Summerside Sets Up Strong 1,500 At SECs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Seth Summerside ran out of the Vanderbilt Track and Field Complex like he stole something.

In a way, he did.

Summerside's strong run and NCAA Mideast Regional qualifying time made Arkansas a perfect 3 of 3 in qualifying for tonight's 1,500-meter finals at the 2005 Southeastern Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

Summerside's personal best of 3 minutes, 48.16 seconds was good for third place after he led most of the way and his addition to the finals is particularly big after Razorback senior and event favorite Said Ahmed strained his right hamstring in the 800 preliminaries Friday night and had to scratch out of the meet.

Rather than stand around and congratulate the other competitors or grab a water like most athletes do, Summerside kept running after he crossed the finish line with a semi-high step and headed out the gate without looking back.

"I was just trying to stay loose," said Summerside, a sophomore from Joplin, Mo. "Overall, it was just a perfect race.

"It's one of the strongest prelims in the country. I felt strong and really in control."

After a strong day of qualifying capped by Peter Kosgei's win in the steeplechase and Jose Campos' fifth for 14 points, No. 1 and defending champion Arkansas stands in second with 44 and Tennessee is in the lead with 48 points.

Despite running the 1,500 prelims earlier and not getting a push from the field nearly 20 seconds behind, Kosgei still covered the 3,000 meter race in 8:36.73, just off the 8:35.40 he ran in Fayetteville on April 23.

"We're rolling along," said coach John McDonnell. "We're in pretty good shape."

Florida and Auburn lurk right behind with 40 and 32 points, respectively, and the Gators had an excellent day of qualifying as well with two finalists in the 110-meter hurdles, two in the 100, two in the 400 and the high jump winner in Mike Morrison.

Florida scored 13 points with a 2-4 finish in the steeplechase and Morrison led a 3-7 finish with Alex Harris to add eight more in the long jump.

The Gators also have two qualified in the 200 and 400-meter hurdles from Friday, including world indoor 400 record-holder Kerron Clement, who made the finals in the 110- and 400-meter hurdles.

Tennessee and Auburn don't have the depth of Arkansas or Florida and should drop back today without a major collapse by either the Gators or Razorbacks.

Arkansas sent Tyson Gay and Wallace Spearmon to the finals of the 100 after the pair made the finals of the 200 on Friday. Gay had the second-fastest qualifier at 10.28 in his outdoor debut at the distance he owns the SEC, Mideast Regional and NCAA titles.

Spearmon won his heat in 10.37.

Senior All-Americans Terry Gatson and Omar Brown each won heats in the 400 prelims to automatically make the finals tonight.

"(Gatson) ran well," said UA sprints coach Lance Brauman. "He set up his race the way he should have. Omar did the same. With those two and Wallace and Tyson in, not bad. We've got it set up the way we need to, to have a good day (today)."

Despite a sore back that's bothered him for nearly a month, Gatson posted the top qualifying time in 45.57 seconds.

"Being in the condition I'm in, I am surprised," Gatson said. "I should be running in the 44s now. Of course I'm disappointed, but I'm more disappointed that I'm not feeling well.

"I'm praying that I am (ready today). Anybody who knows me knows I never quit. I'm going to run through it. It's just a little pain."

Senior Jaanus Uudmae took eighth in the long jump for Arkansas' last point of the night.

Like McDonnell has always said while winning 75 conference and 40 NCAA titles, "when someone goes down, someone else steps up."

Sophomore All-Americans Kosgei and Adam Perkins were expected to make the 1,500 finals and they did with each winning a heat to automatically advance.

Making the finals was a reasonable proposition for Summerside, but his run Saturday night showed he can be a contender to score and make up for some of the major points Ahmed's loss will cost the Razorbacks.

"He's just a tough kid," McDonnell said. "I told him if the pace was slow, to take it. By gosh, he ran like a pro."

McDonnell had budgeted 22 points in the 1,500 with an Ahmed win, but after Saturday night he was optimistic about still hitting that number.

"Those guys could do it," he said.

Arkansas will send a host of event favorites to the track today.

Eric Brown (javelin), Uudmae (triple jump), Josphat Boit (5,000), Gay (100) and Spearmon (200) will be expected to capture individual titles and James Hatch (800) should contend for the crown against Auburn's Sheriden Kirk.

The Razorbacks are the defending champions in the 4x100-meter relay and return three of the four legs who claimed Arkansas' first-ever win in the event, but repeating will be a tough task.

With freshman Michael Grant replacing departed Michael Thomas on the leadoff leg, Arkansas' season-best time of 40.21 wasn't good enough to make the fast heat and it will be tough for the Razorbacks to run a winning time competing against just Georgia and Ole Miss in the slow heat.

Arkansas will look to put the finishing touches on its title with nine entrants in the 5,000 led by Boit, Jason Sandfort and Kosgei, who should take the top three spots worth 24 points total.

Marc Rodrigues is Arkansas' best other chance to score after his strong fifth in the 10K on Friday. Shawn Forrest is a bit of a question mark after being sidelined from the 10K with a mouth infection and McDonnell doubts he'll run after being on painkillers for the last few days.

The Razorbacks will run the 4x400-meter relay if the team title is still in doubt, but McDonnell is hoping that won't be the case.

"We just want to put a cap on it and finish it off right," Summerside said.

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