Smith starts on right foot in quest to win national 400 meters

Thursday, June 8, 2006
Southeast Missouri State's Miles Smith crossed the finish line Wednesday in a preliminary heat of the men's 400-meter run at the NCAA outdoor track and field championships in Sacramento, Calif. Smith finished second in his heat -- and second overall in the field -- with a season-best time of 45.41 seconds. (Karen E. Segrave ~ Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

Southeast hurdler Nelson and the 1,600 relay team step into action today.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Southeast Missouri State junior Miles Smith easily made it through the first round of the 400 meters Wednesday night as the NCAA outdoor track and field championships began.

Smith had the second-fastest qualifying time, a season-best 45.41 seconds. He entered the competition with the nation's sixth-fastest time, 45.57 seconds.

The top two finishers in each of five heats, plus the next six best times, qualified for Friday night's semifinals. Eight of the 16 semifinalists will advance to Saturday afternoon's finals, which will be televised nationally by CBS.

"We were really pleased with the way Miles ran," Southeast coach Joey Haines said. "He shut it down at the end, just backed off, because he's got to run three more days in a row. It's a pretty long week."

Smith, fifth at last year's NCAA outdoor meet, finished second in his heat. Winning the heat, and leading all of the 26 runners in the first round, was Florida State's Ricardo Chambers, whose time of 44.99 seconds is the second-fastest in the nation this year.

Rounding out the top five fastest times Wednesday were LSU's Xavier Carter (45.51), Oregon's Matt Scherer (45.52) and TCU's Lewis Banda (45.62).

Carter, the NCAA indoor champion, entered the outdoor meet with the nation's fastest time (44.84). Carter won the recent Mideast Regional, in which Smith placed third.

"Four or five guys all have a shot at winning, including Miles," Haines said. "Miles will keep going faster every time out, but not just him; they'll all do that."

Southeast's other two entries in the national meet will compete for the first time tonight.

Senior 400 meter hurdler Alonzo Nelson has the nation's 19th fastest time of 50.77 seconds, while the 1,600-meter relay team of Nelson, sophomore Chris Poindexter, senior Walt Washington and Smith has the nation's 12th fastest time of 3:05.54.

Nelson and the 1,600 relay both also qualified for nationals last year, although they failed to reach the finals.

Nelson would also have to get through Friday's semifinals in order to make the finals, while relay events -- which feature 18 entries instead of 26 for individuals -- begin with the semifinals.

The top two finishers in each of three heats of the relay, plus the top two other fastest times, advance to the finals.

"We're really shooting to make the finals of the relay. That would be an unbelievable thing," Haines said. "We're in a really tough heat, but we're going for one of those top two spots so we don't have to worry about getting in on time."

As for Nelson, Haines said, "Alonzo is ranked 19th, and he has to get in the top 16 to make the semifinals, but I think he's ready to get it done."

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