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LSU Women Botch NCAA Track Bid

June 3, 1999

BOISE, Idaho (AP) _ For the want of a baton, the chance of LSU regaining the women’s NCAA outdoor track and field championship went tumbling Wednesday.

The first exchange between Joyce Bates and Chenelle Marshall in the 400-meter relay semifinals went awry and so did the Tigers’ hope of taking back the title from Texas. The Longhorns, who ended LSU’s 11-year reign last year, had no difficulty with their handoffs and won their heat in 43.20 seconds, a record for Boise State’s Bronco Stadium.

In breaking LSU’s 1994 record of 43.26, Texas, the defending champion in the relay, led the way into Friday’s final.

While the relay turned out to be the pivotal event of the competition, four finals also were contested.

Stanford, which went 1-2-3 in the men’s 10,000 last year, repeated again, with Nathan Nutter winning at 29:11.96, followed by Jason Balkman at 29:12.91 and Brent Hauser at 29:14.07.

Pittsburgh’s Trecia Smith, the 1997 long jump champion and 1998 triple jump winner, earned her second outdoor long jump title, leaping 21 feet, 8 1/4 inches. Freshman Gabor Mate from Hungary became Auburn’s first men’s throwing champion since 1951, winning the discus at 202-1, and SMU sophomore Florence Ezeh took the women’s hammer throw at 207-2.

Tennessee’s Tom Pappas, the collegiate record-holder in the decathlon, led after the first five events with 4,265 points _ 78 ahead of runner-up Attila Zsivoczky of Kansas State. Pappas finished first in the shot put at 50-5 1/2 and in the high jump at 7-0 1/4.

The final five events _ the 110 hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and 1,500 meters _ will be contested Thursday.

Both Marshall and Bates were puzzled as to how they misconnected on the handoff.

``I felt it (the baton),″ said the disheartened and tearful Marshall, running the second leg for the first time this year. ``It just brushed my hand.

``I am very disappointed. It’s my only event. We’ve just got to put this behind us.″

Said Bates, ``I have no idea why it happened. I just couldn’t believe it. I didn’t think we would come out here and drop it.″

Stanford’s unprecedented sweep of the first three places in the 10,000 for the second straight year capped a tactical race.

Arizona’s Abdi Abdirahman set most of the pace for the first 9,800 meters, with the Stanford trio hanging in close pursuit. Then, with about 200 meters left, the three Cardinal runners surged to the front, and Nutter, third last year, outkicked his teammates.

Balkman, the newcomer in the group, also outran Hauser to the tape. Hauser had finished second last year to his brother Brad.

``I was just hanging off the pace ...″ Nutter said. ``That was the plan.″

Smith, winning her seventh NCAA title indoors and outdoors, will try to repeat as triple jump champion Friday and will compete in the heptathlon Friday and Saturday.

``It’s my last year, so I’m trying to do everything I can before I go out,″ the senior said.

The 6-foot-6 Mate missed his season’s best by only six inches in winning for the seventh time in eight meets.

``I’m the happiest man in the world,″ he said.

Ezeh couldn’t stay around long enough to get her medal because she had to quickly return to Dallas for a final exam in organizational behavior on Thursday.

``I’m crying because I want to stay and support my teammates and say, `Go Mustangs!‴ she said.

Her teammates supported her loudly during the competition Bronco Stadium at Boise State, and she was anxious to return the favor.

``The team support, I loved it,″ said Ezeh, the 1997 French junior champion and national record-holder.

Ezeh nearly gave up the hammer throw last year after a discouraging 14th place in the European Championships.

``When I went home, I started to think, `What am I going to do?‴ she said. ``Everyone was waiting for me. I thought about the hammer throw and I thought about life.

``I decided I wanted to be good. I had gone down ... touched the bottom. Now, I would go up.″

While the 400 relay semifinals proved disastrous for LSU’s women, they also were dreadful for defending men’s champion TCU. The Horned Frogs finished fifth in their heat and failed to qualify for Friday’s final.

Florida freshman John Capel, the fastest American this year in the men’s 200 at 19.99 in winning the Southeastern Conference title, won his preliminary heat at 20.71 in advancing to Friday’s semifinals. Auburn’s Coby Miller, the runner-up to Capel in the SEC championships, had the fastest prelim time, 20.39.

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