Tigers Off To Solid Start At NCAA Track Meet

A variety of Tiger competitors turned in strong performances in day one of the NCAA Track and Field Championships in California.

Sacramento, Calif.--Maurice Smith is in third place halfway through the decathlon's 10 events as Auburn opened competition at the NCAA Track And Field Championships on Wednesday.

Smith is in striking range of the leader, Stephen Harris of Tennessee who has scored 4,229 points. Will Thomas of UConn is second with 4,100 points while Smith has scored 4,088 points. Darion Powell of Washington State is fourth with 3,968.

A personal record toss of 49 feet, nine and 3/4 inches, the second best shot put toss in the competition, was the highlight of day one for Smith. The Auburn junior was also second in the 100 meters with a time of 10.93, trailing only Harris, who ran a 10.87. Smith racked up points with a long jump of 23 feet, six and 3/4 inches, the third best distance of the day in that event. That put him in first place going into high jump, the fourth event.

Harris was able to go a half-foot higher in the high jump than Smith, who went out at 6-2 3/4. Harris extended the lead in the 400 meters as Smith was 12th in 49.38 while Harris ran a 47.96 to win the event.

For the Auburn women's team, All-American Elva Goulbourne had a strong day. She won her first heat in the 100 meters in 11.59 and later advanced to the finals with a time of 11.39, the third fastest. Teammate Timicka Clark, also a senior, ran an 11.81 to advance to the semi-finals, but her 11.78 put her 14th and she did not qualify for the finals.

A pair of SEC rivals posted the fastest 100 qualifying times. Aleen Bailey, a senior from South Carolina, ran 11.30 while LSU junior Muna Lee was next at 11.45. Lee is the favorite to win the finals.

It didn't take Goulbourne long to qualify for Friday's long jump final. The NCAA indoor champion in the event used only one jump to go 22 feet, one inch and she scratched her other attempts. Patricia Soman of Ball State is the closest qualifier to the Auburn senior with a jump of 20 feet, nine inches.

Goulbourne and Clarke joined with Lisa Miller and Daniele Browning to run a 43.50 in the 4x100 relay. That was Auburn's fastest time of the season and qualifies the relay team third for the finals. LSU qualified first in 43.08 with TCU second in 43.37.

Men's team 100-meter sprinter Marc Burns, who has been injured much of the season, continues his strong finish to his freshman season. He advanced to the semi-finals with a time of 10.61 to finish third in his heat. He then stepped up the pace in the semi-finals, running a 10.46 for ninth place to qualify for the finals. The fastest qualifier is Middle Tennessee State's Mardy Scales, who ran a 10.27.

Dean Griffiths and Fred Sharpe are shown in action at the Auburn Invitational earlier this season.

It was a strong opening day for Auburn's talented pair of 400-meter hurdlers. The seniors were the only runners to go under 50 seconds with Dean Griffiths qualifying in first with a time of 49.62 while Fred Sharpe ran a 49.95 to qualify second. Auburn coach Ralph Spry says if those two can finish either first, second or third that will be a major boost to the team's goal of challenging for its first ever national title.

The women's team also qualified its 400-meter hurdler when Josanne Lucas finished second in her heat in 58.37 to advance to the semi-finals.

Auburn junior Leevan Sands came through the long jump qualifying in fine form. His leap of 26 feet, 1/4 inch qualified him second. South Carolina junior Tony Allmond jumped a 1/4 inch farther than Sands, who is also one of the top triple jumpers in the competition.

Competing in his secondary event, senior Gabor Mate came through with a qualifying throw of 213 feet, three inches to qualify in eighth place for Friday's hammer throw finals. Mate, the favorite to win the discus title for a third time, trails Georgia's Lucais MacKay, the top qualifier with a toss of 226 feet, 11 inches. AU's Colton Hodge threw the hammer 193 feet, eight inches for 20th place and did not make the finals, which features 12 qualifiers.

For the women, freshman Angela Homan, a surprise qualifier at the NCAA Mideast Regional 5,000-meters, finished 12th in her heat and 24th overall with a time of 17:15.05 and did not make the finals.

"Day one went as planned," Spry says. "Everyone is performing really well and doing their job. We just need to keep the momentum up through the next three days and remember to take one day at a time and not get ahead of ourselves, but overall we are off to a great start."

The competition will run through Saturday and is expected to be very close in the men's competition where the Tigers have perhaps the strongest team in school history.

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