Smith charges into 400 final

Saturday, June 25, 2005

The Southeast Missouri State runner all but locked up a trip to the IAAF World Championships.

CARSON, Calif. -- Southeast Missouri State track athlete Miles Smith better have a valid passport.

The Redhawk sophomore's performance Friday in the 400-meter semifinals at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships virtually guaranteed him a trip to Finland this summer as part of the IAAF World Championships held in Helsinki, Finland, Aug. 6 to 14. Smith clocked 45.46 seconds, the third-fastest time in his heat, to qualify for today's event finals.

Southeast coach Joey Haines said the top 10 runners would go to Europe, thus Smith's finals-qualifying time should get him there.

"This assures him of making the U.S. team going to Europe," Haines said.

The top three finishers qualify for the open 400. The rest of the runners would go to fill out the relay pool.

"Just to come into a situation for the first time, it's just amazing," Haines said. "It just shows what an athlete can do when he stays focused."

The 2004 Olympic gold medalist, Jeremy Wariner, ran in Smith's heat and posted the fastest time of the semifinals of 44.82. Darold Williamson, the NCAA outdoor champion this season, won the other heat in a time of 44.83. Andrew Rock ran a 45.08 and LaShawn Merritt ran a 45.31 to round out the top four times. Smith tied with 2004 Olympic bronze medalist Derrick Brew for the fifth-fastest time.

"The Americans got 1-2-3 in the Olympics and all three are here plus the guys from the relay team," Haines said. "The top runners in the world are here. Not just college, but the best in the whole wide world. It's a great accomplishment on his part, and he's not done."

Smith said he was confident of performing well in the meet -- but even he is a bit surprised at just how well he's done.

"I knew I was going to do good, but actually I'm surprised I'm doing this good," Smith said. "It's a big boost to my confidence."

Among the nine competitors to qualify for today's finals, Smith is the only current collegiate runner.

"I'm just going to go out, have fun and see what happens," Smith said. "The hard part is over.

"It was cold and windy tonight, which is how it gets out here at night, but we're running in the afternoon tomorrow, so it's going to be hot and the times are going to be a lot faster."

The 400 finals, which will take place at 4:12 p.m. today, will be shown on ESPN, with a telecast form 3 to 5 p.m.

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