Sprint Debuts Highlight McDonnell Invitational

FAYETTEVILLE ‹ A zero percent chance of precipitation forecast for today in Fayetteville had Arkansas coach John McDonnell in a happy mood on Wednesday.

The annual home meet named for him hosted at the track by the same name has often been marred by nasty Northwest Arkansas wind and rain in April.

Today, the biggest gust of wind could be when Razorback senior sprinters Tyson Gay and Omar Brown come zipping down the homestretch in the 200 meters just after 6:35 p.m.

Arkansas sophomore Wallace Spearmon Jr. ran a world-leading and school-record 19.97 in the 200 last Sunday in Walnut, Calif., and McDonnell joked track fans could see something even better today from Brown and Gay.

"They're both ready to rip a 200," McDonnell said. "The prediction is they're both going to surpass Wallace."

The next sound was a combination snort/chuckle from Razorbacks sprints coach Lance Brauman.

"Just kidding," McDonnell said. "It"s going to be a good one. That's going to be a terrific race."

Gay was the SEC indoor and outdoor champion in the 200 last season and Brown was an All-American fifth at the NCAA Indoor meet last month in Fayetteville.

Gay held the school record of 20.07 in the 200 until Spearmon shattered it last weekend.

Brauman and the Razorbacks will also send their 4x100-meter relay team of freshman Michael Grant, Spearmon, Gay and Brown to the line for the first time this season at 5:05 p.m..

Grant, who also plays cornerback for the football team, is the new leadoff leg on the team that won the event at the Southeastern Conference for the first time last May and was a favorite to win the NCAA title until Brown went down with a hamstring injury in the 200 preliminaries.

Now that the NCAA regional format has watered down the regular season with qualifying marks and times designed to let nearly any athlete with a pulse into the postseason, it's no wonder McDonnell is relying on the unslowable sprinters to attract fan attention this weekend.

While most distance runners can tell the difference between a 3:37 pace and a 3:45 in the 1,500 meters, sprinters don"t have the luxury of "pacing" themselves.

The 4x100 team should get a push from Brauman's old school, Barton, and McDonnell gave his young and highly successful sprints coach some more good-natured grief at his press conference.

"Lance has guaranteed me 38.2," said McDonnell, throwing out a time that would be a school record and just off the collegiate best ever of 38.04 by TCU.

"Or was it 38.5?"

Brauman played along.

"Anything in the 38s will be fine," he said.

The team of Spearmon, Gay, Brown and departed senior Mike Thomas ran the second-fastest time in school history last season at 38.96 and the school record of 38.81 by the 1985 team that included Spearmon's father still stands.

Brown and Gay will complete their eligibility this season and after Spearmon's American record-breaking indoor season and world leading outdoor 200 last week, he could consider going pro after this year.

"As far as I'm concerned, they're two of the best in the world," McDonnell said of Gay and Spearmon, who won NCAA 100 and 200 titles last outdoor season.

"Not just the U.S., the world. That's pros and everything else. A year from now or two when they're out on the pro circuit, you'll remember this statement. It's an opportunity to see them in person and this may be the last time you see them in an Arkansas shirt."

Spearmon will run the 100 today shortly after the 4x100 and could run the 400 as well.

He won't run the 200 again until the SEC Championships next month when Gay, Spearmon and Brown will attempt to repeat their 1-2-3 finish from last year.

The No. 1 Razorbacks will be looking to add new regional qualifiers in the 1,500 from All-American Said Ahmed, in the 800 from 2005 NCAA indoor runner-up James Hatch and new steeplechase qualifiers from sophomores Adam Perkins and Peter Kosgei.

With numerous unseeded races and prelims early in the day, McDonnell recommended fans show up at 5 p.m. for the best events capped by the 4x400-meter relay at 7:30.

"It"s going to be a great one," he said.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories