CHAMPIONS !

The LSU men's track and field team won the fourth NCAA outdoor title in school history Saturday night, edging Tennessee 64-57 with clutch performances over the last two events. <br><br> An injury to one of the Vols' top weapons prevented them from taking the lead in the sprints, and Claston Bernard's victory in the decathlon gave the Tigers a lead they would salt away in the meet's final event, the 1600-meter relay.

(AP Photo/Bill Feig)

Louisiana State's Pete Coley, left, and Lueroy Colquhoun celebrate after finishing third in the 400-meter relay during the NCAA outdoor track and field championships, giving LSU the men's teamchampionship. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)

 

"It was a great victory tonight," said LSU head coach Pat Henry. "We did the things we needed to do to win. It was a tremendous competition with Tennessee. Both teams had their ups and downs – that's the way these meets are.

 

"What a great way for a guy like Claston to finish his career. He came here a very talented athlete and just improved from there."

 

Bernard, who finished his event with 8,094 points, led after the first five events held on Friday and stayed in front Saturday until a hip twinge allowed Rice's Ryan Harlan to move ahead in the eighth event, the discus.

 

Harlan kept his slight lead through the javelin, but Bernard's fourth-place finish in the 1500-meter run gave him the team title. More importantly, it kept Tennessee Stephen Harris and Kevin Thompson – the fifth and seventh place competitors heading into the 1500 – from drawing the Vols any closer to Tigers.

 

The win was sweet redemption for Bernard, who was forced out of the 2001 NCAA decathlon with a hamstring pull.

 

"It feels good coming back after last year," said Bernard. "I really wanted to win. They say you're as good as your last meet. I can't really describe how I'm feeling right now."

 

LSU's Claston Bernard clears a hurdle during the 110-meter hurdles Saturday in the decathlon event at the NCAA Track and Field Championships in Baton Rouge, La. Bernard won his heat with a time of 14.62 and went on to win the decathlon title. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)

 

After Bernard's win put LSU put LSU ahead of Tennessee, 58-53, in the team competition, the Tigers needed to make sure the Volunteers didn't overtake them in the 1600-meter relay. If Tennessee won the event and LSU finished any worse than third, they would hand over the national title.

 

The Tigers' first three runners, Lueroy Colquhoun, Marlon Greensword and Bennie Brazell, stayed in a near dead heat with front-running South Carolina. Pete Coley took the baton for the anchor leg and held on for a third-place finish. Tennessee was at the back of the field through the first two legs but fought its way back up to claim fifth place – failing to overtake the Tigers.

 

"When I saw Bennie Brazell coming to bring me the baton, I was able to get out of traffic and run a good opening 200. I knew I just had to run my race from there.

 

"When I finished, I saw that we were third and Tennessee was fifth – I knew we had won the title. I can't describe how that made me feel."

 

LSU's men could only watch the finals of the 100 meters earlier in the meet to see how much ground Tennessee would make up over the lead the Tigers held going into the final day of competition. The Volunteers sent two athletes to the finals, Justin Gatlin and Leonard Scott, but Scott was scratched from the race after suffering a hamstring injury in Friday's semifinals.

 

Gatlin won the race in 10.22 seconds ahead of Dwight Thomas of Clemson (10.29), running into a 2.7 meter-per-second headwind.

 

With Gatlin's victory in the 100, Tennessee drew to within ten points of LSU's lead, 45-38, after 14 events.

 

It was the second win of the day for the Volunteers, following Gary Kikaya's 44.53 in the 400-meter dash that moved Tennessee ahead of four teams into second place.

 

LSU and Tennessee went head to head in the 200 meters, where Gatlin followed up his win in the 100 with a 20.18-winning time. It allowed the Volunteers to tie for the team lead with LSU at 48 points after 16 events. Robert Parham added three points to the Tigers' team total with a fifth-place finish in the 200.

 

Tennessee could have taken the team lead in the 200, but Scott's injury also kept him from competing in the final of that event.

 

Coley started the scoring for LSU on Saturday with a third-place finish in the 400 meters. His move in the race came with about 200 meters remaining when he emerged from a pack to take third and held off Sanjay Ayre from Auburn to finish in 45.07.

 

In the rest of the men's action, Alabama's Ron Bramlett successfully defended his NCAA outdoor title in the 110-meter hurdles. It was his 21st consecutive win in the event dating back to last year and he became the first back-to-back NCAA champ in the event since 1968 when Earl McCullouch claimed his second title for Southern California.

 

The men's 1500-meter run saw the race decided over the last 300 after Michigan's Alan Webb had led a big pack over the first three laps. The sprint for the finish began just before the final turn, and Donald Sage of Stanford found a clean lane outside to take the lead with 40 meters remaining. He claimed the national title with a time of 3:42.65.

 

David Kimani of Alabama won the 5000-meter run (13:59.30), separating from the lead group of runners with 400 meters remaining and holding off a challenge from Colorado's Jorge Torres.

 

Jannus Robberts of SMU completed a NCAA-title field double with a win in the shot put (21.60 meters) to go with the discuss championship he won Friday. Once again, his competition was Nebraska's Carl Myerscough. Robberts opening throw was better than the two marks Myerscough posted before passing on his last three attempts.

 

Tora Harris of Princeton closed out the field events with a winning high jump of 2.25.

 

The women's competition was a back-and-forth duel between UCLA and South Carolina over the final day of competition. The Lady Gamecocks secured the first national title in school history in any sport with a combined effort in the sprints.

 

LSU climbed from 19th place at the start of Saturday's action to finish fourth in the women's competition.

 

UCLA led through the first three days of the NCAA Championships and added to their lead over South Carolina early Saturday when Jessica Cosby won the shot put with a throw of 17.38 meters. It was the fourth field event victory for the Lady Bruins, who claimed the pole vault, discuss and high jump titles.

 

The Lady Gamecocks took advantage of their best chance to catch UCLA - the 400-meter dash where they had three athletes in the final. Melisa Barber, Leshinda Demus and Demetria Washington finished second, third and fourth respectively, to move ahead of the Lady Bruins by four points, 60-56, after 15 events.

 

Allison Beckford of Rice defended her title in the 400 in a time of 50.83, and Ronetta Smith of LSU finished fifth for four points that moved the Lady Tigers up into eighth place.

 

LSU climbed up to fourth in the 100-meter dash when Muna Lee (11.44) and Stephanie Durst (11.67) finished third and seventh, respectively.

 

In the 100, Southern California's Angela Williams made history as only the third woman to repeat four times as the champion. She won the event with a time of 11.29, just one-hundreth of a second ahead of teammate Natasha Mayers.

 

UCLA took back the lead, 66-60, when Lena Nillson won the 1500-meter run in 4:18.27. Nilson, along with Liberty's Heather Sagan and Shalane Flanigan of North Carolina, broke away from the pack in the final lap, and she left her competition behind over the last 70 meters.

 

But when the 200-meter dash came up, South Carolina went back in front for good. Barber added four points for the Lady Gamecocks with a fifth-place showing.

 

The Lady Gamecocks needed a fifth-place finish or better in the 1600-meter relay to ice the championship, but left no room for doubt when they won the event in 3:26.46.

 

"We didn't have a lot of things go wrong," said South Carolina coach Curtis Frye. "We try to control our own destiny."

 

Durst (23.12) and Lee (23.19) were third and fourth in the 200 for LSU, and Nicole Toney helped secure fourth place for the Lady Tigers with her fifth-place in the triple jump (13.19).

 

(AP Photo/Bill Feig) 

Indiana's Danielle Carruthers (141) falls while running in the women's 100-meter hurdles as Louisiana State's Lolo Jones continues at the NCAA outdoor track and field championships in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, June 1, 1002. Jones finished second with a time of 13.02. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)

 

The Lady Tigers' first points on Saturday came in the 100-meter hurdles where Lolo Jones used a late surge to take second place. Her time was 13.02 seconds and her eight points moved LSU up to ninth place in the team standings after 14 events.

FINAL MEN'S STANDINGS: 1. LSU 64; 2. Tennessee 57; 3. SMU 42; 4. Florida, Clemson 32; 6. South Carolina 30; 7. Arkansas 28; 8. Stanford 26; 9. Colorado 23; 9. Texas 23; 11. Auburn, Alabama, Southern California, Georgia 21; 15. Mississippi State, UTEP 20; 17. Idaho 17; 18. Baylor 16; 19. Eastern Michigan, Nebraska 14; 21. Kansas, Wisconsin 12; 23. Penn 11; 24. Princeton, Notre Dame, Southern Villanova 10; 28. Michigan, TCU 9; 30. Washington, UCLA, Michigan State, Wichita State, Indiana 8; 35. Ole Miss, Texas Tech, Oregon 7; 39. Texas A&M, Iowa, Tulane Dartmouth, DePaul 6; 44. Florida State, Boise State, Utah State, Monmouth 6,  55. Montana, Eastern Illinois, Iona, Middle Tennessee 3; 59. Arizona, UT-San Antonio, Ball State, Virginia, UNC-Charlotte; Georgetown, Cal State-Fullerton, Missouri-KC, Purdue 2; 68. Prairie View A&M, Arizona State, Connecticut, Seton Hall, Washington State, Penn State, California, Cal Poly-SLO 1

FINAL WOMEN'S STANDINGS: 1. South Carolina 82; 2. UCLA 72; 3. Southern California 57; 4. LSU 43; 5. Kansas State 30; 6. Florida 29; 7. Stanford 25; 8. North Carolina 22; 9. Nebraska 21; 10. Illinois, Texas, BYU 19; 13. N.C. State 18; 14. Auburn 17; 15. Washington State, Liberty 16; 17. Arizona, Colorado 15; 19. Iowa State 12.5; 20. Clemson, Miami 12; 22. Arizona State, Florida State 11. 24. Purdue, Rice, Yale 10; 27. Oregon, Notre Dame 9; 29. Wichita State, Oklahoma State, South Florida, California, Northern Arizona 8; 25. Houston, Indiana 7; 37. Kentucky, Ohio State 6.50; 39 Idaho State, Tennessee 6; 41. James Madison, Baylor, Cal Poly-SLO, UT-Arlington 5; 45. Georgetown, Arkansas, Kent State, UNLV, Penn State, Toledo, Boston College, Seton Hall, Georgia, Central Michigan, Minnesota 4; 56. Oklahoma, Harvard, Missouri 3; 59. Michigan, UT-San Antonio, Michigan State, Nevada, Wisconsin 2; 64. Providence, TCU, Montana State, Georgia Tech, Dartmouth, Illnois State, Hampton 1. 71.Western Carolina .5

 


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