Southeast's Smith falls short of NCAA 400 finals

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Miles Smith's trip to the NCAA Division I Indoor Championships track and field meet was as much about getting experience as it was about reaching the finals.

Now, following Friday's preliminary run in the 400 meters, Smith has a foundation from which to build. Or the Southeast Missouri State sophomore has some appreciation of what it takes if he decides to take up auto racing.

Smith posted the 11th-best time among the 16 runners who competed in the event on the campus of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark. With a time of 46.99 seconds, Smith finished fourth in his four-man heat, which featured three finals qualifiers and the fastest man in the field, Florida sophomore Kerron Clement.

Clement, who was the top seed coming in, finished in 46.05 seconds.

The top eight finishers advance, but the ninth also moved on to the 400 final. The time for the final spot was 46.79 seconds.

"Miles was disappointed because he wanted to be in the top eight," Southeast coach Joey Haines said via telephone from Fayetteville. "We're happy with the way things turned out. He gained a lot of experience that will come in handy in the outdoors championships and in a couple more years after this. By the time he's a senior, he could be as good as anyone out here."

Smith, who qualiified for and competed in the 400 in the NCAA outdoor regionals last spring, was making his debut at the indoor nationals.

He came to meet with a season-best time of 46.42 seconds, which set the school record. He was seeded 13th among the original 14 runners expected to compete.

"The track wasn't as fast as Iowa State," Haines said, referring to the track where Smith set the school record. "Iowa State is a 300-meter track, and this was a 220-meter track so the curves were a lot tighter. Miles had never run on a banked track before. He was in lane 5, and lane 6 is about 6 feet off the ground. It looks like the banks at Daytona or Talledega."

Haines said there were other similarities to NASCAR as well, things Smith will have to file away for future national indoor events.

"Indoor track is a lot like car racing. There's a lot of elbows and contact," Haines said. "You run the first lap in your lanes and then you break and that's when it gets pretty hard to pass anyone because you have to go out wider. Miles had to make a decision on the break to sprint or back off into fourth place. If he sprinted, something could've happened or he could've made it through there, but you only have 1/1,000th of a second to make up your mind. He dropped back 4 or 5 meters and had to use some of his kick just to catch up."

The Southeast track teams begin the outdoor season this week with some members of the team heading to the University of Alabama and others competing in Memphis.

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