Lashawn Merritt en route to a dominating 200m victory in Carson (© Kirby Lee)
leading marks were turned in by LaShawn Merritt, Anna Willard, Jenn Stuzynski and Aheza Kiros (ETH) at the adidas Track Classic at the Home Depot Center on Saturday (16 May).
The adidas Track Classic, the third stop on the USATF Visa Championship Series, is one of a select group of Area meetings at which points can be acquired by athletes to qualify for the IAAF / VTB Bank World Athletics Final, to be held on 12-13 September in Thessaloniki, Greece.
Merritt won the 200m in 20.07 to give him the yearly lead in both the 200m and 400m where he has run 44.50.
On the women’s side, Willard clocked 9:26.85 in the 3000m Steeplechase for the fastest time ever run on U.S. soil. American record holder Jenn Stuczynski sailed over 4.76m in the Pole Vault and Kiros timed 14:56.33 in the 5000m, also early season world leads..
Another world best in the men’s 400m Hurdles by Kerron Clement was nullified by improper placement of the eighth hurdle to dampen the World champion’s victory over Olympic gold medallist Angelo Taylor.
In other events, Allyson Felix cruised to victory over Sanya Richards in the 200m, 22.66 to 23.01, in her season opener and Jeremy Wariner won the 400m in 44.66.
Olympic champion Dawn Harper won a competitive women’s 100m Hurdles in 12.78 with Canada’s 2003 World champion Perdita Felicien in second in 12.83 and 2005 and 2007 global champion Michelle Perry in third in 12.84.
Bernard Lagat outkicked Nate Brannen to win the 1500m, 3:36.36 to 3:37.03.
Merritt and Wariner dominate the long sprints
The anticipation for a 400m matchup between Merritt and Wariner continued to intensify after their respective victories on Saturday.
Olympic 400m champion Merritt dropped down to the 200m to win decisively in 20.07 over Xavier Carter (20.71) and Kelly Willie (20.73). Athens Olympic champion Shawn Crawford was sixth in 20.82.
Merritt said he ran conservatively after feeling a calve cramp in the starting blocks but was satisfied with the effort which he called a confidence builder for his upcoming 400m race at the Reebok Grand Prix in New York on 30 May.
“I started building when the gun went off,” Merritt said. “Nobody got away from me. I was in good shape when I came off the curve. As long as I didn’t let them get away from me, I knew I was in good shape.”
Wariner was equally dominant in the 400m en route to a season-best 44.66. Chris Brown (BAH) was second in 45.03 and Rennie Quow (TRI) was third in 45.05.
Wariner has reunited with former coach Clyde Hart in an effort to regain his consistency and put behind what he called a “disappointing” 2008 season.
“I use (the 2008) season as fuel to have a better one this year,” Wariner said. “Last season upset me, but helped me refocus for this season to get back to where I want to be.”
“The time will come to run with LaShawn,” said Wariner, who took Olympic silver behind Merritt in Beijing.
Stuczynski dominates Pole Vault
Stucyznski failed to set an American record as she had at this meeting the last two years but the 2008 Olympic silver medallist was equally dominant on Saturday.
Stuczynski passed before opening with a second-attempt clearance of 4.62m to win after her competitors had all been eliminated. Stuczynski cleared 4.76m on her first try and then took three attempts at an American record of 4.93m.
Stacy Dragila was second at 4.42m and Gao Shuying (CHN) and April Steiner-Bennett were third and fourth, both at 4.27m.
Stuczynski said she has taken a conservative approach to her training for the outdoor season because of cold weather in her native New York as well as a desire to be fresh in August for the World Championships.
“I am getting out a little late this year,” Stuczynski said.
Willard Wins Steeplechase in season debut
Willard ran a solo effort in the 3000m Steeplechase to win in 9:26.85 and record the fastest time ever run in the U.S. and the fifth fastest performance ever by an American. Lindsey Anderson was second in 9:37.88 and Lindsay Allen, a recent Stanford grad who now trains in Flagstaff, Ariz., was third in 9:47.21.
Willard, who was paced by Jamaican Mardrea Hyman in the early stages, ran a world-leading 4:06.50 in the 1500m at the Payton Jordan Invitational two weeks ago but wasn’t sure what to expect in the steeple on Saturday.
Willard, a Beijing Olympics finallist, had hoped to approach her PB of 9:22.76 but found it difficult pushing herself alone over the final laps.
“I’m in good shape but running a fast 1500m and the steeplechase aren’t the same because the hurdles make a big difference,” Willard said. “I was kind of going for a PR. I'm a little disappointed. I respond to competition a lot more than running out there by myself. I need someone breathing down my neck.”
Ethiopian 5000m sweep by Kiros and Gebremeskel
The win by Kiros in the women’s 5000m in 14:56.33 and Gebremeskel in the men’s 5000m in 13:16.52 gave Ethiopia a sweep of the races in Saturday’s meet that was pushed back to a twilight competition to facilitate faster times.
The time by Kiros was a career-best and her first time under 15:00. She powered away from compatriot Ejegayehu Dibaba, who was second in 15:07.45, to run unchallenged in the waning laps.
Former NCAA standout Sally Kipyego of Kenya passed American record holder Shalane Flanagan to finish third, 15:09.03 to 15:10.86.
The men’s 5000m was a duel between Gebremeskel and Irishman Alistair Cragg.The pair traded the lead over the final circuit with Gebremeskel passing Cragg on the outside in lane three to win 13:16.52 to 13:16.83.
Felix runs 22.66 in 200m opener
Felix, who ran 50.75 in the 400m in the Qatar Super Grand Prix in Doha last week, called her 200m effort on Saturday “a bit shaky” and her turnover not up to par.
Felix, though, had enough in reserve to turn back Richards and 2004 World Junior Champion Shalonda Solomon (23.10) and collegiate indoor record holder Bianca Knight (23.11).
“I knew the endurance would be there, but not the speed,” Felix said.
Confusion in the 400m Hurdles
Kerron Clement won the 400m Hurdles in 48.38 after outdueling 2008 Olympic champion Angelo Taylor (48.70) and 2004 Olympic gold medallist Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic (48.95) down the stretch.
However, it was later discovered that the eighth flight of hurdles was placed approximately 20m from the seventh flight instead of the regulation 35m.
Clement took the mistake in stride saying his experience as a high hurdler helped him compensate for the unexpected stagger. A noticeably agitated Taylor, however, called the race a wasted effort and vowed to not to return to Carson.
“We ran for nothing. I knew it was something wrong at hurdle seven,” Taylor said. “I can’t run on this track. I was sliding the whole race. There’s no point in continuing the race once one hurdle is on the wrong mark. This meet doesn’t mean anything. I’m a championship runner. I’m training for the championship meet.”
Triumphant homecoming for Jeter in the women’s 100m
Carmelita Jeter won the women’s 100m in 11.09 competing on her former college track at the Home Depot Center on the campus of Cal State Dominguez Hills. Jeter powered away to win comfortably over former LSU teammates Muna Lee and Stephanie Durst, who were second and third both timed in 11.22.
Darvis Patton won the men’s 100m over Daniel Bailey (ANT), 10.12 to 10.14. Steve Mullings (JAM) and Derrick Atkins (BAH) were third and fourth in identical times of 10.19.
Hazel Clark won the women’s 800m in 2:01.40 in a race in which the top three finishers eclipsed the previous meet record. Jenna Simpson (CAN) was second in 2:01.58 and Christin Wurth-Thomas was third in 2:01.58.
Kenia Sinclair won a tactical 1500m in 4:13.16 with the top six finishers separated by less than 0.8 seconds. Jordan Hasay, a high school senior who placed fourth in the 2008 IAAF World Junior Championships, was 11th in 4:16.92.
Terrence Trammell beat Antwon Hicks to win the 110m Hurdles, 13.39 to 13.35. Ian Waltz, who tore an abductor muscle at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials, won the Discus at 61.70m over Jarred Rome (61.59m) and Adam Kuehl (60.64).
Natasha Hastings made a strong homestretch charge to overtake Novlene Williams (JAM) to win the women’s 400m, 51.46 to 51.83. Dwight Phillips was a winner in the Long Jump at 8.37m and Yvette Lewis bounded 13.82m to win the women’s Triple Jump.
Kirby Lee for the IAAF