A coaching change seems to have been good for Angela Williams. The 2001 World Indoor 60m Championships silver medallist, won the 55 metres dash in 6.73 at the 43rd Los Angeles Invitational indoor track meet, in front of 5890 spectators at the Sports Arena last night (15 Feb).
In November, the four-time NCAA 100m champion left her longtime coach Ernie Gregoire, who had coached her since her days as an age-group runner, to train with the HSI club and coach John Smith.
Williams, 23, has made an immediate impact on the indoor circuit. Apart from last night’s win, she finished second over 60m in a blanket finish, to Chryste Gaines at last week’s Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden in New York.
”It was a hard decision,” Williams said. “I was sick making that decision because Coach Gregoire is like a father to me. I love him to death. I'll always love him. I know it hurt his feelings but that was not my intentions. It was time to start thinking about me. I had to be selfish.”
Her HSI training partners include former world 100m record holder Maurice Greene, and Jon Drummond, Ato Boldon and Inger Miller. It’s quite a change from her previous training environment with the Southern California Cheetahs where the World Indoor silver medallist had been the group's high-profile athlete since her youth.
”I guess just being with the kids so long, I needed to break from the monotony. Every day, the same people the same location. I needed to do something different to feel that I have moved to the next level. I feel that I am there. I am more serious (with HSI). I am more focused on what I am doing. It's competitive because they kick my butt at practice. The intensity level is so much higher and that's what I was looking for.”
Last night in LA, Williams broke out of the blocks to run unchallenged to the tape on the slippery wooden board track. Brianna Glenn, the 2002 national Long Jump champion, was second in 6.92 and Sani Roseby of UCLA was third in 7.05.
Williams described the ‘mechanics’ of her race, as the most technically sound since her coaching change to Smith in November.
”I have been thinking too much because there are so many things that you had to change in so little time,” Williams said. “Tonight I decided to have fun and let it out. I felt pretty good.”
Kenyan Bernard Lagat continued his dominance in the men's Mile, winning an unprecedented fifth L.A. Invitational title in a row in 3:59.72, by half-a-lap of the 160-yard oval from runner-up Fidel Baretensabe of Burundi (4:14.19). Lagat’s winning streak now surpasses four-time winner Steve Scott (1989-92), and the fame of former L.A. Invitational winners Marty Liquori, Jim Ryun and Eamonn Coghlan. Lagat and Scott are the only milers in the meet's history to win more than two in a row.
”Winning five times in a row makes me feel like I have accomplished something,” Lagat said. “It puts me in a place where young people who will say `You know what? I want to do what he did.' I want to motivate people, who are in high school or college, to do something great or even better.”
While the women's 55m and men's Mile were runaway victories, it took a photo finish to determine the outcome of the men's 55m, where Mickey Grimes edged Jon Drummond, 6.10 to 6.11, in a match-up between teammates from the U.S. 4x100m relay squad at the 2001 World Championships.
Kenta Bell bounded to a 17.19m win the Triple Jump, the second longest indoor mark in the world this season. In the women's competition, national champion Yuliana Perez was victorious at 13.66m. Russ Buller and Mel Mueller were men's and women's Pole Vault winners at 5.62m and 4.35m, respectively.
Kira Costa of Fresno San Joaquin Memorial High highlighted the high school competition with a national indoor high school record of 4.08m Costa entered the meet with a career-best of 3.81m, more than 25cm shy of the previous record of 4.07m.
Kirby Lee for the IAAF
Los Angeles Invitational Indoor, Los Angeles Sports Arena
55m 1, Mickey Grimes, 6.10; 2, Jon Drummond, 6.11. 3, Darrell Rideaux, 6.25.
55m Hurdles-1, Micah Paris, 7.18. 2, Dominique DeGramont, 7.28. 3, Chad Smith, 7.56
500 yards-1, Brian Vernon, 57.26. 2, Tyree Washington, 57.32. 3, Sherman Armstrong, 58.09.
Mile-1, Bernard Lagat KEN, 3:59.72. 2, Fidel Baretensabe, Burundi, 4:14.19. 3, Ben Aragon, 4:14.22.
Pole Vault-1, Russ Buller, 5.62m. 2, Dennis Kholev, Israel, 5.50m. 3, Scott Slover, 5.50m.
Triple Jump-1 Kenta Bell, 17.19m. 2, Von Ware, 16.01m. 3 Damien Bryant, 14.83m.
55m 1, Angela Williams, 6.73. 2, Brianna Glenn, 6.92. 3, Alex Witherspoon, 7.00.
55m hurdles-1, Ginnie Powell, 7.71. 2, Felicia Stone, 7.75. 3, Christine Ohari, 7.91.
500 yards-1, Lineta Wilson 1:06.31. 2, Carmen Franklin, 1:11.96, 3 Annie Briggs, 1:15.51.
800m -1, Tiffany Burgess, 2:10.5. 2, Alejandra Barrientos, 2:13.7. 3, Claudia Ortega, 2:24.5.
Mile -1, Alejandra Barrientos, 4:56.63. 2, Melissa McBain, 5:01.08. 3, Lori Mann, 5:04.15. 4, Valerie Flores, 5:05.35.
High Jump – 1.Spring Harris, 1.73m. 2, Amber Nixon, 1.68m. 3, Caroline Summers, 1.58m.
Pole Vault-1, Mel Mueller, 4.35m. 2, Stephanie McCann, Canada, 4.24m 3, Dana Ellis, Canada, 4.05m.
Triple Jump-1, Yuliana Perez, 13.66m. 2, Shakeema Walker, 13.46m; 3, Vanitta Kinard, Nike, 13.46m.