The top five finishers in each event advance to the NCAA Track and Field Championships which will be held June 9-12 in Austin, Tex. At last year's meet in Long Beach, Calif., the Tigers scored 50 points to finish second, nine behind Arkansas.
"We had a chance to win the NCAA meet last year and that still bothers me," Spry says. "This year, if everything goes about as well as it can go, we have the potential to score 60 or more points at the nationals, which could be enough to win it," he adds.
The Tigers feature a pair of talented seniors who have solid shots at winning a total of three events at the nationals with Leevan Sands a potential double-winner in the triple jump and long jump and Maurice Smith currently the number two ranked decathlete in college track and field. Ten points are awarded for a first place finish.
Sands, who is coached by AU assistant Henry Rolle, won the long jump last year at the NCAA meet and took second in the triple jump. Smith, who has a best score of 8,024 points this year, is already qualified for the nationals and won't need to compete in his grueling speciality this week in Baton Rouge.
Sherridan Kirk, a junior in the 800 meters, has run a 1:46.67 and is ranked fourth nationally in that event.
Spry is hoping that a potential NCAA scorer, sophomore Shamar Sands, will be able to qualify for the nationals in the 110 hurdles after being slowed this season with an injury. He is the cousin of Leevan Sands.
Sophomore sprinter Marc Burns looks to be over a pulled muscle problem that bothered him at the SEC meet. He should be ready to perform in both the 100 and 200 meters where he has the ability to score at nationals, Spry says. Last year, he finished fourth at the NCAA meet in the 100. Senior Darron Brown is trying to move up the rankings in the 100 meters.
A third Tiger who has been less than full speed, junior long jumper Kevin Bartlett, will be looking to have a breakout meet this weekend.
Another potential scorer trying to qualify for nationals is freshman Edis Elkasevic, who will be doubling in the discus and shot. Assistant coach Jerry Clayton has Elkasevic moving up an improvement curve in both events.
Junior Colton Hodge in the hammer throw, freshman Cory Martin in the shot, discus and hammer, and junior Michael Cobb in the hammer are looking to make the nationals. The same is true of junior Damion Barry whose best time this season in the 400 meters is 45.96.
For the Auburn women, the top performers are former NCAA champion Shelly Ann Gallimore, a senior, and sprinter Fana Ashby, who has a best time this season of 11.24 in the 100 meters to rank third nationally. Gallimore redshirted last season while rehabbing from an injury. She is a five-time All-American combining indoor and outdoor seasons and won the NCAA triple jump title in 2001.
Rapidly improving Angela Homan is the SEC champion at 10,000 meters and is ranked eighth in the country in that event as she trains under the direction of Chris Fox, AU's cross country and distance running coach. Homan won the 2003 SEC Cross Country Championship and was named the conference's top cross country athlete of the season. Her best time in the 10,000 this season is 33:53.89.
Sophomore Josanne Lucas has the eighth fastest time in the 400 hurdles (56.96). Senior Stacy Martin is ranked ninth nationally in the discus and is also trying to qualify in the shot and hammer. Junior Kahlah Burks is ranked 10th in the high jump.
Other members of the women's team hoping to qualify for the nationals include senior Spring Dawson the 1500, junior Kareen Gayle in the 800, sophomore Ronda Gullatte in the discus and hammer, sophomore Markita James in the 400 hurdles, junior Caitlin Reese in the 800 and senior Sarah Reese in the 800.