AN UNLIKELY CANDIDATE

May 28, 2001 12:00 am

By The Observer

ABBOTSFORD, British Columbia Danielle Spiekermeier was an unlikely candidate for an All-American performance at the NAIA National Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

But thats what the Eastern Oregon junior accomplished Saturday, finishing sixth in the womens 1,500-meter run in a personal-best 4 minutes, 37.96 seconds.

Spiekermeier was ranked 20th coming into the meet and had to enter on a provisional qualifier of 4:49.35. But she was third in her preliminary heat Thursday in 4:41.63 and shaved 3 seconds more in the final.

Eszter Erdelyi of Central Methodist (Mo.) won in 4:30.34.

It was an incredible performance to take that much time off from the entry time, Eastern Oregon coach John Spatz said. She was just able to step it up to a different level. Now that shes at that level I think youll see more performances like that from her. She didnt hold anything back at any time.

With about 300 meters to go, Spiekermeier moved into sixth place, the cutoff for All-American honors. She beat out seventh-place Andrea Overstreet of Concordia (Neb.) by 3 seconds.

Spiekermeier became the third All-American for Eastern at the meet. April Haney and Leah Merrell were All-Americans with second- and third-place finishes in the hammer throw Thursday, and Haney added an All-American performance in the shot put later that day with a fourth-place showing.

Both Merrell and Haney, however, were ranked high going into the national meet and have 23 All-American honors between them.

The three points from Spiekermeier put the Mountaineers in a tie for 15th place with 23 points, the most in school history at a national meet. Life (Ga.) and Doane (Neb.) tied for the team championship with 59 points.

Eastern Oregons Ben Gall raced in the finals of the mens 5,000 Saturday and finished 15th in 15:35.80. Gall had been plagued by cramps in Thursdays running of the 10,000 but worked through them in Fridays 5,000 semifinal to reach Saturdays final.

Everything just wasnt 100 percent, Spatz said. Were kind of waiting and hoping that one of these days at a national meet everything will work out for him.

At the 1999 conference cross country meet in La Grande, Gall had an attack of appendicitis, finished the race and had his appendix removed later that day. He raced at nationals two weeks later but did not run well.

Alexis Sharangabo of Brevard College won the 5,000 in 14:20.23.