Gay Takes World Lead In 200 Meters

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Tyson Gay almost whispered it during an interview last week with teammate and 200 meters world leader Wallace Spearmon Jr. standing nearby.

"Between you and me," Gay said, "I want to get my school record back. Wallace can get it back next year."

The Arkansas senior did just what he'd hoped for in spectacular fashion Thursday night at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships before 4,517 in Hornet Stadium.

Gay blistered to a semifinal heat win in 19.93 seconds against a slight headwind to snatch the world lead and the school record back from his younger teammate.

Gay, who lost the chance to defend his NCAA title in the 100 meters after false starting at the Mideast Regional, has been running with a fury ever since.

By avenging his Regional loss in the 200 to LSU freshman Xavier Carter, who was second to Gay in 20.14 on Thursday, Gay lowered Spearmon's world-leading time from 19.97 and made Arkansas the first school in collegiate history to boast two sub-20 second 200 runners.

"I didn't expect to run that fast, but the first thing I thought was, 'I got the school record back,'" Gay said. "It's my first 19, so I feel like I'm in the 19 club right now. I'm pretty satisfied."

Gay, Spearmon (20.31) and senior Omar Brown (20.47) all made the finals of the 200 meters to highlight the day for defending champion and top-ranked Arkansas, which did suffer a hit when NCAA indoor runner-up and Southeastern Conference champion James Hatch failed to advance in the 800 meters.

The 10,000 meters was a scoring event with Josphat Boit, Peter Kosgei and Jason Sandfort but didn't end until near midnight, well after press time.

Sophomore Adam Perkins made up for Hatch's blunder by advancing to the 1,500 meter finals with a huge, five-second personal best of 3:39.82.

In pursuit of his 41st NCAA title, Arkansas coach John McDonnell said Wednesday his team needed to catch a break.

Perkins provided just that.

"That's it," McDonnell said. "That's the break we needed. Not only did he run fast, he looked good. That's the key.

"We're back in the saddle and in position to do good things."

In addition to taking the world lead and threatening the collegiate record of 19.86 held since 2002 by former Tennessee star and 2004 Olympic 100 gold medalist Justin Gatlin, Gay's time was the third-fastest ever at an NCAA Championship.

"It was a pretty hot heat," Gay said. "Xavier Carter, he just beat me last week. I knew he could run. I didn't want to run that fast, but I had to, to win my heat."

It was the fourth-fastest in-season collegiate time ever and the seventh-best in collegiate history.

"He's looks right," said Arkansas sprints coach Lance Brauman. "He's hitting on all cylinders. I think we've really got him at the right time. Now it's just a matter of repeating that performance in the finals and we'll go from there."

Gay set the school record at 20.07 last summer at the U.S. Olympic Trials but saw Spearmon take it from him at the Mt. SAC Relays in April with the 19.97 that held up as the world's best until Thursday.

"Don't ever underestimate Tyson Gay," McDonnell said. "Wallace won't be happy with it leaving him, either. But they're good friends and that's what it's all about."

Spearmon took it as best he could after he and teammate Omar Brown also advanced to Saturday's finals in the 200.

"I hate Tyson!" Spearmon said with a huge smile that belied his true feelings. "That was totally uncalled for. But good job. If there were any doubters, now they're believers."

Hatch saw his career come to a disappointing end in the semifinals of the 800 meters.

Hatch fell apart in the final 300 meters against the quick pace set by U.S. Junior and NCAA indoor champion Kevin Hicks of Florida International and defending NCAA and 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials champion Jonathon Johnson of Texas Tech.

Hatch stumbled down the homestretch and stepped rather than ran across the finish line dead last in a pedestrian 1:52.92.

Last year, Hatch clinched the Hogs' outdoor title with a tactically poor eighth in the finals of the 800.

Now the Razorbacks will have to try and win the title without him after already losing 1,500 contender Said Ahmed to a hamstring injury and defending 100 champion Gay to a false start at regionals.

"He paid the price," McDonnell said. "And when he sees he's out of the race, he jogs. He either runs great or he doesn't run at all."

No. 2 Florida State continued to do well in the qualifying by sending national 100 leader and finalist Walter Dix to the finals of the 200, giving him three chances to score at the meet as a member of the 4x100 relay.

No. 3 Florida did equally well by sending defending champion Kerron Clement to the finals of the 400-meter hurdles and long jump finalist Mike Morrison to the scoring round of the high jump.

The long jump finals were continuing Thursday night at press time.

Other than the decathletes, Morrison is one of the most versatile competitors at the meet. In addition to his finals berths in the long and high jumps, Morrison also runs the second leg on Florida's defending champion 4x100-meter relay team.

Gator Kyle Farmer, who was a surprise to McDonnell by making the 100 finals, also made the 200 finals to give Florida more scoring punch.

Arkansas sophomore Greg Martin, one of the last athletes admitted to the meet as an at-large in the high jump, didn't clear a bar and failed to make the finals.

Today, Arkansas will have P.J. Brown in the finals of the pole vault and Eric Brown in the finals of the javelin. Eric Brown was third last year and is ranked seventh heading into the finals.

P.J. Brown didn't have a miss on Wednesday, but the competition starts over today and if he can match or exceed his personal best of 17 feet, 1 inch, he could have a shot at scoring with only 13 competitors left in the event.

The 4x100-meter relay of Spearmon, Gay, Brown and Michael Grant will go for Arkansas' first NCAA title in the event and their 13th win in a row with Spearmon, Gay and Brown on the team.

The 4x100 finals are at 8:30 p.m. central time.

Arkansas also has Kosgei, who ran the 10,000 meters late Thursday, in the finals of the steeplechase at 8:50 tonight. Kosgei had the top qualifying time from Wednesday night and will try to join Daniel Lincoln and Matt Kerr as Razorback steeplechase champions.

Senior Terry Gatson will run the 400 semifinals at 9:25.

Two-time indoor All-American Jaanus Uudmae will try for his first outdoor honors in the triple jump beginning today. The qualifying round is today beginning at 7 p.m. with the finals Saturday.

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