Smith races to regional win

Sunday, May 29, 2005

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Southeast Missouri State's Miles Smith didn't just qualify for the NCAA track and field championships -- he barged into next month's meet.

Smith, the Redhawks' sensational sophomore, put on a scintillating performance Saturday by breaking his own school record and winning the 400-meter dash at the NCAA Mideast Regional at Indiana University.

"It was an unbelievable performance by Miles, maybe the most impressive thing in the whole meet because the field was so strong," Southeast coach Joey Haines said. "The 400 meters is probably the strongest American event, and for Miles to do what he did was really something."

Smith timed 45.16 seconds to shatter his previous school record of 45.45 set earlier this month. He now owns the nation's fourth-fastest time this season.

On his way to the regional title, he defeated LSU's Kelly Willie (45.32), who ran on the United States gold medal-winning 1,600-meter relay team at the 2004 Olympics.

"To beat an Olympic champion the way Miles did was something to see," Haines said. "Miles has got unlimited potential, and we think his best days are still ahead of him. It's really exciting to see."

Southeast's other two regional entries Saturday also turned in impressive performances before falling a bit short of qualifying automatically for the NCAA Championships on June 8 through 11 in Sacramento, Calif., although Haines believes they stand a strong chance of making the national meet through the at-large entry process that is based on top times during the season.

School record-holder Alonzo Nelson finished seventh in the 400-meter hurdles in 51.73, which was well off his 51.12 during Friday's preliminaries. The top five finishers in each individual event automatically qualified for nationals.

Also Saturday, Southeast's 1,600-meter relay team ran the second-fastest time in school history -- 3:06.49 -- and placed sixth. Members are Nelson, Chris Poindexter, Chaz Brown and Smith. The top three relay finishers qualified for nationals.

"Alonzo and the 4x4 had great performances against some of the top runners in America," Haines said. "We think both have good chances for at-large berths to the NCAA Championships."

The entire field for the national meet will be announced in a few days.

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