Kevin King missed the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships last year with the flu, so the Georgetown senior wasn't taking any chances in his 3,000-meter semifinal today at Syracuse University's Carrier Dome.
"It's foolish to play around in the heats because you can get burned," he said after running a meet-record 7:57.13 to win his heat and assure himself a berth in Saturday's 3 p.m. championship race.
Six of 12 other Washington-area athletes also advanced. Georgetown sophomore Miles Irish was the only one who came into his event (1,000-meter run) as the top seed. But Irish didn't have it easy, narrowly qualifying as the third finisher in his heat in 2:24.1 after losing his lead on the final stretch.
"I was just tired. It's too late in the day," said Irish, whose race ended at 10:20 p.m.
John Hinton, Virginia's only representative at the meet, was one of the runners who surged by Irish at the finish. Hinton was second in 2:23.84.
Others to advance included long jumpers Ray Humphrey of Georgetown, who is in third place in the men's event with a leap of 25 feet 4 inches, just behind Olympic silver medalist and defending champion Mike Conley of Arkansas; and Howard's Teresa Allen, who went 20-2 1/2 in the women's long jump.
Two Howard runners qualified for the men's final in the 500-meter dash. Anton Skerritt (1:02.92) won his heat and Richard Louis (1:02.51), who had failed to qualify earlier in the 400, placed second in his heat.
The chances of two team-title contenders were dimmed when the defending women's champion, Nebraska, lost Olympian Angela Thacker to an injury and two Olympic medalists from the Washington State men's team -- Julius Korir in the 3,000 and Gabriel Tiacah in the 400 -- were upset.