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UCLA Women Take Title After Series of Near-Misses

June 13, 2004|From Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — The UCLA women ended their long string of near misses with their first NCAA outdoor track and field title since 1983 on Saturday night, and Arkansas repeated as men's champion.

The Bruins edged defending champion Louisiana State by one point in a controversial final night of competition at Mike A. Myers Stadium on the University of Texas campus.

"We thought we had a curse on us for a number of years," said UCLA's Monique Henderson, runner-up in the 400 meters and anchor in the 1,600 relay. "Finally, this breaks the curse and we know there are many more good years to come."

A disqualification of LSU's Stephanie Durst in the 200 meters ended up costing the Tigers the title. LSU won the final event, the 1,600-meter relay, with UCLA finishing fourth. That left the Bruins with 69 points to LSU's 68. Nebraska was third with 58 and Texas fourth with 42.

"We've had so many close meets and we've stubbed our toe so many times," UCLA Coach Jeanette Bolden said. "I was talking to Jackie-Joyner Kersee a few minutes ago, and she said, 'It's about time.' "

In an odd twist, UCLA can thank LSU for the title. The Tigers' protest led to the disqualification of Texas in the 400-meter relay preliminaries, which allowed UCLA to make it to the finals. The Bruins went on to finish second to LSU in Friday night's 400-relay finals.

UCLA had finished second in the NCAA meet eight times since 1989, five times in Bolden's 11 seasons as head coach. Bolden's Bruins won the NCAA indoor title in 2000 and 2001.

The Bruins, led by Sheena Johnson's impressive win in the 400-meter hurdles, won their fourth national championship of 2004, adding to championships in women's gymnastics, women's golf and softball.

Arkansas scored 65 points to win its 11th outdoor title and 39th national championship in either indoor track, outdoor track or cross country under Coach John McDonnell.

The Razorbacks got a first place from freshman Wallace Spearman in the 200 meters and from senior Chris Mulvaney in the 1,500 Saturday night.

Spearman became the first Arkansas runner to win the 200 in NCAA meet history, a day after teammate Tyson Gay became the first to win the 100 for a school long known only for its distance-running prowess.

Johnson gave UCLA its only individual victory of the day's competition, winning the 400-meter hurdles in 53.54 seconds, fastest in the world this year and second-fastest ever by a collegiate runner.

She said she was motivated by all the attention placed on teams from the track-conscious Southeastern Conference.

"A lot of people talk about Texas, South Carolina, the SEC," Johnson said. "They don't know we can run out on the West Coast too."

Durst was second to LaShaunte Moore of Arkansas in the women's 200 but was disqualified for running inside her lane. LSU appealed the ruling but was denied. That moved LSU's Muna Lee up to second, but cost the Tigers six points in the team race. LSU trailed UCLA by six points going into the 1,600-meter relay.

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