"I am really pleased with the women's team this year," Spry says. "We don't have as many heavy hitters as we did in the past, but we have had a couple of young ladies who have really stepped it up."
Auburn's top competitor could be senior Shelly-Ann Gallimore, the 2001 NCAA champion in the triple jump. She has bounced back nicely from an injury and is one of the favorites in that event.
She leaped 44 feet, nine inches to capture the title at the SEC Mideast Regional in Baton Rouge, La. She dominated the field, winning by more than a foot. Nicole Toney of LSU jumped 43 feet, 7 3/4 inches to finish second.
"She has got one of the top jumps in the country coming into the meet," Spry says. "She is really jumping well right now."
Another Tiger, sprinter Fana Ashby, is expected to do well at the competition that runs Wednesday through Saturday on the University of Texas campus. "She has the second or third best time in the country right now," Spry notes. "She will definitely be a factor in that race." Ashby ran an 11.26 at the regional.
Another senior, Stacy Martin, is coming off strong performances at the SEC meet and mideast regional and could score in two events. She set a school record in the shot put of 53 feet, 9 1/4 inches.
"Stacy had a real good meet at the regional in the shot put and discus," Spry says. "That type of format really helps her out because she is a real good head to head competitor and competes well in the big competitions.
"Josanne Lucas and Markita James will be competing for us in the 400-meter hurdles," Spry says. "Josanne has one of the top eight times in the country so she has a chance of getting in there and scoring some serious points.
"We have got Kareen Gayle and Sarah Reese, who both made it to nationals in the 800 meters. It is a kind of race they can run fast enough to be All-Americans. It just depends on what type of race it is--how tactical it is and what kind of heats you are in. They are peaking at the right time and they are tough. I am not going to say anything about them yet and see how that turns out."
Auburn is ranked 22nd and 23rd in the polls going into the NCAA meet. Spry says if everything goes well, his women's team can do significantly better than that. "I think we have a chance to finish in the Top 12," he says.
"Our women's 4x400 relay qualified at the regionals," Spry notes. "That is Triska Baptiste, Josanne Lucas, Markita James and Kareen Gayle. Also, Spring Dawson qualified in the 1500 meters and she is really running well now. She ran 4:18 and a lot of times 4:18 will make you an All-American if you can do it at the NCAA Championships.
Angela Homan was named SEC cross country runner of the year.
"Angela Homan will be running for us in the 10,000 meters. Angela has been hitting on all cylinders all year long. She is really building a name for herself and she is just a sophomore. If she is on her ‘A' game at nationals, Coach (Chris) Fox feels that she could be top five or six at nationals. That would be big for us."
In the men's meet, Arkansas is the favorite with Auburn joining the Razorbacks, LSU and Florida as SEC teams that have a strong chance to finish in the top five at the nationals. The AU men were the 2003 runnerup to Arkansas.