Power Points: AU Counting On Strong Guys at NCAAs

Bloomington, Ind.--Led by the nation's top collegiate performer in the shot put and a solid group of power athletes in the field events, Auburn begins competition on Friday at the NCAA Track and Field Mideast Regional.

The top five competitors in each event at the two-day meet advance to the NCAA Championship meet, which is scheduled June 8-11 in Sacramento, Calif.

Hopes for a good showing for the Tigers rest on the broad shoulders of sophomore Edis Elkasevic and his teammates in the power events–shot put, discus and hammer.

Assistant coach Jerry Clayton, who coaches the throwers, says he is encouraged with how his athletes have trained and competed this season.

"Things are going really well with the whole throws group, but Ed (Elkasevic) definitely stepped it up to another level with his performance several weeks ago," Clayton tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "We are just starting into the championship phase of the season. We hope he will stay at the level he is at and hopefully he will improve a little more by the time we get to the national meet."

The level where Elkasevic is at is a lofty one. He won the SEC shot put title with an impressive throw of 68 feet, 4 1/2 inches. That toss not only is the best in the college ranks, it qualifies him for the 2005 World Championships.

The Auburn sophomore's top challenger in the country is Kentucky senior Jeff Chakouian, who threw 65 feet, 10 1/4 inches at the SEC Championships. "At the regional meet and the national meet, Ed's stiffest competitor will be Jeff from Kentucky," Clayton says. "They are real good friends so that is a nice little friendly battle."

Elkasevic also won the SEC discus championship and is ranked third nationally in that event. He has a personal best toss of 198 feet, seven inches and has the potential to challenge for the NCAA title in that event, too.

Sophomore Cory Martin, who will be competing in his hometown on the campus of Indiana University, won the hammer throw at the SEC meet with a personal record of 214 feet, 11 inches. He is currently ranked fourth nationally in that event.

"Cory has definitely stepped it up," Clayton says. "He should challenge in the region meet. Nationally, we are looking for hopefully a top three or four finish there. We are hoping that Colton Hodge or Michael Cobb can sneak in and get into the top five and automatically go to the nationals."

Hodge is a senior from Spartanburg, S.C., who has a personal best of 212 feet, 1 inch in the hammer toss. Cobb, a senior from Lownesboro Academy, has a person best toss of 196 feet in the hammer.

In the women's competition, Clayton will be coaching Ronda Gullatte, a junior from Marietta, Ga. "Ronda has her best chance in the discus although her hammer throw has improved a lot lately," Clayton says. She was second at the SEC meet in the discus. Her personal best mark is 178 feet, three inches. She has thrown the hammer 189 feet, two inches.

"Our group is real excited about the next two competitions," Clayton notes. "That is what they train for all year."

The action in Bloomington will take place all day Friday and Saturday. Auburn head coach Ralph Spry's top runners are senior Sherridan Kirk for the men in the 800 meters and senior Fana Ashby for the women in the 100 meters. Kirk's time of 1:46.44 run at Arizona State is the second fastest in the nation this year. Ashby, who is recovering from a leg problem, has a personal best time of 11.12 and could challenge for the NCAA title in that event.

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