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McMullen Runs Well at Drake Relays

April 26, 1998

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ Paul McMullen runs his best when he’s enjoying himself and right now, America’s top miler is having a ball.

He couldn’t have said that a year ago.

``It was a very, very short time ago when I didn’t like track and field at all,″ said McMullen, who won the mile at the Drake Relays on Saturday. ``It was this time last year.

``After the Penn Relays I said, `Where did that high school attitude that I had for so long, where did it go? I can’t find it anymore.′ ″

Then it happened. ``It″ being a June 3 lawn mowing accident that threatened to end his running career.

While mowing a neighbor’s yard in Ypsilanti, Mich., McMullen lost part of the second and third toes on his right foot. The bones of the big toe were crushed into about 15 pieces.

``I believe my lawn mower accident was actually a tap on the shoulder from above to say, `Hey Paul, why don’t you take it easy a little bit and start saying thank you for what gifts I gave you?′ ″ McMullen said.

``I spent three months on my rear end thinking about it and I said next time I get my gift back, I’m going to be thankful for it and I’m going to have a heck of a lot of fun and (Saturday), I had a lot of fun. This is what it’s all about.″

In just the third sub-4-minute-mile ever run in the 89 years of the Drake Relays, McMullen won in 3:59.12 to edge Terrance Herrington, who ran 3:59.35.

That was more than four seconds slower than McMullen ran in winning the mile at the U.S. indoor championships this year, but that was secondary, he said. McMullen trailed Herrington, a two-time U.S. champion in the 1,500, by two steps heading into the final lap, but they were shoulder-to-shoulder coming out of the final turn and McMullen won the sprint to the finish.

``It’s not always about great times,″ McMullen said. ``Because this early in the season, it’s tough to demand that out of milers, but you certainly get to see their heart and their desire as they come down that straightaway.

``Even though the time might not be great, they’re still pouring their heart out to that crowd and (the fans) responded and I thank them very much for it. Because it motivated me to get to the tape first.″

Though one of the meet’s featured performers, Mary Slaney, dropped out because of an injury, McMullen and two-time Olympian Suzy Hamilton offered up enough glitz to satisfy the sellout crowd of 18,000.

Hamilton, making her outdoor debut, allowed training partner Amy Wickus to set the pace, then turned it on in the last 200 meters to win the 800 in a meet record 2:01.68.

She also won the 800 at Drake last year, although she ran two seconds slower. The old record was 2:03.18 by Iowa State’s Edith Nakiyingi in 1988.

``I’m really relieved,″ Hamilton said. ``I wanted that record so bad. Last year, I was coming off an injury and it just didn’t work out very well. I went out too fast.″

Baylor continued its domination in the men’s and women’s 1,600 relay, the men winning for the seventh straight time and ninth time in 10 years, while the women captured their fifth consecutive title.

Freshman Brandon Couts anchored the men to a 3:01.39 clocking, the fastest collegiate time of the year, and won the 400 in 45.04, also the fastest among collegiate competitors this season.

On Friday, Couts anchored Baylor to a victory in the 800 relay. But Iowa upset the Bears in Saturday’s 400 relay finals.

Iowa swept the women’s hurdles events. The Hawkeyes won the shuttle hurdle relay and got victories from Wynsome Cole in the 400 hurdles and Paula Ruen in the 100 hurdles. Ruen won her race only 39 minutes after anchoring the relay victory. She also ran in the relay prelims in the morning.

``It feels good to know you could run that many races and still win,″ Ruen said. ``My legs feel like Jell-O.″

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