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Arizona Wins 6,400 Drake Relay

April 25, 1998

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ Two new faces made no difference for Arizona. The Wildcats still won the 6,400-meter relay in the Drake Relays.

Cross country All-American Abdi Abdirahman outran Oregon’s Greg James in the final 600 meters Friday to give Arizona its second straight victory in the meet’s longest relay.

Freshman sensation Brandon Couts of Baylor, meanwhile, flashed his speed in the shortest relays, anchoring the Bears to a victory in the 800 relay and to the fastest qualifying time for Saturday’s finals in the 400 relay.

It also was a big day for Jeff Hartwig, who soared to a meet record in winning the invitational pole vault for the fourth straight year.

Those performances came in sunny, 75-degree weather after it was revealed that one of the meet’s headline performers, Mary Slaney, withdrew because of a hamstring injury.

Slaney, a four-time Olympian and holder of four American distance records, suffered a cramp in her left hamstring at the end of a workout on the University of Oregon track Wednesday.

She was to have run the 1,500 meters on Saturday. It would have been her first serious race since being cleared to run following a suspension for excessive levels of testosterone. Her coach, Oregon coach Bill Dellinger, didn’t think the injury was serious.

``I think it was nothing more than a cramp,″ Dellinger said. ``We wanted to see how it would be and she was sore Thursday morning, so I didn’t want to gamble on having her come here and run.″

Abdirahman’s best events are the 5,000 and 10,000, but he ran a strong 1,600 in carrying Arizona to its relay victory in 16 minutes, 32.88 seconds. Oregon finished in 16:36.29 and Eastern Michigan was third in 16:43.48.

Jeremy Lyon opened for Arizona and was followed by Patrick Nduwimana and Micheil Jones. Lyon and Jones were the only returnees from last year’s winning team.

James had a 5-yard lead for Oregon when he got the baton and set the pace for the first two laps of the anchor leg. Abdirahman then made his move on the third lap, passing Jones with about 600 yards left in the race and opening a 20-yard lead heading into the last lap.

He won by about 30 yards and was coasting at the end as he waved the baton to the cheering crowd of 17,025.

``The guys did a real good job of keeping me close,″ said Abdirahman, who ran 4:07.3. ``When we got to 800, I could see the guy was slowing down and I was just jogging. I made my move with 600 left and I knew I had him.″

Hartwig cleared 19 feet, 1/4 inch to win the pole vault, then missed three tries at 19-8, which would have been an American record. The Drake Relays record was 18-10 1/4 by Scott Huffman in 1994.

``When I was watching the weather before I came up here and saw that the conditions would be good, it really motivated my desire to do well,″ Hartwig said. ``The extra adrenaline gave me a boost and that’s when I decided to go for an American record.″

Baylor easily won the 800 relay after overcoming a dropped baton in the morning preliminaries. Marlon Ramsey and Peter Hauser fumbled the first exchange, but Hauser picked the baton off the track and kept running. The Bears ended up second in their heat, thanks to Couts’ strong anchor.

The finals were a breeze by comparison. Running in lane seven, a less than desirable position, Baylor won in 1:22.36, 1.5 seconds faster than runner-up Texas-Arlington.

``In the situation we were given, we would have run in the grass if we had to,″ Ramsey said.

Baylor ran 40.13 in the prelims of the 400 relay and qualified with the second-fastest time for Saturday’s finals in the 1,600 relay, an event the Bears have won the last six years and eight of the last nine.

Baylor’s Marion Watts and John McAfee finished 1-2 in the university-college 400 hurdles and Istvan Nagy anchored Kansas State to a come-from-behind victory in the university 3,200 relay, nipping Tulsa’s Adam Ellison at the tape.

Kansas State finished in 7:24.88 _ three-hundredths of a second faster than Tulsa.

Paul McMullen, tuning up for a run at the meet record in the mile on Saturday, finished third in the 800, won by Missouri’s Derrick Peterson. Peterson, second in the NCAA indoor 800 this year, finished in 1:47.46. Klint Wescom of Illinois State was second in 1:48.80 and McMullen, who tired after leading half the race, ran 1:49.33.

Arizona got a 1-2 finish from Chima Ugwu and Doug Reynolds in the discus, Ugwu throwing 202-5, and Indiana State’s Frankie Young won the long jump at 24-8 1/2.

Oregon won the women’s distance medley relay in an upset of Michigan, the NCAA indoor champion in that event. Marie Davis overtook her good friend, Michigan’s Katie McGregor, on the final leg to give Oregon the victory in 11:12.73.

Michigan, which had set a meet record in winning the indoor title, finished in 11:17.46.

Davis was 15 yards behind McGregor, the NCAA indoor 3,000 champion, when she started the 1,600 leg. She caught McGregor at the 800-meter mark and then ran on her heels until passing her in the backstretch on the final lap.

Sprinting down the straightway, Davis won by 40 yards.

``I felt real comfortable the whole race,″ said Davis, who became friends with McGregor during the world cross country championships in South Africa last year. ``Knowing that I had been working on my speed, I knew if she was going to beat me, she would have to run pretty hard, too.″

Iowa’s Wynsome Cole won the women’s 400 hurdles in 57.44 and Iowa Wesleyan pulled off a surprising victory in the women’s 800 relay, running 1:36.18 to beat a field that included Texas-Arlington, Alabama and Washington.

Washington freshman Ja’Warren Hooker, the nation’s top high school runner in the 100 last year, led the qualifying in that event with a time of 10.43 _ three-tenths of a second faster than anyone else. The finals are Saturday.

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