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02.03.2001 Sports News

Don't blink Owusu's speed makes her a competitor for Big 12 champion

By Daily Nebraskan Online
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As if Nebraska's Lesley Owusu needed any additional motivation for the Big 12 Indoors.

When Owusu sprints in pursuit of her first Big 12 championship in the 400-meter on Saturday, her father will be cheering her on. David Owusu is from England and has never seen his daughter compete as a Husker.

Some advice for the elder Owusu: Don't blink or you might miss her.

Lesley Owusu is the type of athlete that brings football fans to track meets. She is the type of athlete that makes long jumpers and shot putters delay their routine a little longer so they can watch her.

Owusu walks on to the track, and everybody puts down their popcorn. Her methodic, graceful strides have a tendency to make you forget about the existence of the other competitors. You just know she's going to win.

It wasn't always that way for the senior from Slough Berkshire, England.

Owusu's time of 54.47 in last year's National Indoors placed her 15th. Though she is a three-time All American, the NU sprinter has made her final season with the Huskers her breakthrough year.

Her season-best time of 52.72 in the 400-meter is the second fastest in the nation this year. Owusu has also set a provisional-qualifying mark in the 200.

"I've disciplined myself and pretty much run my butt off," said Owusu, who almost went to Iowa State out of high school instead of Nebraska. "I dedicated myself a lot more this year in terms of the volume and the intensity of my training."

Owusu, who was NU's most improved track athlete in 2000, found out how good she really was on Feb. 10 in Arkansas.

Competing against Demetria Washington and Miki Barber, known as the nation's top two 400 runners, Owusu placed second with a time of 52.74. Washington won the race; Barber, the reigning national champion, was third.

Though admittedly nervous before the race, Owusu's performance gained her respect. She plans on carrying that new confidence into nationals in two weeks.

"I can be confident to say that my goal is to go out there and win," Owusu said. "It's a realistic goal. I shouldn't aim for anything less than first place."

Owusu, who just missed making the British Olympic team last summer, plans on qualifying for the World Championships and World University Games after this season.

Her rise to the top hasn't been accomplished by taking any shortcuts, Sprint Coach Steve Smith said.

"She's always trained hard, but she's kind of rededicated herself."

Owusu's interests reach beyond the track. A broadcasting major who has received academic All-Big 12 honors, she even has her own radio show on KZUM on Friday nights.

"She's really involved in a lot of activities," Smith said. "She's pretty organized.

"But right now track's a big priority."

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