Some of the nation's top high school athletes say they will come to South Carolina, regardless of whether the Confederate battle flag continues to fly over the statehouse.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has started a tourism boycott of the state until the flag is removed and has talked about asking black athletes to avoid the state. But several black athletes told the Charlotte Observer that the flag debate is not their highest priority.

"I would say when you make it big, you come out and say you don't support it," said Carl Smalls, a defensive lineman from Charleston who has given an oral commitment to play for South Carolina. "But you don't give up an opportunity now."

Supporting the boycott won't get him drafted into the NFL, Smalls said. Playing at South Carolina, he said, gives him a better chance.

The real test will come Wednesday, when football recruits are allowed to sign letters-of-intent.

Recruiting coordinators at South Carolina and Clemson would not comment.

"These are 17- and 18-year-old kids, and they're worried about other things," said Fred Hamilton, football coach at Battery Creek High School near Beaufort, S.C. "When they become a little more worldly, it might have significance to them. They've got so much else to deal with now."

Basketball coaches such as South Carolina's Eddie Fogler, Citadel's Pat Dennis, Furman's Larry Davis, South Carolina State's Cy Alexander and Winthrop's Gregg Marshall have called for the flag's removal.

The Southern Conference has agreed to move its 2001 men's and women's basketball tournaments from Greenville if the flag is still flying, and an NCAA regional men's basketball tournament in 2002 in Greenville is imperiled by the boycott.

Running

Olympic Hopeful Jogs

A 31-year-old Olympic hopeful jogged for 18 minutes just a day after her skull was fractured when she was hit by a car while training for next month's U.S. Marathon trials.

Laurie Corbin, who also broke her nose in the early morning accident Monday in Denville, N.J., still intends to compete in the 26-mile 385-yard trial in Columbia, S.C., Feb. 26.

"It's something I really worked hard for," Corbin told the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. "I'm just honored to be one of the people who gets to go."

Corbin did not return a telephone call left at her home by the Associated Press. She was released from Morristown Memorial Hospital Tuesday and stopped at Boonton High School on her way home to keep alive her streak of running every day for five years.

"I didn't want it to end," she said.

Corbin jogged slowly with Guy Gordon, a regular running partner. Doctors want her to run with someone else for the next couple of weeks to make sure she doesn't fall, the newspaper reported.

Winter Sports

No Snow, No Go?

Olympic organizers in Salt Lake City said they will haul snow in from Colorado if that's what it takes to stage next week's scheduled U.S. biathlon national championships in Soldier Hollow, Utah.

Rain and temperatures in the upper thirties have turned the venue for cross-country skiing and biathlon events at the 2002 Winter Games into a mud bog.

Warm temperatures also have threatened the World Cup women's downhill races scheduled Feb. 6-12 north of Salt Lake City at Snowbasin, site of the women's Olympic downhill.

Another Olympic venue was less fortunate. Yesterday, SLOC and U.S. Ski Team officials said women's World Cup downhill and Super-G races scheduled Feb. 11-12 at Snowbasin near Ogden will be moved, probably to Europe.

Also canceled was a women's slalom Feb. 6 at Deer Valley near Park City. Although the latter venue had sufficient snow, FIS rules call for cancelation of both events of a combined if one is unable to stage an event. . . .

Jani Soininen won his first World Cup title in two seasons, beating Austrian Andreas Widhoelzl by a half-point. Soininen's win came at Hakuba Stadium in Japan, where two years ago the Finn won an Olympic gold medal.

Soininen had 251.1 points on jumps of 121 and 131 meters. Ville Kantee of Finland was third.

The victory moved Soininen from seventh to fifth with 574 points in the World Cup standings. Germany's Martin Schmitt is the overall leader. . . .

Matthieu Bozzetto of France won the men's final, and Ursula Fingerlos took the women's event as a three-day FIS World Cup competition in Tandadalen, Sweden, started with giant slalom races.

Bozzetto beat Felix Stadler of Austria in the final for his season-high third win. Bozzetto, last year's overall champion, leads Nicolas Huet 3,940 points to 3,160 in the standings.

Soccer

Tranmere Gains Final

Tranmere of England's First Division reached the final of next month's League Cup with a 3-0 victory over First Division Bolton, winning the home-and-home semifinals on 4-0 aggregate.

Tranmere will meet either Aston Villa or Leicester--both of the Premier League. Those two clubs played a scoreless tie in the first leg and will play the second leg next week. . . .

Lazio eliminated Juventus of Turin from the Italian Cup with a 2-1 victory that advanced the Roman team to a semifinal against Venezia.

Lazio and Juventus finished the home-and-home series tied 4-4, and Lazio advanced because of more away goals. Venezia tied Florentine 1-1, and also advanced on away goals.

Argentine midfielder Diego Simeone headed in the game-winner at Rome's Olympic Stadium with 10 minutes left.

Auto Racing

NASCAR All-Stars

Four-time series champion Mark Martin, fellow NASCAR stars Dale Jarrett and Jeff Burton and Indy Racing League driver Mark Dismore round out the dozen all-stars who will take part in the 2000 International Race of Champions Series.

The rest of the lineup for the four-race all-star series includes NASCAR's Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart, Rusty Wallace and Dale Earnhardt Jr., as well as IRL competitors Eddie Cheever and Greg Ray.

The IROC series beings Feb. 18 in Daytona Beach, Fla.