Star-Studded Tyson Invitational Ready To Go

FAYETTEVILLE -- For one day a year the track and field world focuses on Fayetteville.

The sixth annual Powered by Tyson Invitational attracts some of the biggest names in the sport on one of the world's fastest tracks.

Event after event will be filled with world-class athletes, Olympians, and world champions.

The meet begins tonight at 7 p.m. at the Randal Tyson Track Center with the college men's distance medley relay where the Arkansas team of James Hatch, Said Ahmed, Adam Perkins and Terry Gatson attempt to automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships to be held at the Tyson Center on March 11-12.

Then, the professionals take over what is quickly becoming the most prestigious indoor track meet in the United States.

"This will be, without a doubt, the best Tyson Invitational meet ever," said Arkansas track and field coach John McDonnell. "The horses are here and they are in shape. It is not like they are hoping to be in shape. They are in shape and ready to go. There are going to be some tremendous races."

In the highlight event, Bernard Lagat, an Olympic silver and bronze medalist in the 1500 meters, and 2004 World Indoor champion in the 3000, will attempt to break the world record in the mile.

The current record of 3:48.45 is held by Morocco's Hicham El Guerrouj

He will be joined by fellow countrymen Paul Korir, Laban Rotich and former Arkansas NCAA champion Seneca Lassiter.

Tyson will award any athlete a $25,000 bonus for breaking a world record Friday.

Lagat made an attempt at the world mark at the Millrose Games in New York last weekend, but fell short of his goal because of the stress of the sharp turns on a short track at Madison Square Garden. The mile is scheduled for 9 p.m.

Arkansas' Tyson Gay will make his return to competition after a seven-month layoff in the 60 meters. Gay, the 2004 NCAA Outdoor champion in 100 meters, was sidelined due to a sore hamstring he suffered at the U.S. Olympic Trials in July.

"I would like to see Tyson have a good race and come out healthy after the meet," McDonnell said. "He's OK now. Tyson is a tough guy and we think he will be ready."

Terrence Trammell, the Tyson Center record holder in the 60 meters, is the favorite in the event. Trammell won back-to-back Olympic silver medals in the 110 hurdles.

Arkansas sophomore sprint sensation Wallace Spearmon will race the 200, an event in which he broke the school record on Jan. 21 at the Razorback Invitational in 20.36, a tenth-of-a-second off the American record.

"We know Wallace is fast here. He has the fastest time in the world in the 200 here. There are only four guys in it, but they are all professional guys, so he has his hands full," McDonnell said.

"Whatever happens, we will be happy with it. I think it will be good."

The reigning three-time World Indoor champion, four-time World Outdoor champion and 1996 Olympic champion, Allen Johnson, a regular at the Tyson Invitational, will compete in the 60 hurdles. Johnson is currently ranked No. 2 in the world in the 110 hurdles and is the top American.

Two legs off the 2004 U.S. Olympic gold medal 4X400 relay team will race the 400 Friday night: Andrew Rock and Darold Williamson.

Alleyne Francique of Grenada, will try to defend his Tyson Invitational title in the 400. Francique finished fourth at the Athens Games and is the defending World Indoor champion.

The premiere field event today will be the long jump, which starts at 7:15 p.m. John Moffitt, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist, leads a world-class field which includes: Savante' Stringfellow, the Tyson Center record holder and 2004 World Indoor champion; former four-time NCAA champion at Arkansas, Melvin Lister, who also won the triple jump at the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2004.

Alistar Cragg, a seven-time NCAA champion and 2004 Olympian, will run the 3000 beginning at 7:30 p.m.

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