Belt holds up Cards' honor with crown

March 11, 2007|by BOB PARASILITI

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Denny Crum. Pervis Ellison. Tone Belt?

The first two names are a major part of sports lore at the University of Louisville. They were the coach and key player on one of the Cardinals' 1980 and 1986 NCAA basketball national championship teams.

Belt joined the exclusive list and added to the trophy case in his own special way on Friday.

The sophomore from Berkeley Springs, W.Va., gave Louisville its third-ever national and first-ever individual title by winning the long jump at the 2007 NCAA Indoor Championships at the University of Arkansas' Randal Tyson Track Center.

Belt recorded a school record of 26 feet, 1 3/4 inches on his second attempt to dominate the field of 15 of the nation's best collegiate long jumpers.


"It feels very good to win this title, but I don't want to get too excited because I'll be back tomorrow for the high jump competition," said Belt in a release posted on the University of Louisville website.

"I knew after I had the big jump on my second attempt that I had a great shot at a top-three finish and I was able to pull it off."

Belt, who was ranked in the Top 10 in the high jump, tied for 12th in the event at 7-0 1/4.

He is now a three-time NCAA All-America performer after earning a pair of fifth-place finishes in the long jump and high jump at the 2006 NCAA Outdoor Championships. Friday's jump broke Belt's previous school-record mark of 26-1 set while winning the Big East Conference title on Feb. 17 and the nation's top mark entering this weekend.

Earlier in the week, Belt was named 2007 Southeast Region Men's Indoor Field Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

The sophomore is unbeaten in the long jump against collegiate competition in 2007. In less than two full seasons, Belt is a two-time NCAA outdoor All-America performer and a five-time Big East champion.

Belt's national title is a big leap in bringing Louisville's track and field program to the national forefront. Prior to the 2006 outdoor championships, the Cardinals' men's and women's track and field programs had combined for a total of four All-Americans all-time. In the last eight months alone, the Cards have had five All-America performances.

"My focus wasn't on winning a national title for me or my own personal record, it was about doing whatever I could for this program to succeed," Belt said. "We had so many other athletes that were very close to getting here."

And the title meant a lot to one personal Belt fan.

"I know I will be pretty excited when I get a chance to talk to my Mom on the phone later tonight because this will mean a lot to her," he said.

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