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Texas sophomore off to strong start with busy first day

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) Marshevet Hooker had a long but highly successful day in the rain Wednesday at the NCAA track and field championships, a strong start in her effort to lead Texas to the women's team title.

In this order:

The Longhorns' sophomore anchored the fastest 400-meter relay team in the qualifying round, won her first heat in the 100, qualified for the final in the long jump, then after a 10-minute break, ran the fastest 100 semifinal at 11.33.

''A busy day,'' she said. ''I got through it though.''

On her third and final attempt in the long jump, she went 20 feet, 10 inches third-best of the round. She had to shrug off any fatigue in a hurry to take part in the 100, an event she is favored to win.

''A lot of the girls I was running against were going to be pretty fresh,'' Hooker said. ''I just knew I had to keep running no matter what. I just kept running.''

A pair of touted freshmen lived up to their billing in the 100.

Cleo Tyson of Tennessee won her semifinal heat in 11.42.

''The freshmen all over are just working,'' Tyson said. ''You'd better wake up because we're comin'.''

Florida State freshman Walter Dix grumbled about the weather but still had the fastest time in the semifinals at 10.30.

''It was a horrible day as far as weather,'' he said. ''I didn't expect it from California. I'm not used to running in this kind of stuff. I felt pretty `slouchy.' I just wanted to make it through the rounds and get ready for the 200.''

The rain was steady during the early evening, forcing a delay in the pole vault, but it stopped and the sky began to clear as darkness fell.

The meet features 1,088 athletes in four days of competition at Hornet Stadium on the Sacramento State campus, site of the last two U.S. Olympic trials. There were no final events on the opening day.

The men's 100 field was depleted by the absence of two of the nation's top collegiate sprinters, Steve Mullings and Tyson Gay.

Mullings, a Mississippi State junior whose 10.06 tied Dix for the fastest collegiate time this season, was banned from competition for two years by the Jamaican athletic federation last week for his positive test for steroids at last year's Jamaican championships. He was eligible to compete in the NCAA meet, though, but withdrew on Tuesday.

Gay, an Arkansas senior and the event's defending champion, was disqualified because of a false start in the Mideast Regional.

Tennessee sophomore Tianna Madison had the best long jump mark by more than a foot at 22-0¼.

Virginia Powell of Southern California shot out to a big lead and won her heat in the 100 hurdles in a personal-best 12.73 seconds.

Just 76 points separated the top four through five events of the decathlon. Andrew Levin of Montana led with 4,023 points, followed by William Thomas of Connecticut at 3,991 and Texas teammates Donovan Kilmartin (3,964) and Trey Hardee (3,947).

Darold Williamson of Baylor and Monique Henderson of UCLA, both part of Olympic gold-medal 1,600 relay teams in Athens, qualified easily for the 400 semifinals.

Andrew Ellerton of Michigan was the fastest qualifier in the men's 800 preliminaries at 1:47.88. The favorite, U.S. Olympian Jonathan Johnson of Texas Tech, qualified ninth out of the 15 who advanced to the Thursday night's semifinals.

Johnson, a senior, set the stadium record at 1:44.77 in last year's Olympic Trials and made it to the semifinals in Athens. He said a successful defense of his NCAA title would just be the start of a big season.

''I've still got a long season ahead of me,'' Johnson said. ''Obviously, I've got the NCAAs, then I've got the U.S. championships and once I make the team, the world championships. I'm also going to run some meets over in Europe. So this is just a stepping stone to kind of get me ready for the real outdoor season.''

There were no casualties among the team title contenders in the men's 400 relay preliminaries, with Arkansas, Florida and LSU all advancing to Friday's final.

Florida State needed a strong anchor leg by Dix to barely make the final with the eighth-fastest time, 39.30, five-hundredths of a second ahead of Houston.

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