Hatch Loses Lunch, Makes Regional Time

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- James Hatch can finally get coach John McDonnell off his back.

Not to mention his parents.

"They're harder on me than he is," said a red-faced Hatch after his race. "They've been giving me a hard time for 22 years."

Hatch, who's had a mercurial career at Arkansas, finally qualified for the NCAA Mideast Regional in the 800 meters with his runner-up finish in the preliminaries Friday in 1:47.98.

The time was an outdoor season and career best for Hatch, who missed the relatively easy standard of 1:50.4 in his only other open 800 run on April 23 in Fayetteville.

Hatch, who ran a lifetime best 1:47.4 to take second at the NCAA Indoor in March, has driven McDonnell crazy with his inconsistency over the years and the senior from Boulder, Colo., found another way to get under his coach's skin Friday by eating three hours before his race.

"I went to his room to see him and one of the guys said, 'Oh, he went to eat,'" McDonnell said. "I said, 'What?'

"He knows better than that."

Hatch could laugh about it after it didn't cost him anything besides an upset stomach.

"I got kind of distracted throughout the day sitting around and I lost track of time," Hatch said. "I knew I had to eat something or I was going to be really weak. So, oh well."

Hatch lost his lunch after the speedy race against 2004 Olympian Sheridan Kirk of Auburn, the NCAA leader who finished in a blazing 1:46.95.

"He does that a lot," said Hatch, who expects the title to come down to he and Kirk again on Sunday. "He just runs hard. There's no other way for him. It was kind of a blessing and a curse."

Sort of like Hatch.

Ole Miss used to beat up on the Arkansas men's basketball team with several Natural State products who never found their way to Fayetteville except to hand out a beating or two in Bud Walton Arena.

The Ole Miss track program has a large number of Arkansas athletes, but only a couple who have been nemeses to the Razorbacks and Lady'Backs.

Antwan Hicks of Hot Springs is the only Arkansan on the Rebels' roster and he won the 2004 NCAA indoor 60-meter hurdles. He consistently beat former Razorback hurdler Mike Thomas, who considered Hicks his main SEC rival but could rarely knock him off.

The Lady Rebels have seven Arkansans, the same as the Lady'Backs.

Ole Miss senior LaToya McBride of Pine Bluff was just seven points ahead of Arkansas' Beyonka McDowell after the first day of the heptathlon and used a 10-second advantage in the 800 to widen a 16-point lead after six events to a 136-point margin between second and third.

McBride and McDowell now rank fifth and sixth, respectively, in the nation and earned automatic berths to the NCAA Championships.

Friday was graduation at Vanderbilt, but that wasn't the only reason Natchez Trace was blocked off in front of the football stadium.

The Vanderbilt Track and Field Complex isn't exactly built for a lot of spectators, and that was obvious with bleachers set up in the street looking in at the backstretch through a fence.

Hard to believe it's been 69 years since Vandy hosted this meet.

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