Razorbacks Aim For 40th National Title

FAYETTEVILLE -- With this weekend's NCAA Indoor Championships too close to call, No. 1-ranked Arkansas' hopes of winning its 40th National Championship may depend on the health of the right hamstring of Tyson Gay.

Gay, the 2004 NCAA Outdoor Champion in the 100 meters, is still bothered by a hamstring pull he reinjured after setting the UA record in the 60 one month ago when falling after he finished second in the Powered by Tyson Invitational at the Randal Tyson Track Center.

"He's about 95 percent," said Arkansas coach John McDonnell. "He wants to run. That is up to him. It is a very explosive event."

The 2005 NCAA Indoor meet begins today at the Tyson Center beginning with the first half of the men's heptathlon at 9 a.m.

Event preliminaries and finals inside the Tyson Center begin with the women's high jump at 2:30 and conclude with the men's distance medley relay at 9:30.

Gay, who has the fastest time in the country this year in the 60 (6.55 seconds) is slated to run in the preliminaries of the 60 at 5:20 p.m. Sprints coach Lance Brauman said there are still some variables to consider as to whether Gay will run.

"This is something totally different than what was bothering him when he came back from Christmas. Every bit of it has to do with him falling," Brauman said Wednesday. "He just got it overextended and everything back there just stretched out.

"Our game plan right now has him not running and then if he does run, it would be a bonus."

Today's events will allow Arkansas, which has only won one indoor national championship in the last four years (2003) but 17 overall, to see where it stands heading into Saturday's final day.

"I'd be more comfortable if he was running. He has the fastest time in the country after running only one race," McDonnell said. "Tyson is a great competitor. He's a fierce competitor and he likes to win."

Sophomore sprinter Wallace Spearmon, who holds the three fastest 200 times in the world this year, will look to continue his recent successes by picking up his second national championship in the 200 in as many NCAA meets. Spearmon won the 200 in last year's Outdoor Championships with a wind-aided 20.12.

Jamacian native Omar Brown, qualified eighth in the 200 at last weekend's Last Chance Meet in Iowa. His times have steadily improved and will look to score points for Arkansas tonight.

"We hope Spearmon wins. There are a lot of talented guys in that event. He's the guy to beat. Let's just put it that way. Omar is rounding into form and he could be anywhere in the top eight," Brauman said.

Brown and Spearmon, as well as David Wittenmeyer and 400-meter entry Terry Gatson will run in the 4x400 relay Saturday night.

Peter Kosgei and Josphat Boit run in the finals of the 5,000 meters. Kosgei, who won the SEC championship in the 5,000 two weeks ago, is ranked fifth in the nation and Boit is ninth.

Then, to cap off the night is the distance medley relay, when the Razorbacks, who are ranked second to Michigan in the event, aim to add 10 points to their total.

James Hatch, Adam Perkins, Gatson and Said Ahmed will run routes in the DMR final

"We are the kind of team that after (today) we will find out if we are still in the dance or not. The 200, 5,000 and the distance medley, there have never been cheap points in a national meet, but I can guarantee there will not be any cheap points in those events," McDonnell said.

Overall, the weekend is looking to be a six-team race between Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Oregon and Wisconsin. But McDonnell understands the depth of the field and the Razorbacks must score every way they can.

No. 3 Indiana, No. 4 Michigan and No. 11 Wisconsin are strong in the distance and middle distance events. No. 2 Florida is full of sprinters and should score in the long jump and high jump.

No. 6 Oregon is strong in the field events with the nation's top pole vaulter, Tommy Skipper and a top long jumper.

"This is going to be a great meet," McDonnell said. "I've been coaching for a long time. I think this is the deepest, most talented field I've seen in years, especially in the middle distances. There is no way to figure how many points anyone is going to get because there are so many great athletes."

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