News13 Mar 2005

Clement demolishes Johnson’s World Indoor 400m record


Kerron Clement of the University of Florida (© Kirby Lee)

Kerron Clement of the University of Florida set a stunning new World indoor record of 44.57 for the 400 metres to highlight the second and last day of the NCAA Indoor Championships yesterday (Sat 12 March).

I try not to use superlatives too often, but Clement's performance can be fairly described as awesome. The pace was all-out from the gun, and when the four-man field broke from lanes at 150 metres, Clement wrested the lead from Kelly Willie of Lousiana State. He fled past the 200-metre mark in 21.08 (!), and powered down the backstretch with no sign of weakening. Of course he was going slower, but you couldn't tell it without a stop watch. In the home stretch, using his arms to hold form, he still showed none of the signs of "rig" that you might expect from someone going that fast.

Clement crossed the finish line seven metres ahead of Terry Gatson of Arkansas, second in 45.29, a time faster than any previous NCAA championship. Imagine breaking the meet record in a meeting this important - and losing by 7m!

The former World indoor record of 44.63 was held by no less than Michael Johnson. LaShawn Merritt's previous collegiate record of 44.93, which was set on this track and seemed important enough to (1) merit the cover of Track & Field News and (2) induce Nike put up a bundle of money to induce Merritt to turn professional, lasted just four weeks.

And can anyone remember Jeremy Wariner?

Of course, this sets up a 400-metre "Race of the Century" (hey, it's only a young century) at the USATF outdoor championships next June in Los Angeles.  With Clement, Merritt and Wariner - plus another half dozen, including Olympic silver and bronze medalists Otis Harris and Derrick Brew and relay gold medallist Darold Williamson, who finished fourth in last night's 400 but showed he's not to be ignored by finishing the evening with a 44.44  anchor leg in the 4x400 relay - and, honest, several others who might have a chance to make the U.S. team for Helsinki.

Other standouts...

But I digress. There were several other performances worthy of mention here today. In the women’s 20-pound weight throw, Candice Scott of the University of Florida and Trinidad fell only 6cm short of Erin Gilreath's World Best mark with a first-round effort of 24.17m. Aarik Wilson of Indiana University completed a good horizontal-jump double, adding a 16.92 Triple Jump to his 8.17 Long Jump of Friday (11 March). Amy Menlove took a single Long Jump try in the Pentathlon and posted a 6.67 jump which put her at No.8 in the U.S. all-time indoor list. And the virtually unknown Kevin Hicks of Florida A&M University won his second major 800m title in two weeks. In Boston on February 27, Hicks won the USATF 800 in 1:48.73 with a strong finishing kick; here, he won the NCAA 800 in 1:46.97 with a strong finishing kick.

Clement returns for relay!

Finally, getting back to the 400m. Tiandra Ponteen of St Kitts and Florida won a close, fast thriller in the women’s division from Hazel-Ann Regis of Grenada and Louisiana State, 50.91 to 50.92. And the 4x400 Relays were won in excellent times: the women's in 3:30.01 by the University of South Carolina, and the men's in a collegiate record 3:03.51 by Florida, anchored by - Kerron Clement - who jogged the last 80 metres and still split 45.2.

Guess it was his night.

Jim Dunaway for the IAAF 

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