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LSU WIDENS MARGIN IN WOMEN’S CONTEST

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Talk about a veritable smorgasbord of track highlights from Friday's first full day of women's finals at the 1989 NCAA Track and Field Championships at the BYU Stadium.

Hometown participant makes good by triumphing in the long jump. A former hometown girl takes the high jump title. Louisiana State leaps out to the lead in the team standings with record-setting performances in the 200-meter run and the 400-meter relay. The 3,000-meter champion remains the same for the third straight year. And the most thrilling finish comes in a come-from-behind victory in the 800.After qualifying for the NCAAs less than a week ago, BYU's Christy Opara earned a national long jump title with a winning leap of 21 feet, 2 1/2 inches. (See story above.)

But the big story - not an unexpected one - is how LSU has jumped out to a dominating lead in the women's team standings with 44 points to UCLA's 30. Nebraska (21), Harvard (18) and Arizona (15) round out the women's top five after the meet's first 10 events.

Many of the Lady Tigers points came in the 200, with Dawn Sowell setting collegiate, NCAA championship meet and stadium records with a blistering 22.04, with '88 champion Mary Onyali of Texas Southern second at 22.45. LSU's esther Jones racked up more team points by finishing fourth.

"I wanted to run a 21-something today, but that's OK - I'll take what I got," said Sowell, a senior transfer from Texas who at this time last year was sitting out of collegiate track in Austin, Texas, waiting for a shot at the U.S. Olympic Trials.

Sowell has been projected as one of the nation's top sprinters for several years but, in the minds of some, has failed to reach her potential - until now. "I don't care what other people think - I can't afford to. I just need to run for myself - I used to run for other people."

Later Friday night, Sowell and Jones joined teammates Tananjalyn Stanley and Cinnamon Sheffield to set another trio of records - collegiate, NCAA meet and stadium marks - with a time of 42.50, nearly a half-second better than Florida State's 42.94 set in 1983.

Sowell cruised to a formidable lead during her second leg of the relay, but she passed credit to Stanley, who had passed the baton from the opening leg. "Our freshman ran an 11.1 split, which was great," said Sowell of Stanley, with the LSU foursome having talked about breaking the collegiate mark all season long.

Meanwhile, Vicki Huber of Villanova claimed another victory in the 3,000 - her third straight outdoor title in the event and her fourth NCAA title overall. Having run away from the competition early in the meet, Huber ended with a a stadium-record time of 9:06.96 - more than 20 seconds better than the 9:27.26 posted by runner-up Valerie McGovern of Kentucky.

"I kept telling myself `the altitude is not a problem, the altitude is not a problem," said Huber, who admitted to being nervous prior to her final NCAA appearance. "I went out in front after 600 meters because I felt the pace was too slow."

Three women with ties to the Beehive State earned All-America honors - BYU's Chris Wilson finished in a three-way tie for sixth with a 5-foot-101/2 mark; Utah's Brenda Alcorn was fifth at 5-11 1/2 and Melinda Clark of Texas A&M via BYU finished first with the fewest overall misses after clearing 6- 03/4 along with runner-up Connie Long of Wichita State and third-place finisher Angie Bradburn of Texas.

Clark started her collegiate jumping career at BYU, but a knee that was forever giving out on her was diagnosed as missing an anterior cruciate ligament and required surgery in 1985. "I was told that I possibly would never jump again," said Clark, whose rehab included a season with the BYU basketball team before a marriage that later turned sour took her to Texas A&M.

She came into Friday's competition suffering for assorted hip and foot injuries - the latter being a torn soft tissue. Favoring the sore foot, she passed on several shorter heights, while other competitors needed two jumps to make those same marks. "My foot hurt and I didn't want to jump much today - that was my only strategy."

While we're talking strategy, how about the preconceived catch-up-and-come-from-behind triumph by Harvard's Mereidth Rainey, who was picked to finish third in the 800 and found herself in that spot approaching the final straightaway. "I had been visualizing this race over and over and it was happening just as I had dreamed," said Rainey, who passed Southern Cal's Michelle Taylor and Iowa State's Edith Nakiyingi down the final 60 meters. "Your dreams don't come true that often - but mine did."

Rounding out Friday's other individual champions - UCLA's Janene Vickers set NCAA meet and stadium marks with a winning 55.27 seconds in the 400-meter hurdles and Arizona's Carla Garrett won the discus with a throw of 190 feet 4 inches.