Sands Leads Tigers At NCAA Mideast Regional

Baton Rouge, La.--Defending NCAA long jump champion Leevan Sands led the parade of qualifiers for the Auburn track teams as he won his event on Saturday in the first day of the NCAA Mideast Regional.

Sands, a senior, jumped 26 feet nine inches, his best effort of the season, to finish first and qualify for the NCAA Track and Field Championships that will be held in June. The effort was slightly longer than his winning jump at the 2003 nationals.

Sands finished 3 1/2 inches in front of runnerup John Moffett of LSU. Sands will compete in the triple jump on Saturday and will be one of the favorites in that event.

Auburn coach Ralph Spry was hoping for a second nationals qualifier in the long jump, but Kevin Bartlett's effort of 24 feet, eight inches placed him sixth. The top five finishers in each event advance on the nationals that will be held June 9-12 in Austin, Tex.

Leevan Sands will compete in the Olympics this summer in Athens, Greece.

After the opening day of competition, Auburn and Purdue are tied for first of the 78 teams in the men's competition with 23 points. LSU is third with 17 and is followed by Kentucky with 15. AU women's team has four points and is in 16th. Ohio State is first of 80 teams in the women's competition with 22 points.

Competing at the Bernie Moore Track and Field Stadium on the campus of LSU, junior Colton Hodge qualified for the nationals with a personal record toss of 208 feet, one inch in the hammer throw. That was the second longest toss in AU history. Another AU junior, Michael Cobb, set a personal record with his toss of 198 feet, seven inches, but didn't qualify with a ninth place finish.

Dan Taylor of Ohio State won the hammer with a throw of 223 feet, eight inches, more than 13 inches longer than the runnerup.

In the women's hammer throw, Auburn's Ronda Gullatte threw it 173 feet, one inch to finish 14th in the event.

Auburn freshman Edis Elkasevic qualified for the NCAA meet with a throw of 61 feet, seven 3/4 inches. It was his second longest toss of the season and he finished fourth in the Mideast Regional. Jeff Chakouian of Kentucky won the event at 66 feet, three inches. Elkasevic will compete in the discus on Saturday.

Stacy Martin

The first competitor from the 24th-ranked AU women's team to qualify for the nationals on Friday was senior Stacy Martin, who set a personal record in the discus with a throw of 181 feet, three inches to take fourth. The event was won by Melissa Bickett of Michigan with a throw of 186 feet, three inches.

Junior Kareen Gayle set an Auburn record in the 800 meters, clocking in at 205.26 to finish second in her heat to qualify for Saturday's finals in the event. Tiffany McWilliams of Mississippi State led the qualifiers at 2:02.27. Auburn's Sarah Reese (2:08.01) and Caitlin Reese (2:09.61) finished 16th and 24th and did not qualify.

Junior Fana Ashby qualified for the finals of the women's 100 meters with a time of 11.28. Muna Lee of LSU was the fastest qualifier in 11.04 on her home track.

The men's team also had the second fastest time of the prelims in the 100 as sophomore Marc Burns, who was fourth in the event nationally last year, ran a 10.13 to win his heat. Mardy Scales of Middle Tennessee had the fastest time with a blazing 10.04.

Two more Auburn runners qualified for the finals of the 400-meter women's hurdles. Sophomore Josanne Lucas finished second in her heat with the second fastest time of the day of 57.40. Sophomore Markita James won her heat in 58.53, the seventh fastest qualifying time. Doria Appleberry of Louisiana Tech ran the best time with a 57.28.

In the men's 400 meters, junior Damion Barry ran a 46.06 to qualify fifth for Saturday's finals. Kelly Willie of LSU ran a 45.12 to lead the qualifiers.

Senior Spring Dawson ran a 4:24.27 to qualify seventh for the finals of the 1500. McWilliams of Mississippi State qualified first in 4:15.52.

AU junior Sherridan Kirk, who was competing with a shoulder injury, was second in his 800 heat and did not qualify for the finals. However, he has the nation's fourth fastest time in the event and will be an at-large qualifier for the NCAA meet.

The second and final day of competition is on Saturday.

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