Carter, Willie win SEC titles

NASHVILLE – As Arkansas' Wallace Spearmon thundered down the Vanderbilt track in the 200 meters, he knew he had knocked off defending SEC champion and teammate Tyson Gay, who was in the lane next to him. But he didn't realize there was one more man to worry about, over in Lane Eight.

"He got me," Spearmon told his fellow competitors a meter or so past the finish line. "He got me at the line."

 

The ‘he' Spearmon referred to was LSU's Xavier Carter, who smoked the 200 in 20.16 from the outside lane to win the SEC championship for the event and set an LSU record. Carter's win was part of LSU's fifth place finish at the SEC Outdoor Track and Field championships, a finish that was about what first-year coach Dennis Shaver expected.

 

"We didn't double too many people because we don't have the kind of depth we need to score a lot of points here," Shaver said. "We don't have a chance to win this kind of a track meet."

 

Arkansas won its 12th SEC title in 14 years in a landslide, taking 169 points to Florida's runner-up total of 116. LSU earned 76 during the four-day event at Vanderbilt.

 

Kelly Willie was LSU's other conference champion, as the junior won the 400 meters in 45.51.

 

"Two SEC champions," Shaver said. "I'm certainly pleased with that."

 

The surprise of the final day was Carter who had not run the 200 this season before the SEC meet. He qualified with the fourth-fastest time, then beat Spearmon and Gay in the final with the third-fastest time in the world this year.

 

"I figured I had to get out as fast as I could, and try to break them down by having them run off of me," Carter said. "It looks like it worked because I got out fast. I knew I was ahead of him, and I just tried to hold onto that and I did."

 

Carter said being in the outside lane was not a problem.

 

"On this track, the corners are tight, and I'm a tall guy," said Carter, who stands 6-foot-3. "Because there is not too much of a curve, I took it as an advantage and got out on the runners that were under me. I'm thrilled. This is the fastest time I've ever run."

 

Shaver said while he expected Carter to do well, he didn't know he would take home the SEC title.

 

"Having Xavier winning the 200 was the kind of thing I wanted to happen," Shaver said. "We could have scored more points if I ran him in the 100 and 200, but the 200 is his specialty and I think he has a shot at winning it down the road."

 

Carter has been playing spring football and track, trying to balance the demands of the two sports.

 

"In indoor, I was nursing a hamstring, and at the start of the outdoor season, my back was hurting me," Carter said. "I'm starting to overcome the stress of both sports. I'm pulling through it now."

 

Carter knows he has a chance to win the national championship next month.

 

"I just have to maintain and keep a cool head," he said.

 

Willie also kept a cool head in his 400 victory, cruising to victory over Jamel Ashley of Mississippi State.

 

"I'd like to honor God. I just went out there and did what I needed to do to win the race," Willie said. "I took control of the race, and then in the last 100, I made a surge and that was it. That is what won it for me."

 

Willie anchored the 4x400 relay to a second-place finish as he was passed on the final lap by Florida. It was the first loss of the season for LSU's 4x400 team that has a chance at a national title.

 

"We were a little off on the last exchange in the 4x400," Shaver said. "We could have given Florida a little better run than we did. That is the first time they have been beaten this year, but they know what they did wrong. Next time, it won't happen."

 

The 4x100 team also finished second, with Carter and Bennie Brazell involved. Brazell was third in the 400-meter hurdles.

 

While LSU is not deep, it has several athletes capable of scoring at the NCAA meet, giving the Tigers a chance to finish near the top of the standings.

 

"When we get to the NCAA meet, if everyone can take care of their individual events and we can run the relays well, we're definitely a top five team," Shaver said. "There is not a huge separation between the top teams, so we're trying to position them to give them the best chance at the NCAA championship meet."

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