Spearmon Takes Time In Stride

FAYETTEVILLE -- Breaking 20 seconds in the 200 is a milestone for any collegiate sprinter.

For Arkansas sophomore and Fayetteville High alum Wallace Spearmon Jr., it's more of a stepping stone.

Spearmon, a two-time NCAA champion and the newly crowned American record holder in the indoor 200, continued to shake up the track world at the Mt. San Antonio College Relays by running a winning, school record and world-leading 19.97 Sunday afternoon.

"That was my goal coming into the race and I accomplished it," said Spearmon, who took the time in stride. "I'm as excited as I'm supposed to be."

Particularly impressive about Spearmon's time is that it came during a peak strength period of training marked by tough practices and no speedwork.

Spearmon's time was the 10th best by a collegian ever and only the third time a sub-20 time has ever been recorded in the Northern hemisphere in April.

He won't run the 200 again until the Southeastern Conference Championships next month in Nashville, so crossing the 20-second barrier was as important mentally as it was physically.

Spearmon outdistanced former NCAA 60 champion Leonard Scott by more than half a second (20.48), the sprint equivalent of an win by 20 lengths at Oaklawn.

"Anytime you break 20 seconds, it's a great run," said Arkansas sprints coach Lance Brauman. "It's like one of those marks like breaking 10 in the 100 meters or the 400 breaking 44.

"It's one of those special marks. He's stepping his way up to the world class level."

Spearmon took the first of those steps March 11 in Fayetteville when he ran a 20.20 in the 200 prelims to break the record of 20.26 jointly held by 2003 U.S. 200 champion John Capel and 2004 Olympic 200 gold medalist Shawn Crawford.

He then lowered his record to 20.10 in the finals and earned World Indoor Athlete of the Year honors from Track and Field News after posting five of the world's six fastest indoor 200 times of the season.

TFN editor Jon Hendershott had only seen Spearmon once before at the NCAA Outdoor Championships last June when he became the first freshman since 2004 Olympic 100 gold medalist Justin Gatlin to win a sprint title.

Spearmon has come a long way since, said Hendershott, who was at the Mt. SAC Relays.

"Totally impressive," Hendershott said. "There was a buzz. There was among the writers, too. He really opened people's eyes.

"There's no question it's a huge step for him to make. That's a pretty rare thing."

The early time puts Spearmon in elite company.

Gatlin's best time as a collegian was 19.86 and Crawford's was 20.04. Crawford won the U.S. Olympic Trials last July in 19.99 seconds and won the gold in 19.79.

"It puts him in the upper echelon of U.S. sprinters and in U.S. history," Brauman said. "It's a great time and a wonderful time to do it."

World-record holder Michael Johnson (19.32) didn't break 20 seconds until a 19.9 posted June 16, 1990, when he was 22.

Spearmon turned 20 on Dec. 24.

"For a sophomore to get into that territory in his first outdoor 200 of the year is pretty dang impressive," Hendershott said. "He's so young. That's what impresses everybody about all of his running. I think it's got to be a compliment to Lance Brauman's coaching. That guy obviously knows what he's doing.

"He knows how to develop a young talent like this."

The collegiate record is 19.75 by Joe DeLoach of Houston set in 1989 and the right field like a U.S. Championship final with Crawford, Gatlin and Capel could lead to Spearmon resetting that record as well, Hendershott said.

"It's kind of a cliché," he said, "but the future is unlimited."

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