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LSU wins women’s 400 relay

June 6, 1997

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) _ After going scoreless for two days, the defending champion Lady Tigers of LSU broke through Friday at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, speeding to victory in the 400-meter relay.

LSU, which has won the team title the last 10 years, beat runner-up Texas by more than 3 meters. Juniors Astia Walker and Kwajalein Butler and freshmen Sadonna Thornton and Peta-Gaye Dowdie were timed in 43.17 seconds.

It was the Lady Tigers’ sixth consecutive victory in the event and eighth in nine years. Texas, the only team to interrupt LSU’s streak, in 1991, finished second this time in 43.42.

UCLA, seeking to end LSU’s team winning streak, placed sixth in the relay, and had 38 points after five events. Texas and Vanderbilt were tied for second with 11 each.

Vanderbilt collected all its points in the women’s 400 hurdles, as Ryan Tolbert won in a meet-record 54.54 and Amanda Helberg was eighth. Andrea Blackett of Rice ran a 54.78 for second place.

``It was hard to run fast, because there was no one close to me,″ Tolbert said. ``It was very stressful, but very satisfying.″

Tolbert, whose time was the fastest by a collegian this year, had finished second in each of the last two years.

In the men’s 400-meter hurdles, Northern Iowa got its first NCAA title when Joey Woody won in 48.59, the fastest by a collegian this year. Freshman Angelo Taylor of Georgia, running in the outside ninth lane, took second in 48.72.

Sophomore Jason Tunks of SMU, the collegiate leader this season in the discus throw, rallied from eighth place after the trials to win at 195-11. He soared into third place on his fifth throw before winning on his final attempt.

Despite winning, he was not satisfied.

``My distance was terrible,″ said Tunks, who has thrown 214 feet this season.

Tunks, who is getting married Oct. 11 to SMU shot putter Teri Steer, is considering turning pro after this season.

The wedding will be nearly a year after Steer accidentally hit Tunks in the right shoulder and face with a shot put while warming up for an intrasquad decathlon competition.

Upon being struck, Tunks collapsed and Steer thought she had killed him.

``I thought someone had punched me,″ said Tunks, who suffered a bruised and separated shoulder and several cracked teeth.

Steer, last year’s NCAA shot put champion, broke an ankle while playing basketball and did not attend this year’s meet.

In the women’s triple jump, Trecia Smith of Pittsburgh pulled her right hamstring and was forced to withdraw.

The versatile Smith, winner of the long jump during Wednesday’s opening program, was competing in the triple jump and the heptathlon simultaneously, and after two events in the multievent competition, she was in fourth place.

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