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Smith earns spot in national 400 field
The Southeast junior ran his fastest time of the year in a third-place finish at the NCAA regional.
Southeast Missouri State junior sprinting standout Miles Smith ran his fastest 400 meters of the year Saturday night but failed to repeat as NCAA Mideast Regional champion.
Smith's collegiate season will continue at the NCAA championships June 7 through 10 in Sacramento, Calif.
Smith was fifth in the outdoor national meet last year, and he placed fifth at this year's indoor nationals.
Smith finished third in 45.57 seconds during the Mideast Regional finals in Knoxville, Tenn.
LSU's Xavier Carter, the NCAA indoor champion, ran the nation's fastest collegiate time this season, winning in 44.84 seconds.
Indiana's David Neville, the NCAA indoor runner-up, was second in 45.23 seconds.
"It was an unbelievable field. This is the toughest regional in the country," Southeast coach Joey Haines said. "Carter's time is probably one of the best in the world this year."
Smith automatically qualified for the NCAA national meet by finishing in the top five at the regional.
Southeast senior Alonzo Nelson just missed on an automatic national berth after placing sixth in the 400-meter hurdles at the regional. He ran a season-best 50.77 seconds that also tied his career-best from last year.
Nelson is virtually assured of gaining an at-large entry to the national meet based on his time, which ranks in the top 15 nationally. Nelson also qualified that way last year after he was seventh in the regional.
"Alonzo ran really well," Haines said. "It would take something really unusual for him not to make it to nationals."
Also a virtual lock for a second straight at-large national berth is Southeast's 1,600-meter relay team that placed fifth in the regional with a school-record time of 3:05.54 seconds. Relay members are Nelson, Chris Poindexter, Walt Washington and Smith.
Only the top three regional finishers in relay events automatically qualify for nationals, but the time posted by Southeast's 1,600 group ranks among the top 15 nationally.
Last season, the relay finished sixth in the regional with a time about a second slower than Saturday's but still made the national field.
"They ran unbelievably well, and we had to do that out of a slow heat because our times going in weren't very good," Haines said. "We knew we could do this kind of time, but we just hadn't put it together yet. We were building up to this meet.
"Just like with Alonzo, it would take something really unusual for the relay not to make it to nationals."
Senior Heather Jenkins just missed on a national berth in the discus. She finished sixth in the regional with a distance of 164 feet, 7 inches. Her season marks are not good enough to challenge for an at-large entry to nationals.
"Heather did really well," Haines said. "This is the best finish she's had at the regional."
Also for Southeast on Saturday, sophomore Kevin McNab was 16th in the 3,000 steeplechase (9:10.45) while freshman Bilal Hameed fouled on all of his attempts in the men's triple jump.
"It was really good experience for our younger people," Haines said.