Smith is still on track for more accomplishments

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Miles Smith track and field machine keeps rolling along.

Smith, Southeast Missouri State's sensational 400-meter runner, capped his brilliant sophomore season last Saturday by winning All-America honors with a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Championships in Sacramento, Calif.

Smith, ranked 14th in the world with a school-record time of 45.16 seconds, became Southeast's first Division I All-American in track and field since 1994, when Terrence Branch placed fourth in the 400-meters. Branch had also been Southeast's last track and field athlete to score at the national meet prior to Smith.

While Smith's college season ended last Saturday, his year of competitive running is far from over.

Based on his times this year, Smith qualified for the USA Track and Field Championships, which will be held Thursday through Saturday in Carson, Calif.

The top place winners at the USA Championships will qualify for the United States team in the IAAF World Championships in August in Helsinki, Finland.

While Smith will be an underdog to make the world team -- the top five to eight finishers in the 400 will be among those selected for either the open 400 or as a member of the 1,600 relay team, and Smith ranks 10th among the entries at the USA Championships -- the fast-improving Smith has overcome plenty of seemingly long odds during his first two years at Southeast, so it certainly would not be wise to rule him out.

Regardless of what happens at the USA Championships, simply competing in that prestigious meet is another step in the natural progression of Smith as he continues along his goal of making the 2008 Olympics.

Here's wishing Smith the best in California this week.

One more Southeast track and field note:

While Smith continues to shine for the Redhawks, coach Joey Haines' stellar program did lose a premier athlete from the women's side recently when standout freshman Kathy Coleman decided to transfer to national power LSU, which had shown some interest in her as a high school senior before she signed with Southeast.

Coleman won the Ohio Valley Conference outdoor long jump title this year with a school-record 20 feet 4 1/2 inches. During the indoor season, she captured the OVC triple jump and 60-meters.

Still, despite the loss of Coleman, Haines said he doesn't expect his Redhawks' women to miss a beat as he looks for them to continue their recent OVC domination that has seen them win five straight league titles, three outdoors and two indoors.

Southeast punter David Simonhoff made several Division I-AA All-American teams as a sophomore last season, so he figures to enter his junior campaign regarded as one of the nation's premier players at his position.

That was recently confirmed by one publication when Street & Smith's named Simonhoff as the only punter on its All-American squad. Simonhoff should make just about every other preseason All-American list in the coming weeks.

As for Southeast's team, Street & Smith's picked the Redhawks to finish seventh in the nine-team OVC. The magazine favors Jacksonville State to capture its third straight OVC title.

I was saddened to recently learn that former Southeast star pitcher Hal Hempen had died in a freak accident involving lightning on a golf course in Tennessee. A tree struck by lightening fell over and hit Hempen, who suffered a broken neck.

I was in my early years of covering Southeast baseball during Hempen's playing days in 1986 and 1987, and I remember him as a hard-nosed, hard-throwing right-handed reliever -- he held Southeast's single-season and career saves records until last year -- who was also a heck of a nice guy.

My sincere condolences go out to Hempen's family and friends.

While the NBA Finals have featured nothing but blowouts -- all four contests so far have been decided by 15 points or more for the first time in Finals history -- at least there is plenty of drama within the series as the Pistons and Spurs head into tonight's Game 5 tied 2-2.

It has been a weird series so far, to say the least. The teams appear to be fairly evenly matched, which would explain them splitting the first four games. But there is absolutely no explanation for the lack of any close encounters to date.

One thing that has been a constant is the squads both rolling on their home court, which should bode well for the Pistons tonight as they play their third straight game in Detroit.

But even if the Spurs suffer their third consecutive series setback, they'll be comforted by the fact the final two contests will be back in San Antonio.

I find it rather hard to believe that no team will post a road victory in this series, but so far neither squad has even come close.

It will be interesting to see what develops the rest of the way, but this certainly has all the makings of a seven-game affair.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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