Gay Captures NCAA 100-meter Title; Arkansas Ma
BY ANDRES FOCIL
AUSTIN, Texas – On Friday night at the 2004 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships junior Tyson Gay made history when he became the first Arkansas athlete to capture the NCAA 100-meter title. In his second race of the day the now four-time All-American clocked a UA school record time of 10.06 to take the tape at Mike A. Myers Stadium. The previous record of 10.11 and was held by Vincent Henderson in 1993. Along with his 100-meter performance Gay now owns four school records: the indoor 60 (6.57), indoor 200 (20.40) and outdoor 200 (20.06).
“Tyson did a great job,” Arkansas sprints and hurdles coach Lance Brauman said. “He made a big move in the last 60 meters to pass everyone and win. He’s definitely got a nose for finishing. He’s got one more race tomorrow and hopefully it’s going to be something special.”
In a talented field of competitors Gay dipped his head at the line and finished just eight thousandths of a second ahead of second-place finisher Michael Frater of TCU. In addition to breaking the school record Gay’s time bested the U.S. Olympic Trials “A” standard of 10.07. His blazing time of 10.06 is also the third-fastest run in the world his year and on the U.S. descending order list it is second only to former world record holder and 100-meter Olympic champion Maurice Greene (10.02).
“It feels real good to be a Razorback champion,” Gay said. “I had to dip at SEC’s and regionals, so I’ve had tough competition all year. I feel like I have redeemed myself after this past indoor season, especially after I’ve been hurt most of the outdoor season. I set my goals in July to set all four school records and thankfully I did it all in one year.”
Gay’s finish also shot top-ranked Arkansas into the team lead after six scored events and gave the Hogs a two-day total of 25 points. Florida is close behind in striking distance at second with 23 points. TCU is third with 18 and SMU is fourth with 16. Texas Tech rounds out the top five with 13 points.
“A win is a win,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “I don’t care if it’s by an eyelash. Tyson is such a great competitor and team guy. He deserved that win. It was beautiful. We got it (the 10 points) when we needed it. It is a big boost for him for tomorrow and Wallace is pumped up too. The 10 points is what is important.
“It’s still a big battle between us, Florida and LSU,” McDonnell said. “Florida could be our biggest threat. We’re definitely where we need to be. Tomorrow if we do what we’re supposed to and make no mistakes we’ll be in good shape, but it’s still a long road ahead.”
Without the services of sophomore Omar Brown the 4×100-meter relay had to persevere as it entered today’s final round. In Thursday’s 200-meter dash prelims Brown went down after he suffered a cramp in his hamstring, preventing him from competing in the finals of the relay.
The newly formed team got top-ranked Arkansas off to a good start when they finished in fifth place with a time of 39.39 and earned four additional points for the team cause. It marked the first time in 10 years that a Razorback 400-meter relay team had captured All-America honors.
Freshman alternate Creighton Kiper filled Brown’s spot and ran on the third leg to earn his first-career All-America honor. Senior Mike Thomas was kept on the opening leg, Gay was moved to the second and freshman Wallace Spearmon, Jr., was assigned the anchor. Their finish also matched the best showing by an Arkansas relay when Jimmy French, Vincent Henderson, Chris Phillips and Derrick Thompson came in fifth (39.37) in 1994. The other relay to garner fifth place was in 1984 with Wallace Spearmon, Sr. gracing the team, along with Fred Cleary, Mike Conley and Mike Davis.
“I just tried to come in and help the team,” Kiper said. “When you throw something together something is going to mess up. I ran away too soon and then I ran up on Wallace. We talked about what we were going to do last night, so we were all calm today and ready to go.”
Tonight’s race was the first time since his days at Fayetteville High School that Spearmon had run on the anchor of a relay. After he received the baton from Kiper he powered past several competitors to bring the Hogs up to fifth.
“I don’t know how many people I passed,” Spearmon said. “We just tried to do the best we could without Omar (Brown). We had never practiced this order with the handoffs, so I’m just glad we got it around. I felt like I was in high school again.”
In the 110-meter hurdles Thomas gained his first All-America honor in the 110-meter hurdles when he crossed the line in eighth place with a time of 13.55. His showing added one point to UA’s total.
Senior Maurice Bridges wrapped up the evening in the 400-meter hurdles and recorded a personal best time of 50.33 to advance to the finals on Saturday at 7:50 p.m. He crossed the line in second in his heat and his time was eighth overall. At last year’s championships Bridges was unable to move on to the finals, so tomorrow will provide him with his first opportunity to score points at an NCAA meet.
In the prelims of the 400-meter hurdles junior Terry Gatson finished third in his heat, ahead of defending NCAA champion Adam Steele of Minnesota, but his time of 46.49 was still not good enough to advance to the finals. Gatson was carrying a season-best time of 45.36 that was 10th in the nation.
Saturday will conclude the 2004 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships and Arkansas continues to keep itself in prime scoring positions to claim the team title. The Hogs will look to rack up points in the finals of six events. The javelin with sophomore Eric Brown and the pole vault with senior transfer Jeremy Scott will start the day, followed by the 1,500 meters, 400-meter hurdles and the 200 and 800 meters.
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