Smith's run at 400 title ends early

Saturday, June 10, 2006
Southeast Missouri State junior Miles Smith crossed the finish line in the semifinal of the men's 400-meter dash during the NCAA outdoor track and field championships Friday in Sacramento, Calif. Smith finished sixth in his heat and failed to advance to today's final. (Karen E. Segrave)

Miles Smith's run at the NCAA outdoor track and field championships ended painfully.

The Southeast Missouri State junior pulled a hamstring during Friday's semifinal and failed to qualify for today's final in the 400-meter dash.

He still managed to finish sixth in his heat and had the ninth-best time overall.

The top eight from the two semifinals advanced, five of whom came from his heat. The final will be televised this afternoon by CBS as part of live coverage from Sacramento, Calif.

"In the last 200 meters, he could barely run," said Southeast coach Joey Haines, who was less concerned with the result than the health of his runner. "It's a pretty severe strain."

Haines said the injury prevents Smith from a return trip to the USA Track and Field championships, set for later this month in Indianapolis, and will keep him from competing in the under-23 world championships in Brazil.

"It will definitely keep him out for the rest of the summer," Haines said. "We'll just work on getting ready for next year."

Smith, who ran in the faster Heat 1, finished in 45.92 seconds.

He had posted the second-best time in Wednesday's preliminaries with a season-best 45.41.

Smith last year finished fifth in the NCAA meet with a school-record time of 45.16 seconds. He went on to finish sixth in the USA Track and Field national meet and was a part of the U.S. 1,600-meter relay unit that won the gold medal last summer at the world championships in Helsinki, Finland.

"Last year was such a fairy tale, where everything fell into place," Haines said.

Smith finished seventh at the NCAA indoor championships in March.

He had battled a hamstring strain earlier this season, which kept him out for three weeks leading up the Ohio Valley Conference meet. Smith coasted to the 400 title at the OVC meet and anchored the 1,600 relay squad that won the final event and clinched the team championship for Southeast.

He finished third behind LSU's Xavier Carter and Indiana's David Neville on May 27 at the NCAA Mideast Regional to earn the automatic national berth.

This week, Smith ran the 400 prelim and the anchor leg of the 1,600 relay before Friday's semifinal run.

"He had to run three days in a row, and it just wasn't strong enough for that yet," Haines said.

Carter, the NCAA indoor 400 champion who had the nation's best outdoor time (44.84) coming into the meet, won Heat 1 in a time of 44.96 seconds.

Neville, the national indoor runner-up with whom Smith had split some earlier meetings this year, was second in Heat 1 in 45.03 seconds. Oregon's Matt Scherer (45.20), UCLA's Craig Everhart (45.44) and Minnesota's Aaron Buzard (45.79) also qualified from Heat 1.

Florida State's Ricardo Chambers, the only runner to go faster than Smith on Wednesday, won Heat 2 in 44.98.

The top three finishers from each semifinal heat advanced automatically.

Finishing behind Chambers in the second heat and earning the automatic berths were TCU's Lewis Banda (45.59) and Southern California's Lionel Larry (45.83).

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