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Gay Breaks UA 200 Record with Heat Winning Fin

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Gay Breaks UA 200 Record with Heat Winning Fin

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The sixth day of competition at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials got off to a blazing start for the Arkansas athletes when junior Tyson Gay broke his own school record in the qualifying round of the 200-meter dash. Gay posted a time of 20.07 to take the top spot in the second heat and with Maurice Greene a no-show, the NCAA 100-meter champion led the entire way en route to his outstanding performance. Gay’s previous record of 20.09 was registered just over a month ago in the prelims at the NCAA Championships and the Lexington, Ky., native was entering the Trials with the nation’s best time. Nike’s Coby Miller surged from the extreme outside position to take an uncontested second in 20.39, as World Champion silver medalist Darvis Patton took third in 20.66.
“I felt pretty good,” Gay said. “My coach had me mentally and physically prepared to run here. Once I was in the blocks I felt relaxed and he told me to run fast in the first round to let people know who I am. I wanted to conserve some energy, stay relaxed and keep my composure. I was surprised about my pace, but I’m happy.”
In the first heat freshman and NCAA 200-meter champion Wallace Spearmon Jr., lined up against some of the nation’s best, including Justin Gatlin, who is already an Olympic team member in the 100 meters. Gatlin set the tone for the evening with a 20.06 first-place finish. Spearmon accelerated away from the rest of the runners over the last 80 meters to take an unchallenged second in a career-best time of 20.25. He is now third on UA’s all-time top 10 list.
“I expected him (Justin Gatlin) to be that far out,” Spearmon said. “He ran a great race and all I tried to do was stick with him. At the Olympic Trials you have to expect a PR at any time. You don’t want to go out and be left behind. Coach Brauman said to go out and push it, but don’t go too hard. I’ve got to save some energy for the next round, but I’ll be ready.”
With their top-six heat finishes Gay and Spearmon will compete in the quarterfinals on Saturday at 2 p.m. CT. They will both be in the same heat with Spearmon assigned to lane six and Gay in lane eight. The pair also has the two top times in their quarterfinal heat and will look to post a top three showing in order to move on to the semifinals.
“I thought it was a real good first round,” Arkansas sprints and hurdles coach Lance Brauman said. “I was pleased with their times. I thought they looked easy running them. It wasn’t like they were straining to run those times. They stayed relaxed and ran through it. Tyson was very impressive with how he ran and Wallace was too. It was a good first round and now we have to get ready and get some rest and go at it tomorrow. Tomorrow is the big day.”
The fantastic running action didn’t stop in the sprints as two UA athletes were in the same heat of the 1,500 meters. Junior Said Ahmed was the only one to advance to the finals when he pushed his way from the back of the pack to grab the last qualifying position with a dive at the finish line. Ahmed turned in a time of 3:44.34 for sixth place in the very physical first heat and held off Nike’s Ian Connor (3:44.25) by one hundredths of a second. Nathan Robison crossed the line in first with 3:43.84, while former Razorback Seneca Lassiter was ninth with 3:44.54. The finals are scheduled for Sunday at 6:30 p.m.
“It was the scariest moment ever for me,” Ahmed said. “I was trying to lean, but I was also trying to count the people around me. Luckily I got in the finals. I ran in the back, because you don’t know who’s going to go (take the lead). I wanted to see what was going to happen and I made too many mistakes, but I made it and I’m in the finals. If I make the team I deserve to make it because I work hard for it. If I don’t make it I’ll go back to Fayetteville and wait another four years. I can wait; I’m only 20 years old.”
On Saturday the finals of the triple jump will take place at 3:30 p.m. CT, with former Razorbacks Melvin Lister and Robert Howard looking to make a return to the Olympics. The semifinals of the 200-meter dash will follow at 4:17 p.m. and the qualifying rounds of the 110-meter hurdles are at 2:35 p.m. with Michael Thomas.





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