Michigan's Ellerton Downs Hatch

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- When Arkansas senior James Hatch and Michigan junior Andrew Ellerton finished their heat of the 800 meters prelim in the NCAA Track and Field Championships on Wednesday, they embraced like long, lost friends.

Both advanced to today's semifinals, Ellerton qualifying fastest in 1:47.88 and Hatch finishing close behind him in 1:47.98 for second in the heat and fifth best overall.

Michigan and Arkansas butted heads in some well-publicized relays at both the NCAA Indoor Meet in Fayetteville and the Penn Relays, but Ellerton said, "For the most part, it was all in good fun. We all know each other, and Arkansas is always in the running with us."

Hatch and Ellerton shared a grin about having to hold off Baylor qualifier Wil Fitts (1:48.44), who closed quickly in Lane 5.

"The Baylor runner was pretty sneaky,and it was hard to see him with our peripheral vision," Hatch said. "Just qualifying was the main thing, because that's how you make it possible to get your points."

Hatch said about Ellerton and the Wolverines, "We're friends, and we just like beating each other. There are no hard feelings or anything. You always want to beat your friends."

Hatch acknowledged there is always pressure on the Razorbacks to live up to their favorite's role.

"We know everyone is out to dethrone us," Hatch said. "It's kind of fun."

The Arkansas 4x100 relay team, which won its preliminary heat in 39.20, unveiled its new red, full-body suits on Wednesday.

"In this cool weather, we had to break them out," said Tyson Gay. "Look good, feel good. Florida has some, too, but they're not flashy like ours."

Michael Grant and Omar Brown of the UA sprint relay quartet seemed to approve of the new uniforms, too, but Wallace Spearmon of Fayetteville wasn't so sure.

"Why do you think we're just now wearing them?" he joked. "They had to fight me to wear them. I look like a skeleton, I'm so scrawny. Michael is built like a linebacker, so he likes them."

Spearmon limped a bit on his sore knee after the race, but he said, "Adrenaline will kick in in the finals. More heat should help, too."

The weather forecast calls for temperatures in the 80s today through Saturday, ranging to a high of 87 on Saturday. On a rainy Wednesday, the high was 70 degrees.

Larry Rawson, a longtime track analyst on television who is working for CBS this week, congratulated Lady Razorbacks runners Aneita Denton and Erica Sigmont after both advanced through their 800-meter heats on Wednesday.

"Larry and I go back a long way," said UA women's coach Lance Harter. "One time when I was at Cal Poly, ESPN covered our Division II meet and we won with more than 200 points. Larry talked to us after nearly every event. It must have been about 1985."

Ironically, it was Cal Poly runner Maggie Vessey who won Wednesday's heat in which Sigmont qualified second and Denton qualified third.

Arkansas junior javelin thrower Eric Brown, competing despite a stress fracture in his back and a chronic hip problem, successfully passed Wednesday's qualifying round with a throw of 67.47 meters, or 221 feet, 4 inches.

Trevor Snyder of Georgia, who surprised Brown at the NCAA Mideast Regional with several personal records including a winning throw of 248-8, bested him again Wednesday with 232 feet, 9 inches for the second best qualifying mark.

"It was a tough day for everybody," Brown said. "The wind was not bad, but the rain made it slick -- not what we wanted. No one was pumped up, because all we needed to do was finish in the top 12. Everybody kinda had the same mindset. The conditions were the same for everybody."

USA Today had a nice advance story on the NCAA Championships on Wednesday, featuring Arkansas as the men's favorite. But in a cutline below a photo that included Spearmon, the newspaper said Arkansas is aiming for its 40th NCAA track title. Actually, the Hogs are shooting for their 41st.

P.J. Brown, Arkansas' 5-foot-6, 145-pound senior pole vaulter from Poplar Bluff, Mo., who was scheduled to compete in his rainy event Wednesday night, already has a job lined up.

Brown will be the head track coach and an assistant football coach at Poplar Bluff High School next season.

A kinesiology major, Brown has his degree and is working on a master's in education.

At the Mt. SAC Relays this season, Brown vaulted 17-0.75.

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