Carter qualifies for two events, keys two relay squads for ASU

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2003

LORMAN &045; To Greg Carter, there’s no one more important leg on a relay team than the starter.

But when it comes to the core of athletes on Alcorn’s track team, head coach Alecia Shields-Gadson has other ideas.

&uot;I wish I had 10 more Gregs,&uot; said Shields-Gadson, who takes seven men and two women to the NCAA Mideast Regional track and field championships Friday at Saturday at Columbus, Ohio. &uot;He’s a good example, and he keeps everyone motivated. He’s a good kid, a smart kid and has a good work ethic. He’s really the team leader. As he goes, so goes the team.&uot;

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Carter sits in the highest position among Alcorn’s entries into the regional and is the second leg on the 400-meter and mile relay teams that also qualified for the regional meet. He’s was the lone qualifier in the NCAA national meet last spring as he qualified in the 200-meter, a race he currently ranks third in the nation in 20.64 seconds.

&uot;It’s going to be different from last year,&uot; said Carter, the former Natchez High standout sprinter. &uot;Last year I wasn’t experienced, but this time I’m ready. Last year when I made it, it was like I made it to the big time. Now everybody on the entire team wants to do it. I think it’ll be better this year.&uot;

This time around Carter &045; undefeated in the 100 and 200 during his junior and senior seasons in high school &045; comes into the race without that nagging hamstring that bothered him last year. He pulled up in the Southwestern Athletic Conference championships last year and went into the national meet with the third-best time of 20.34 seconds but failed to make it out of the prelims.

This time he’s third again but is in much better shape to keep going. His 20.64 came during the SWAC championships.

&uot;I’ve got some room to improve &045; a lot of room,&uot; Carter said. &uot;I should be faster, but I don’t know. If I can get out of my block, I can get a good time. My strongest point is coming out of the curve and going into the straightaway.&uot;

Carter also qualified in the 100 as he sits 13th at 10.43 seconds he ran also at the SWAC meet. He’s the second legs on the 400-meter and mile relay teams that are also qualified for the regional meet &045; the 400 in 11th at 40.45 seconds and the mile in 11th at 3:10.

&uot;He’s got a lot of potential,&uot; assistant coach Herman Williamson said. &uot;Greg has great range. He also qualified in the 400, but we’re just going to run him in the 100 and 200. We have those up and down seasons with the weather. It did a lot of raining on us. But he has gotten better. Greg is just tapping into his talent.&uot;

Said Shields-Gadson: &uot;The sky is the limit for him. This year he’s really shown what he can do. Next year is going to be his last year, and he’s going to totally concentrate on track. We’re expecting phenomenal things.&uot;

The biggest difference this year may be his absence from Alcorn’s football team. Now in his second season &045; he didn’t run his freshman year because he was at Co-Lin, who didn’t field a team that year &045; he opted not to play for football, which allowed him to focus his attention on track in the spring without springs workouts.

&uot;Last year was my first year coming back,&uot; Carter said. &uot;It was kind of hard coming back after sitting out a year. I’ve been running track since the sixth grade. I went out for football because coach said he needed some speed. But track is my first love. I’ll take track any day.&uot;

Carter’s mates on the relays rank midway through the qualifying times for the regional meet. The 400 relay team of Damien Lightfoot, Carter, Chris Williams and Ryan McKenzie posted that 40.45-second time back on April 12 with the top five times below 40 seconds.

Tennessee’s team leads the nation right now at 38.92 seconds.

&uot;We’ve got a lot of speed, and we’ve got some experience (Lightfoot) running at first leg,&uot; McKenzie said. &uot;With him being such a good first leg starting off, and then we have Greg Carter &045; one of the top sprinters in the nation &045; back to back, Chris Williams can run real well and then it’s me on the fourth leg &045; we fit right in.

&uot;A lot of people who look at track and field will look at the anchor and say you’ll always put your fastest leg at anchor. Any good track coach will put his fastest leg second. You want your two fastest guys second and fourth.&uot;

It’s three of those four who team up in the mile relay with Hunt subbing for Lightfoot but Williams running lead leg and Hunt running third. That 3:10.00 came during the Pelican Relays, but the team ran a 3:09 at the USM Invitational three weeks before the SWAC meet.

While Carter says the chemistry among both teams are much better than last year, he says both &045; along with teammates Louie Dixon, Vincent Johnson and Rushetta Baker, Tiffany Hardison and Raquel Washington on the women’s team &045; will have a shot at knocking off the bigger schools at the regional meet.

While the bigger schools did have the edge last week by housing its athletes on campus to train despite school being out of session &045; Alcorn’s athletes had to go home to train &045; Carter and the others will just disregard that and try to surprise people that athletes from a small, historically black college from southwest Mississippi can compete at this level.

Carter is third in the 200 behind Mississippi State sprinters Marquis Davis and Pierre Brown and is the only one in the top eight not from a major Division I program.

The top five finishers will advance to the national meet in Sacramento, Calif.

&uot;People look at us like we’re a little school up against a big school,&uot; Carter said. &uot;People say, ‘Where is Alcorn?’ But we do well. We’re not scared.&uot;

&uot;We didn’t compete in a lot of SWAC meets this year,&uot; McKenzie said. &uot;We went to Southern Miss, Ole Miss and South Alabama. We’re kind of used to it. We don’t say we’re from Alcorn and they’re supposed to beat us. We feel we can beat anybody now, especially in the 4×4. We’ll be able to see what little Alcorn can do.&uot;