Spearmon Reaching Rock Star Status

FAYETTEVILLE -- Cue the spotlight. Wallace Spearmon Jr. is ready to put on a show.

Arkansas' 200-meter sprinting sensation has attained rock star status in just his sophomore year at America's top track and field university.

As a freshman, he dazzled the nation by winning the outdoor national championship in the 200, helping the Razorbacks to their 39th team title.

Less than a year later, Spearmon hasn't disappointed by recording the three fastest 200 times in the world this year and has his eyes set on a second straight NCAA gold medal this weekend at Arkansas' Randal Tyson Track Center.

"The mentality when you come to Arkansas is that you are here to win. That is pretty much how I have been raised," Spearmon said. "When I was little my father (former UA All-American Wallace Spearmon Sr.) taught me to not get into a race that I couldn't win or you are just wasting your time.

"My mother taught me to not talk about stuff, just do it. I'm not going up there trying to get second. Everyone going out there is expecting to get first. That is pretty much my expectation."

In his first 200 race of the indoor season in the Razorback Invitational, Spearmon ran a world-leading time of 20.36, just one-tenth of a second off the collegiate record. A month later in the preliminaries of the Southeastern Conference Championships in Fayetteville, Spearmon eclipsed his own mark with a 20.35 despite slowing with 25 meters to go.

Spearmon came back the next night and ran the exact same time to win his first SEC title.

"He's been running it pretty good. The consistency he has had is unbelievable. Nobody has that kind of consistency," said Arkansas sprints coach Lance Brauman. "Usually that means he is about to pop one and drop a big time. Hopefully that is the case this weekend."

Spearmon's charisma on and off the track has turned him into a crowd favorite. Before his races, Spearmon, who graduated high school at Fayetteville, rallies the Razorback fans into a chorus of "Woo Pig Sooie!" and while he waits for the baton in his relay, Spearmon flaps his arms in the air which turns the 5,000-seat Tyson Center into one of the loudest arenas, per capita, on campus.

"I'm home. I try to get everyone excited. When they get excited, I get excited, too," Spearmon said. "When you are hurting and everyone is going crazy it kind of drives you. Your body can do more than your mind thinks you can do.

"When everyone is up there yelling and screaming, it makes the adrenaline rush a little bit more. I figure if you get more fan participation it helps the athletes."

For all his successes, Spearmon has had his share of light moments and embarrassments.

Like while competing in the decathlon for FHS, Spearmon was reminded of the times he pole vaulted, or tried to pole vault.

"I did the pole vault one year. That was pretty funny. I've got a picture of me in a helmet. I'd let you get a hold of that, but it would be pretty embarrassing."

At the state meet, the pole vault was divided into flights of vaulters and Spearmon was placed into a group of Pine Bluff and Little Rock athletes.

"Our group was so bad. They recorded our group of the pole vault session and put it on TV because it was so bad. They stopped the track meet to look at us. Everyone had a good time laughing at us.

"One guy ran up there, stuck the pole in and he went the wrong way. He started spinning around as he came down. And everytime he came back towards us he was screaming, 'Ahhhhh!'"

"He fell to the ground and that is when I picked up my helmet and everyone started wearing helmets. I'd pay money not to pole vault again."

Spearmon has also experienced those moments of maturity. Back in July Spearmon took a stab at qualifying for the 2004 Olympics in the 200. He has always carried himself with a mix of arrogance and confidence, but at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Sacramento, Spearmon learned how to find the happy medium of being great and respecting greatness at the same time.

"I got my head busted. In the first race, Justin Gatlin (2004 Olympic Gold Medalist in the 100), I said, 'He's nobody. He's nobody.' I knew he was special, but I had to psyche myself out. I had to tell myself that he was just like me," Spearmon said. "People were telling me that I needed to respect him. I said I can't respect anybody. If I want to be the best I have to act like the best."

Gatlin breezed by Spearmon and beat him twice in the meet. At the least, it was a learning experience.

"This year I know who people are. I don't want to get too far away from how I acted last year because to me I don't want to be weak," Spearmon said. "I know who you are. I know what you can do, but I believe anybody can be beat on any given day. That includes me as well. I just like to stay focused on myself. I know who I respect."

Spearmon is hoping one day he will garner the respect a Justin Gatlin, Maurice Greene or Michael Johnson receives just by standing on the track.

He expects to join the likes of the great American sprinters when he gets a second chance to qualify for the Olympics in 2008. But Spearmon said he will cross that bridge when it comes.

One step toward the ultimate goal of being an Olympic champion is tonight's 200 final. All the nation will see this Fayetteville boy, who was bred by an All-American Razorback (his father Wallace Spearmon Sr.), with his long legs and powerful stride, take center stage and attempt to wow the crowd once again.

Cue the spotlight. The rock star is on stage.

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