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General News Palo Alto, CA (USA)

Duels by Greene and Montgomery, Nelson and Godina, Jones and Gaines highlight US championships’ second day

Duels by Greene and Montgomery, Nelson and Godina, Jones and Gaines highlight US championships’ second day
Ed Gordon for the IAAF
22 June 2002 - Palo Alto, CA (USA)- Tim Montgomery and Maurice Greene saved their first encounter of the season for the US championships, and if today’s riveting 100-metre final was any indication, their season battles should be long remembered.

The Olympic champion rode a wind of 2.4 metres-per-second to a 9.88 clocking as he won his third US 100 title. Tim Montgomery, in spite of his second bad start of the weekend, almost overtook the world-record holder with a 9.89 second-place performance.

Many observers thought Greene had been allowed to escape with a flying start, but his reaction time of 0.113 seconds [under 0.100 is considered a false start] was pivotal in producing the win.

“That probably was the best start I ever had,” said Greene in his review of the race. “I couldn’t believe I got out so well.” But he added, “It’s only my third race of the year. I’m still putting things together.”

Conversely, had Montgomery not been so slow leaving the starting line [reaction time of 0.176], he might have been able to pull off the upset he has been looking for since his solid surge to the elite level midway last season.

Finding himself several metres behind Greene after running 20 metres, Montgomery steadily gained on his rival in the race’s final stages. But the finish line arrived before he could conquer the sprint king.

“I felt him come up on me at the end,” said Greene, “but I just tried to stay calm and strong, and that’s what brought me through.”

Montgomery conceded that Greene “had a great start, and I wanted to be closer than I was yesterday. But it just wasn’t enough.”

Greene’s training partner Jon Drummond transformed his own excellent start into a third-place 10.04.

The next chapter in the Greene-Montgomery saga will be played out in Oslo next Friday at the Bislett Games.

Montgomery’s frustration was mirrored by shot putter John Godina, who failed for the fourth time this season to defeat Adam Nelson.

The die was cast from the early rounds, when Godina opened with 21.91, equalling his season best, to take the lead. Nelson responded with 22.13 in round two, and the fight was on.

Godina fought back with throws of 21.76 and 21.80 but was never able to get into the 22-metre range needed for a win.

With his second national title already secure, Nelson entered the ring for the final time and added a coup de grâce with his 22.22 best for the day.

Kevin Toth’s 21.53 took third ahead of the PB 21.00 of Jamie Beyer.

Remarked Nelson, “There’s a new shift going on in the events, and the shot put is heading to the top.”

The weather conditions, which had been so dismal on Friday gave way to sunny skies and temperatures rising to 25C during the afternoon. And irregular winds no longer plagued the Stanford University track to the same extent as during the cloudy opening session.

Still, Marion Jones was forced to run the 100-metre final with a 1.0 wind in her face. Chryste Gaines, who had the fastest semifinal time on Friday, came away from the start fairly even with the Olympic champion and pushed her all the way to the finish. But Jones held on for a win in 11.01, with Gaines’ 11.05 well ahead of Kelli White’s third-place 11.22.

Jones said, “I didn’t think it was one of my better races, and I didn’t feel as powerful today as I did yesterday in the semifinal. The semifinal was a much better technical race for me. Today I felt I was just gliding down the track instead of using rhythm, but I was glad to come away with a win.”

Jones came back two hours later for the 200-metre semifinals, as she finally got the aiding wind she had been seeking all weekend to assist her to a 22.46 performance which led all runners.

“I ran the curve and stayed relaxed. I’ll go back and get a good rest tonight and come back for one last one tomorrow.”

Jones will depart for Europe on Monday, “after my trip to Alcatraz.”

With the final day of the championships scheduled for a potentially warm afternoon session, all distance races necessarily had to be contested on the first two evenings.

In a race fittingly sponsored by 24-Hour Fitness Centers, Alan Culpepper completed his own memorable twenty-four hours of running with a 13:27.52 win in the 5000, moving up from a second-place finish last year. On Friday evening, he had placed third in the 10K in 27:48.09.

With his second place behind Culpepper in 13:30.05, Mebrahtom Keflezighi also completed a similar two-day double after a 27:41.68 victory in the 10K the previous evening.

The two main protagonists in the women’s 5000 approached this event from opposite ends of the running spectrum--defending champion Marla Runyan from Olympic experience in the 1500 (eighth in Sydney), and Deena Drossin from the 10K/marathon. And as is usually the case in a tactical race, the required leg speed at the end favored the short-distance runner.

After the first lap, Runyan and Drossin had separated themselves from the others by ten metres, and the gap widened with each tour of the stadium, with kilometres averaging about 3:02. Drossin always maintained the lead, with Runyan never more than one step behind.

With 300 left in the race, Runyan applied the sprint which had contributed to her 4:05.27 best in the 1500, and Drossin was powerless to defend herself.

Runyan (15:07.19) and Drossin (15:13.93) were followed by a close-finishing trio of Carrie Tollefson (15:21.37), Amy Rudolph (15:22.46) and Cheri Kenah (15:23.32).

Runyan, who suffers from a degenerative eye condition and is legally blind, paid tribute to her rival, “a really tough runner and someone I knew would be hard to beat.”

After finishing second in the 2001 championships, 20-year-old triple jumper Yuliana Perez claimed her first US title with a wind-aided (2.5) jump of 14.20, ahead of runner-up Vanitta Kinard at 13.83.

The Arizona-born Perez had returned to the US only two years ago after being raised by relatives in Cuba when her mother had tragically died in a neighborhood shooting in San Diego. A member of the Cuban national junior team during her years there, Perez finally was allowed to return to the land of her birth after several years of diplomatic wrangling.

In other field events, Edmonton fourth-placer Breaux Greer won his third consecutive US crown in the javelin with 81.78, and Jeff Hartwig took the pole vault title for the first time since 1999 with a 5.84 jump before failing three times at 5.94. Tim Mack edged out Sydney champion Nick Hysong for second at 5.74 on a countback.

In the opening round of the women’s 100 hurdles, Gail Devers was supreme among all qualifiers with a world-leading 12.56. The 1999 runner-up, Miesha McKelvy, won the opening heat in a PB 12.67 ahead of Edmonton champion Anjanette Kirkland (12.69), while last year’s second-placer, Jenny Adams, won the remaining heat with 12.85.

The men’s hurdles did not produce the same high level established by the women, as Allen Johnson posted a 13.35 as the best time for the first round.

As the selection competition for the IAAF World Junior Championships in Kingston next month, the US Junior Championships continued alongside the senior meet. The standout performance today was Sanya Richards’ 400-metre win in 50.69, a mark which has been bettered on only five occasions in junior athletics history. It was a US national high school record, breaking the 50.74 of today’s runner-up, Monique Henderson, who ran 51.52.

Lashina Demus won the 400 hurdles as expected, but a severe miscalculation just before the final hurdle led to a mediocre winning time of 56.35, ahead of her University of South Carolina teammate Tiffany Ross (57.13). Only three weeks ago, Demus set a new world junior record of 54.85 in winning the NCAA Championships.

Full results may be found at www.flashresults.com.