This weekend, they're battling to be crowned the fastest man in college. This summer, they'll compete for the title of fastest man on earth.
Ato Boldon of UCLA and Obadele Thompson of UTEP had the fastest times Thursday in the preliminary heats of the 100-meter dash at the NCAA championships. The 100 semifinals are tonight, with the final on Saturday.Boldon won his heat in 10.06 seconds. Thompson won his preliminary in a wind-aided 10.09. Defending NCAA champion Tim Harden of Kentucky won another heat in 10.26.
The Caribbean rivalry between Boldon, from Trinidad, and Thompson, from Barbados, already has developed into one of the best in college athletics - and in the track world.
Boldon has the fastest legal time in the world this year of 9.93, while Thompson ran a wind-aided 9.69 - the fastest ever under any conditions - earlier this spring.
There were only three finals Thursday, as well as the completion of the heptathlon.
Eric Bishop of North Carolina, a redshirt freshman who admitted he was "scared to death" before the competition, won the high jump by clearing 7 feet, 6 inches. He edged Matt Hemingway of Arkansas, who skipped rope between jumps.
Bishop, whose previous best of 7-41/4 was set in high school in Chatsworth, Ga., listened to the theme from "Mission Impossible" between jumps. He was unable to mark the runway as usual, but that actually helped him relax.
Richard Duncan of Texas won the long jump with a leap of 26-01/4; Teri Steer of Southern Methodist won the women's shot put with a toss of 59 feet on her final throw, and Corissa Yasen of Purdue won the heptathlon with 5,765 points.
LSU's women, seeking their 10th consecutive team title, continued to dominate the preliminaries of the sprints.
D'Andre Hill led qualifying in the 100 at 11.22 seconds, followed by teammate Zundra Feagin in 11.27. The Lady Tigers also had the two fastest times in the heats of the 100-meter hurdles, a day after posting the three best times in the 200 trials.
After five women's events, SMU led the team race with 20 points. Arkansas and Texas had 13 points each to lead the men's competition after four events.
Boldon, bronze medalist in the 100 at the 1995 world championships, was disqualified in the semifinals of the 100 at last year's NCAA meet - but still claims he was mistakenly identified as having a false start.
He stumbled a bit at the beginning of Thursday's qualifying race, but recovered quickly and easily won the heat. After the NCAA meet, Boldon will compete in Europe to prepare for the Olympics.
Boldon went to high school in San Jose, Calif., where he also was a top soccer player. Though he'll continue to live in the United States after he leaves UCLA, he has no plans to become an American citizen.