmon in the 400 with a time of 46.95, is expected to compete in the Razorbacks' loaded distance medley relay and the 4x400 relay teams.

Jaanus Uudmae and Chessly Johnson both qualified in the triple jump. Both will compete in the horizontal jumps, beginning tonight in the long jump.

In his first race as a Razorback, sophomore transfer Peter Kosgei won the 3,000 meters last week in a field full of talented Arkansas distance runners. Kosgei, of Kenya, will run the mile Saturday.

More should be expected from the Lady'Backs as well, especially in the pole vault.

Stacie Manuel already qualified in the vault last week and Harter is expecting sophomore Jodi Driggers and freshman Danielle O'Reilly be near the provisional mark.

Kasia Williams nearly qualified for the NCAAs in the Arkansas Invitational in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.45 seconds, just .02 off the provisional time.

"If things go according to plan the announcer, like at a football game where they say, 'Another first down,' the announcer will be tired of saying 'Another NCAA qualifier,'" Harter said.

In the distance events tonight, McDonnell is doing what he can to make sure his distance medley team of Said Ahmed, Gatson, James Hatch and Adam Perkins have the best opportunity to qualify for the NCAAs.

They are running against the best Arkansas has arguably ever had to offer.

Maurice Bridges, Seneca Lassiter, Daniel Lincoln and Alistair Cragg will run a 'rabbit' race which will help the Razorbacks' team keep pace.

"What the NCAA has done is made 9:33 the qualifier. That is a fast time. You are not going to do it on your own," McDonnell said.

Missing from this weekend's meet will be Arkansas' SEC, Regional and NCAA 100-meter champion Tyson Gay and 2004 SEC cross country champion Josphat Boit.

Gay is tending to a mildly sore hamstring and does not want to risk severe injury.

McDonnell seemed quite relaxed during a press conference Thursday, showing confidence, yet being cautious about his team.

"The nucleus is there and we have pretty good morale on the team and they want it. We definitely don't want to loose the indoor conference and indoor nationals like they did last year," McDonnell said.

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