When the NCAA Track and Field Championships get under way in Provo later this week, it won't be without local talent. Seventeen Utah collegians have qualified for the competition, and several of them are strong contenders to earn All-America honors.
Just to qualify for the NCAA meet is no small feat these days. The NCAA qualifying standard of 10.29 in the 100-meter dash, for instance, would have medaled in the 1980 and 1972 Olympic Games.The standards are designed to eliminate all but the 18 to 24 best athletes in each event, but occasionally they cull a top talent. BYU's Ted Mecham, a runner-up in last year's NCAA steeplechase and a heavy favorite to win this year, won't even be in the meet. Neither will teammate Russ Muir, the WAC 800-meter champ and an indoor qualifier. Neither could meet the stiff qualifying standards.
Here is a look at the Utahns who did make the grade:
FRANK FREDERICKS (BYU/Namibia, sophomore, 100, 200 meters, PRs: 10.02, 20.57). With a single race, Fredericks suddenly has become a top threat in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes. He cut an incredible .23 off his PR last Saturday by running 10.02. "We've finally got his start squared away," says Coach Willard Hirschi. "He could do well in both races, especially the 200."
The 200 remains Fredericks' best race - he runs a great turn and sustains well. Some have predicted a repeat finish of the NCAA indoor meet, with Baylor's Michael Johnson first and Fredericks second. But Johnson pulled up lame in the SWC meet, and another top threat, UCLA's Mike Marsh, has been injured much of the season.
PER KARLSSON (BYU/Sweden, freshman, hammer, 215-2). Karlsson was bothered by a back injury much of the season, but in the last two meets he has thrown beyond 213 feet. He is picked to finish fourth.
HUI-CHEN LEE (BYU/Taiwan, junior, javelin, 188-1 1/2). Two years ago Lee finished fourth in the NCAAs, but last year she slumped to 12th. She's throwing better this year, and is picked to finish fourth.
TERI OKELBERRY (Weber State/Ogden, senior, javelin, 177-1). Like Lee, Okelberry, in the words of Coach Jim Blaisdell, "really hasn't popped one yet." Her season best is only 170-11. Okelberry was eighth in the '88 NCAAs, but sixth in the Olympic Trials. She's picked fifth.
ERIC CHESLEY (Utah/Salt Lake City, senior, 400m int. hurdles, 50.42). Just as he has for three years, the 6-foot-6 Chesley had a quiet regular season - he was unable to break 52 seconds and won only a handful of races - but when the Western Athletic Conference championships came around he was ready. He ran 50.42 (breaking his PR of 50.50 set in the '88 WAC meet) to win his third consecutive conference title.
KRIS CARY (Weber/Provo, senior, 3,000m steeplechase, 8:43.82). Cary, who is rated only seventh in Track & Field News' predictions, could be one of the meet's surprises. "I like his chances," says Coach Chick Hislop. "They're better because the meet is at elevation. He knows how to run here. I'm glad there are trials and finals. That will be an advantage for someone with altitude training." Another plus for Cary: he's a Provo native.
BRENDA ALCORN (Utah/Oregon City, Ore., junior, high jump, 6-0). Alcorn, who doubles as a basketball player, set her personal record in winning the High Country Athletic Conference championships for the second consecutive year.
BRENT PATERA (BYU/Oregon City, Ore., sophomore, discus, 189-10). After being stuck in the 170-foot range much of the season, Patera has thrown at least 184-8 in each of the last three meets.
CHRIS WILSON (BYU/Columbus, Ind., junior, high jump, 6-2). If Wilson could return to her winter form, she might very well win the competition. However, since March Wilson has been weakened by repeated illnesses. Her best outdoor mark is only 5-10, which came the last week of the season.
SHAUN McALMONT (BYU/Canada, junior, 400m int. hurdles, 50.60). McAlmont has been running in the high 50-point range since the beginning of the season, but has run no faster (season-best: 50.74).
LANE WHITE (BYU/Phoenix, freshman, pole vault, 17-6 1/2). White is only a freshman, but already former BYU coach Clarence Robison calls him "The best vaulter we've ever had. He'll be a U.S. Olympian someday. He's done 18 feet in practice."
CATHY JAMES (BYU/Orem, freshman, discus, 175-9). Another rising freshman, James qualified last week with her PR throw. As Coach Craig Poole says, "If she throws that far again, she'll place."
JOHN KELLY (Utah St./Sandy), senior, javelin, 226-6). Kelly has had been a steady performer this year, which bodes well for the NCAA meet. Another throw in the 225-foot range would be enough to put him in the finals, but he'll probably need another PR to crack the top eight.
CRAIG CARTER (Utah St./Clearfield, hammer, 204-3). Carter has been in the 200-foot range consistently and, according to Coach Greg Gensel, "He's been throwing well in practice. He threw 208 last week."
CHRISTY OPARA (BYU/Nigeria, freshman, long jump, 20-10 3/4). Another late qualifier, Opara could place with a repeat of her performance last Saturday.
LOLA OGUNDE (Utah St./Nigeria, senior, 100 meters, 11.55). Ogunde, the three-time HCAC 100 champ, qualified with a wind-aided mark of 11.49. She'll need a big PR to place in the NCAAs.