John McDonnell Press Conference
BY ANDRES FOCIL
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The following is a partial transcript of John McDonnell’s press conference for the 2003 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.
We have 15 athletes in the meet and we’re doubling quiet a few, which is pretty tough to do at the NCAA meet and be successful. We have five guys in the 5,000 and three of them are coming back to run in the 3,000. Lincoln, Cragg and Kimeli are coming back in the 3K. The 3,000 and 5,000 have got to be big events for us.
We’ve got Mulvaney in the mile and Robbie Stevens in the 800. Michael Thomas in the hurdles and Ahmad Carroll in the 60. We have the distant medley, which includes Stevens, Ahmed, Taylor and Hatch. We have two triple jumpers in Richard Smith and Jaanus. And two in the long jump with Ramon Washington and Smith again.
They’re picking us to win it. South Carolina, Florida, LSU and Nebraska are in there too. We’re in pretty good shape. If we stay healthy between now and Friday I think we’ll have a shot at it. As long as our guys go out there and do what they’re supposed to do and what they’re capable of doing we’ll be in the chase.
What’s the attitude of the guys this week?
It’s been two years since we’ve won a national championship, so some of our guys want to get a ring. They’re motivated and I think they’ll compete well from top to bottom. I think that every guy in the meet has a chance to place and it will be tough in 5,000 because that’s a loaded event, but we have five good guys in there and there are only eight places. It’s been a while since we’ve had that type of a team, where every one of them could score. This is as good of a team we’ve had in the last seven or eight years. The last time we won it in 2000, we scraped by. We were a decent team, but not a great team.
How do you keep recruiting and winning at the same time?
When I got sick two years ago last January, I may have slacked off a little bit. Then I had to energize the battery and the assistants have done a great job, Dick Booth and Lance Brauman. We’ve worked as a group and we’ve got great character and leadership on this team in Cragg and Lincoln. Those guys are not only great people, but they’re great athletes and everybody respects them on the team. I think without a leader you’re not going to be successful and we didn’t have that for a few years. We just sort of drifted out to the desert.
Ahmad Carroll and Michael Thomas didn’t have great performances at the SEC meet, do you think you can afford that again?
I’d like to think we can afford it, but so many things can go wrong in a meet of this standard. I hope Ahmad and Michael’s bad meets are behind them. They’ve had misfortunes. Michael hit the first two hurdles and then Ahmad’s blocks slipping out from under him and it not being called back. Hopefully competing at home the crowd will help us a lot. In front of a home crowd when an Arkansas athlete moves up there the crowd gets delighted.
What events do you think the crowd should not miss?
Every event we’re in is important, but I really think the 5,000 could be the best race of the meet, because of the caliber of athletes that are in there from other schools. Then of course the 60-meter dash and the 60-meter hurdles are always exciting, but if you blink it’s over. Everything is loaded. The mile will be good, and the 800 meters will be dominated by SEC athletes. You’re going to see the cream of the crop and it averages out 16 or 17 per event and that’s the very best in the country. You can’t ask for a better meet than this.
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