Nelson, 1,600 relay fail to advance

Friday, June 9, 2006
Southeast Missouri State's Alonzo Nelson cleared a hurdle in the final turn in a 400-meter hurdles heat Thursday during the NCAA outdoor track and field championships in Sacramento, Calif. (KAREN E. SEGRAVE * Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

Alonzo Nelson finished two spots short of the semifinals.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The second day of the NCAA outdoor track and field championships did not go as well for Southeast Missouri State as the opening day.

After All-American Miles Smith had the second-fastest time in Wednesday's first round of the 400 meters, Southeast's two other national meet entries fell well short of advancing Thursday night.

Senior 400-meter hurdler Alonzo Nelson failed to get out of the first round, as he had the 18th-fastest time among the 26 competitors. Only the top 16 advanced to the semifinals.

Nelson, competing in the national meet for the second straight year, clocked 51.02 seconds, which placed him last in his five-man heat. He ran 50.77 seconds at the Mideast Regional, which would have been good enough for a spot in the top 16.

The 1,600-meter relay team of senior Walt Washington, sophomore Chris Poindexter, Nelson and Smith failed to make it out of the semifinals. The foursome had the 12th-fastest time among the 18 entries. Only the top eight advanced to the finals.

Southeast's relay unit, also competing at nationals for the second year in a row, finished in 3:06.58, well off its Mideast Regional time of 3:05.54. Southeast was fifth in its six-team heat. The last qualifier for the finals, Mississippi State, had a time of 3:05.20.

"Alonzo was ranked 19th going in and he got 18th. The relay was ranked 12th going in and they got 12th," Southeast coach Joey Haines said. "So I guess you might say we got about what we should have.

"We have nothing to be ashamed of, but it's a credit to our program that we didn't come out here to do what we've done already. We came here to do something we hadn't done. We didn't run quite as fast as we wanted, but Alonzo and those guys on the relay still had a great year."

Smith, a junior, will be back in action tonight during the semifinals of the 400 meters, after he turned in a season-best time of 45.41 seconds during Wednesday's first round.

Smith, fifth in last year's national meet, entered this week's competition with the nation's sixth-fastest time, 45.57 seconds.

The top three finishers in each of two heats of the 400, plus the next two fastest times, advance to Saturday's 3:20 p.m. finals that will be televised nationally by CBS.

"Miles will be ready to go," Haines said. "The semifinals won't be easy, but if he runs like he's capable and like he's always run, he'll get through to the finals."

Florida State's Ricardo Chambers had the top time in the first round of the 400, 44.99 seconds, which is the second-fastest in the nation this year.

Rounding out the top five fastest times after Smith 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 Mideast Regional, in which Smith placed third.

"It's a great field," Haines said.

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