March 02, 2001 11:00 pm

By The Observer

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. On her ninth All-American performance of her four-year track and field career at Eastern Oregon University, April Haney finally won a national championship.

The Union native led the pack in the 20-pound weight throw Friday night with a throw of 53 feet, 7 inches at the NAIA National Indoor Track and Field Championships.

Haneys teammate, junior Leah Merrell, was second in the event at 52-6.

The 18 points earned by Haney and Merrell put the Mountaineers into a tie for first place with Doane (Neb.) after the first of two days of competition.

In indoor and outdoor track and field, at NAIA and NCAA Division III meets, Haney now has nine All-American performances in the weight throw, hammer throw and shot put. Today, she competes in the shot put, where she is ranked third coming into the meet.

Haney, a senior, was the top-ranked weight thrower this season and is ranked fourth among NCAA Division III qualifiers for that meet, scheduled for March 9-10 in Oshkosh, Wisc. She will also throw the shot at that meet.

Merrell is now a seven-time All-American in indoor and outdoor competition in the weight and hammer throws. She will also compete at the NCAA Division III meet in the weight throw.

Merrell won a national championship last year in the hammer throw at the NCAA Division III outdoor meet.

The national title was Easterns first at the indoor nationals since Kristen Peterson won the pole vault in 1998.

In other womens results, junior Lindsey Ulrich qualified for todays finals in the 3,000-meter run with a time of 10 minutes, 23.94 seconds, the fourth-fastest qualifier.

Senior Jill Heinz failed to qualify for the finals in the womens 800, finishing 15th in 2:27.62.

For the Mountaineer men, senior Ben Gall qualified for todays finals in the 3,000 with a time of 8:54.97.