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Lekote defends 800 metre title at NCAAs


Bob Ramsak for the IAAF

31 May 2002 - Baton Rouge, USA - A strong performance by defending 800 metre champion Otukile Lekote and two surprisingly fast 400 metre hurdle races highlighted the third day of the NCAA Championships.

As expected, South Carolina sophomore Otukile Lekote successfully defended his 800 metre title, taking command from the start en route to a 1:45.17, the second fastest time of the season.

The 23 year-old from Ramotswa, Botswana, led the field through the first 200 metres in 23.9 and a very fast 50.40 through the first 400 metres.

“That was my intention—to take the race out fast and still come home the last 400.  I wanted to get my opponents tired to be by myself at the finish line.”

Next on his agenda is preparation for the Commonwealth Games in July.

“The shape I’m in right now is the right shape.  If I can be able to maintain that shape and work a little bit harder closer to the competition, I will be able to make the final in Manchester.”

Sam Burley, a sophomore from Penn State, utilized a strong kick down the homestretch to finish second in 1:45.39 in a race in which the second through sixth place finishers all acheived personal bests.

Ricky Harris of Florida surprised even himself after winning the 400 metre hurdles in 48.16, the second-fastest time in the world this year.

“I did not expect to run 48.16,” said Harris, the 2001 NCAA indoor 400 champion.  “I expected to run about 48.5.  I’m very impressed with myself.  The main difference in this race was that I actually sprinted the first 200.”  Harris competes Saturday in the 400, where he is among the favorites.

In the women’s race, the capacity crowd witnessed a World Junior Record by South Carolina freshman Leshinda Demus.  Her time of 54.85 shatterd Leslie Maxey’s previous best of 55.20 set in 1984.

“I knew we had a fast crowd, and I knew it would be a fast time.  It felt fast.”  Going into the race, did she know what the World Junior Record was?  “No,” she replied, laughing.  “But I do now.”  Deemus will also compete in Saturday’s 400 metre final, but admits she prefers the barriers race.  “It’s a more relaxed race.  But this definitely gives me a boost for tomorrow.”

Teammate Tiffany Ross, also a freshman, was second in 55.22.

Louisiana State senior jumper Walter Davis made his final meet on his home track an extremely memorable one.  On his last jump in the triple jump competition, the 2000 Olympian leaped a personal best 17.34 to successfully defend his title, just two hours after leading LSU to a thrilling upset victory in the 400 relay.  On Wednesday, Davis also won the long jump with a leap of 8.08.

“It’s going to take a while to realize everything that I won,” Davis said.  It’s like coach (Pat Henry) said, ‘Sunday it might hit me’—what I’ve won and how my career has been going.”

Davis was aiming to break the 57 foot (17.37) barrier, but came just three centimetres short.  “I was really trying for 57.  What better way to do it than at home.  I came up a little short, but I can work on that.”

In the 400 relay, The Tigers crossed the line in 38.48, upsetting the pre-meet favorite Tennessee quartet, who were edged for second by Clemson, 38.82 to 38.83.

Justin Gatlin, who posted a 19.98 in Wednesday’s 200 metre prelims, ws the fasted qualifier in the 100 metre semi finals, running a comfortable 10.05.

In the semi finals of the women’s 100 metre hurdles, Danielle Caruthers of Indiana and Lolo Jones of LSU were the fastest qualifers with 12.84 clockings, with Canadian Perdita Felicien of Illinois posting 12.86.

In their first of two throwing match-ups, South African Jannus Robberts (62.37) won a tight duel with Briton Carl Myerscough (61.76) in the discus.  Both will compete in Saturday’s shot put final.

Thursday evening, Serene Ross of Purdue surprised the appreciative crowd and herslef with a throw of 59.64 in the javelin, setting a new American record.  Her mark added more than a metre to Lynda Blutreich’s previous best, and was an improvement of more than ten metres for the 22 year-old, who finished fourth in the 200 championships.  Lithuanian Austra Skujyte defended her heptathlon championship with a 6,061 point tally, becoming the first collegian to top the 6000 point barrier this year.