March 9, 2001
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Sophomore Michael Westlund erased memories of last year and senior Bambi Carson got some memories for a lifetime Friday night during the first day of competition at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship. A facility record crowd of 5,371 packed the Randall Tyson Track Center.
Westlund finished 12th last year as a freshman. In his second trip to the NCAA Indoor, Westlund, two weeks after the Choctaw vaulter won the Big 12 title, took the lead on the first height, clearing 16-10.75. He continued to jump cleanly and was the only vaulter to clear the first three heights of the competition without a miss, taking the lead into the fourth height of the competition.
Westlund barely missed his first attempt at 18-3.75, then hit the bar with his foot on the way up on his second attempt. His third attempt, the best one he had at the height, cleared the bar but he lightly brushed the bar on the way down and watched the bar bounce twice before it came down to eliminate him from the competition.
"I really had good attempts tonight," said Westlund. "Third place is third place but it's so much better than last year. I had a good try on the first jump at 18-3.75 and a better one on the third try. Now, I have to turn my attention to outdoor and use this performance to build from."
His third-place height was three inches better than his season best, also recorded at the Randall Tyson Track Center back in January.
While Westlund led from the start, Carson posted her best throw in the preliminary round then had to hold on in her first trip to an NCAA Indoor Championship.
Carson threw 51-11 on her second throw and was seventh after the preliminary rounds. She didn't improve her mark on her first two attempts in the final, then fouled on her final throw to stay in seventh place.
"I was happy with the throwing order in the prelims because I was throwing first in the second flight," Carson explained. "Then, I had to wait through seven more competitors after my last throw to see if I had advanced to the final. I thought 51-11 would get me there but I decided it was tough to sit and wait."
Carson only posted her NCAA automatic qualifying mark last Friday at the ISU Invitational, a meet she didn't decide to attend until three days before.
"I thought the mark I had (51-8.25) would get me in but I was so unhappy with my performance at the Big 12 Championship that I thought I needed one more competition before nationals. It all came together in Ames on the final throw. I finally did what Coach (Pete) Kron's been telling me for years I could do. He's told me that I could compete with the best in the country and I thought I believed him. I don't think, though, that I really did until I got the mental maturity that came last summer when I was training for the Olympic Trials.
"My first goal was to get to the NCAA and I did that. My second goal was to earn All-America honors and I did that. I didn't get to the third goal (winning the title) but the outdoor season starts next week and I'm going to use this to build from. This has been a very, very sucessful weekend and the outdoor season is my favorite."
The Sooners had two other competitors on Friday. Senior Alesha Peel finished 10th in the prelims in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.34, just .05 from the final qualifying time. Junior Ernest Lewis finished 16th in the 400-meter dash with a 47.34. Peel may still earn All-America honors as one of the top eight Americans in the event.
OU will have one individual, 16th-ranked Leslie Dunlap in the pole vault, and the fifth-ranked 1600-meter relay competing on Saturday. Lewis will run on that relay with Moses Washington, an All-American in 1999 on the relay as a freshman, and 2000 All-Americans Raoul Harvey and LaBoris Bean.