Lagat Unable To Capture World Record

FAYETTEVILLE --Kenya's Bernard Lagat is still chasing history.

Hicham El Guerrouj, the mile king from Morocco, still holds the world record as Lagat's bid to break the 3:48.45 mark fell over a second short.

As was expected, Lagat, the 2004 Olympic silver medal winner behind El Guerrouj, won the mile at Friday's sixth-annual Powered By Tyson Invitational in 3 minutes, 49.89 seconds.

Earlier this week after a promising result at the Millrose Games in New York, Lagat proclaimed he would attempt to break the world record in the mile in front of 4,532 in attendance around the Randal Tyson Center's fast, banked track.

"I felt really strong at the beginning, but with two laps to go I was feeling a bit tired. It was exactly what we asked for," Lagat said. "It wasn't anything extraordinary. So we wanted the guys to run really fast and they did that."

Pacesetter Fred Sharpe set a blistering early split of 56.4 seconds, which was on pace with El Guerrouj. After 800 meters, Sharpe fell out of the race having already vaulted Lagat two seconds under world-record pace with a half-mile split of 1:51.8.

Laban Rotich pulled Lagat for the next 400 and remained on pace before leaving his countryman on his own for the final 400.

"It gets lonely out there because you need somebody out there to run with you. When you are out there alone with 400 meters to go, it gets lonely," Lagat said.

Though he fell short, Lagat's mile was good enough for the third fastest time in history.

East Carolina freshman La Shawn Merritt joined U.S. track great Michael Johnson as the two fastest 400-meter sprinters ever with a time of 44.93, the third-fastest time in history.

Johnson's world record of 44.63 and second-best 44.66 are the only two times better than Merritt, a three-time gold medalist at the 2004 World Junior Indoor Championships.

"I knew I could run 45 and I knew this was the fastest track in the country. I wanted to set my race up. When I came in (the final turn), I knew no one was around and I just wanted to finish strong," Merritt said.

Merritt beat reigning World Indoor champion Alleyne Francique of Grenada, who finished fourth and 2004 Olympic gold medalist as a runner for the U.S. 4x400 team, Andrew Rock, who finished third.

"I knew the field was full of Olympians and I was the only collegiate athlete," Merritt said. "I wasn't going to back down."

Arkansas' distance medley relay sped around the Tyson Center track with the fourth-fastest relay in history.

Arkansas, which has endured a couple of failed attempts to qualify for the NCAAs this season, beat out Indiana University with a time of 9:29.35 to automatically qualify for the National Championships on March 11-12 in Fayetteville.

Adam Perkins passed the Indiana runner on the last lap of the first leg. Terry Gatson, James Hatch and Said Ahmed then pulled away for one of the fastest times in history.

"It feels really good to have this behind us. Now we can prepare for our own individual events," Gatson said.

Arkansas' two male invidiuals, who stepped up to race the professionals were able to more than hold their own. Junior Tyson Gay, who returned competition for the first time since injuring his hamstring at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials in July, broke the school record in the 60, running 6.55 to finish second behind Jason Smoots (6.54).

Sophomore Wallace Spearmon won a watered-down 200, beating South Carolina's Rodney Martin (20.67).

Three weeks ago at the Razorback Invitational, Spearmon ran the fastest time in the world this year at 20.36.

Spearmon ran a clean race for about 130 before overstriding out of the turn.

"My first step was kind of off, but after I got running, I felt a lot better," Spearmon said. "I won the race. I'm healthy. It was a pretty good day."

Two-time gold medalist at the 2004 Athens Olympics Veronica Campbell, a former Lady Razorbacks sprint champion, won the women's 60 in a Tyson Center record time of 7.09. The previous record of 7.10 had been set by Olympian Gail Devers in last year's Tyson Invitational. Campbell's time is also the fastest 60 in the world this year.

"My ultimate goal was to beat my (personal record), but I equaled it so I am satisfied," Campbell said. "I don't normally run the 60 meters, so I'm satisfied with my first result."

In her final semester in track and field at Arkansas, Anita Denton thought she should go out with a bang.

Her fourth-place finish in the women's 800 with a time of 2:03.91, which broke a 13-year-old school record previously set by Nicole Teter in 1992 (2:04.58). It was the only school indoor record which had not been broken before 2000, when the Tyson Center opened.

Allen Johnson won his second-straight Tyson Invitational 60m hurdles in a time of 7.51, beating last year's winning time of 7.56. Johnson is a three-time World Indoor 60m hurdles champion, four-time World Outdoor 110m hurdles champion and 1996 Olympic champion. Friday was the second time he had raced in the Tyson Invitational.

Miguel Pate won the men's long jump with a leap of 26 feet, 9.25 inches.

Former Arkansas distance champion Alistair Cragg outkicked training partner Markos Geneti in a moderately fast, but exciting 3000. Cragg, who finished eighth at the 2004 Olympics, won Friday in a time of 7:40.53.

"We pushed each other. When we finished and saw the time, it wasn't as fast as we thought," Cragg said.

"When it came to the finish, it was just like old times. It was like we were opponents again."

2002 U.S. Indoor champion Mary Sauer won the women's pole vault with a height of 14-3.25.

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