22 Track Tigers Looking to Qualify For NCAA Meet

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn men's and women's track teams are headed to Bloomington, Ind., for two days of competition with a goal of qualifying as many competitors as possible for the NCAA Track and Field Championships.

Competition at the Mideast Regional on the campus of Indiana University will run all day and much of the evening on Friday and Saturday. Coach Ralph Spry and his staff will be taking 11 competitors from the men's team and 11 from the women's team. This is the third year the NCAA has used a regional qualifying format to advance athletes to the nationals, which will be held June 8-11 in Sacramento, Calif.

"For the most part, everybody we are taking has a good shot of finishing in the top five in the regionals and making it to the nationals," Spry tells Inside the Auburn Tigers.

The men's team, which goes into the regionals ranked 12th in the latest Top 25 poll, has the potential to do better than that at nationals, Spry says. "We are not taking a team with a lot of depth, but we have some pretty good firepower on the front end with Edis Elkasevic in the shot put and the discus, Cory Martin in the shot put and in the hammer.

"We have got Damion Barry in the 400 meters and Sherridan Kirk in the 800, who has the second fastest time in the country, and we have also also got our 4x400 relay team. Those are the key guys we have got to get through to nationals on the men's side.

"For the women's team, Fana Ashby has been babying a sore leg so she really didn't run at the SEC meet other than in one relay," Spry notes. "I think she is back healthy again so that could be critical. If she runs pretty solid, she shouldn't have any problem advancing in the 100 meters.

"Our women's 4x400 has been running really great," Spry says. "Our women's 4x100 is running well, too. Angela Homan is a very key person for us, too. She has one of the fastest times in the nation in the 10,000 meters. They won't run that event at the regionals because it is such a long race. They qualified for that early."

Homan will run the 5,000 at the regionals just to stay sharp for the nationals, where she will focus on the 10,000.

"Right now the hay is pretty much in the barn for us," Spry says. "We have done our training and the big thing for us is to stay healthy and compete well. In a best case scenario, the men's team could finish in the top six nationally," Spry predicts. "The women's team can hopefully be around the Top 10 area, which would be a great year for us."

The men's and women's teams have still not been able to train on their new track facility, which is still under construction despite being scheduled for completion in October 2004. They have been working out on the Wilbur Hutsell Track, which is in major need of replacement.

Spry says he is looking forward to getting on the new track for next season. He says both teams have a chance to be stronger in 2006. "We are still working to get some things done with the new facility, but for the most part it looks like a track," the coach says. "We are going to have by far the best women's team we have had since I have been here and if we get in the guys I hope to bring in, we will be back in the hunt again on the men's side."

The men's team came through with clutch performances and finished fourth earlier this year at the NCAA Indoor Track Championships, but it doesn't have as much firepower because heptathlon/decathlon star Maurice Smith wrapped up his college career in that meet. The women's team did well at the indoor nationals, too, taking 10th place with Ashby winning the 60 meters. At the competition, Smith won the heptathlon and Elkasevic won the shot put.

Elkasevic, a sophomore from Croatia, is currently the No. 1 ranked shot putter in college track and field, with a best throw of 68 feet, 4 1/2 inches. He is third in the discus with his toss of 198 feet, seven inches.

Kirk, a senior from Trinidad & Tobago, set an Auburn record in the Sun Angel Classic, running a 1:46.44 in the 800 meters.

Cory Martin competes in the hammer, shot put and discus. He attended Bloomington High School so he will be in familiar territory this week.

Martin, a sophomore who will be competing in his hometown of Bloomington, Ind., is ranked fourth nationally in the hammer throw. His winning throw at the SEC Championships was a season-best effort of 214 feet, 11 inches.

For the women, senior Ashby is a threat to win the 100 meters if she is healthy. She has run a very impressive time of 11.12 in the event.

Homan, the SEC champ at 10,000 meters, has run a 33:42.15 this year, a personal best for the junior from Delphos, Ohio and the second fastest time in Auburn history.

"We have a couple of kids who it will be tough to get them through to nationals, but they have a shot," Spry says. "Katie Curtis has been pole vaulting well all year long, but she would have to have a great one to make it through. Andrew Heath is a guy who will have to have a great race to make it to nationals in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Michael Cobb, one of our hammer throwers, is a longshot, but anything can happen at the regional championships. Most of our competitors are key players and as long as they don't do anything crazy, and compete like they have all year long, we should be okay."

Curtis is a senior from Nashville, Cobb is a senior from Lowndesboro and Heath is a junior from Marietta, Ga.

Other competitors at the regionals include freshman sprinter Ty Akins from Bainbridge, Ga., in the 110 hurdles and 4x100, senior Barry from Trinidad & Tobago in the 400 and 4x400, senior hammer thrower Colton Hodge from Spartanburg, S.C., freshman 400-meters hurdler and 4x400 runner Reuben McCoy from Sicklerville, N.J., and junior 110 hurdler Shamar Sands from The Bahamas.

For the women's team, competitors include senior sprinter Danielle Browning of Jamaica in the 100, 4x100 and 4x400, senior Kareen Gayle of Trinidad & Tobago in the 800 and 4x400, junior Ronda Gullatte of Marietta, Ga., in the hammer, discus and shot put, junior 400 hurdler Markita James from Smiths Station, junior Jovanee Jarrett in the long jump and triple jump from Jamaica, junior Josanne Lucas of Jamaica in the 100 and 400 hurdles, the 4x100 and 4x400, senior 3,000-meter steeplechaser Kylee Swanson from Amarillo, Tex., and junior Tamara Thomas of Jamaica in the 200, 400, 4x100 and 4x400.

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