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Harlan, Quintana take NACAC Combined Events titles

USA's Ryan Harlan successfully defended his title and Cuba's Gretchen Quintana broke the championships record to win the 3rd NACAC Combined Events Challenge, held Friday and Saturday (25-26 May) at Santo Domingo's Felix Sanchez Stadium.

Second after the opening day, Harlan moved into first position after winning the 110m Hurdles in 14.36. He went on to total 7901 points and held off the strong surge of Cuba's early world lists leader Leonel Suarez, who claimed silver (7843) in his first competition overseas.

First day leader Junior Diaz clinched bronze ahead of 2006 medallists Chris Boyles and Paul Terek of the USA. Terek had scored 8127 points to win in Desenzano, Italy, earlier this month.

Cuba sent five of its best athletes to mark the Island's debut at the NACAC Combined Events Championships.

Diaz, the 2005 Pan American Junior Championships silver medallist, won the 100m (10.92), the 400m (47.64) and the Long Jump (7.73) and produced another PB in the Shot Put (14.61) to hold a slight lead (4286 to 4225) over Harlan, who prevailed in the Shot Put (16.38).

Making his international debut, the 19-year-old Suarez had a slow start (100m in 11.38) and poor shot (11.97). His 2.12 High Jump kept him in contention but finished the day a distant sixth with 4010, 276 points behind the leader.

Early on Saturday, Harlan took the lead winning his favorite event, the 110m Hurdles, in 14.36, an event that has seen him run a wind aided 13.71. He backed it up with a 43.45m effort in the Discus Throw and 4.80m in the Pole Vault.

Terek also moved up in the standings after winning the Discus Throw (46.79) and the Pole Vault (5.10).

With eight events completed, the 26-yearoold Harlan, who shows a personal best of 8171 points from 2004, held a comfortable lead of 255 points over Boyles (6483), with Diaz (6420) and Terek (6364) third and fourth. Suarez was still far in fifth with 6261.

However, the promising Cuban decathlete saved his best for last. A 70-meter thrower, he made the Javelin fly to 65.01m and won the 1500m in 4:26.32, 50 seconds faster than Harlan to pose a late threat to the American.

Visibly affected by his previous efforts and the Dominican heat, the defending champion managed to finish the last event in 5:17.00 to win by a 64-point margin.

Diaz ran close to his teammate and a personal best of 4:30.16, 22 seconds faster than Boyles, to help him overcome the American for the bronze medal.

They all fell short of the championships record, held by inaugural winner Maurice Smith of Jamaica (8232) since 2005 in San Juan.

Quintana breaks 6000 point barrier for second time in 15 days

Two weeks after breaking the 6000-point barrier for the first time, Quintana returned to the same venue where she claimed her first international title and did not disappoint as she scored another 6000 Heptathlon to claim an undisputed crown in the Dominican capital.

The fastest in the field, the 22-year-old totalled 6007 points and won by a substantial margin over USA's 2005 NACAC champion Fiona Asigbee (5770) and Lola Nelson (5760), with 29 points separating the silver medallist from the fifth place finisher.

Cuba's Yasmiani Pedroso (5754) and local favorite, 2006 NACAC Under-23 silver medallist and 2006 Iberoamerican champion Juana Castillo (5741) rounded out the top five.

Quintana keeps good memories of the Dominican Republic, where she savoured her first international victory as she claimed the NACAC Under-23 gold here last summer.

On Friday, the 2006 CAC Games bronze medallist won the 100m Hurdles (13.62) and the 200m (24.16), and finished second in the Shot Put ( 13.22). On the second day, she was a close second in the Long Jump (6.22) and finished strong as usual with 2:15.76 in the 800m to secure her second 6000 consecutive score, the first two in her promising career.

She also erased the championships record of USA's Virginia Johnson, who scored 5991 in 2006.

"I am happy with the record, but did not perform as expected in some events like the High Jump and Long Jump. We will now prepare for the next battle, the Pan American Games in Rio," said Quintana, who two weeks earlier became the third Cuban to break the 6000-point barrier (6076) in the ALBA Games in Caracas.

In a close battle for the remaining two medals, Asigbee's and Nelson's better long jumps were enough to secure them silver and bronze, respectively, despite the late surge by Pedroso and Castillo.

Sixteen men and 11 women from 9 countries contested the championships, including guest athletes from Brazil and Colombia. The first two editions of NACAC Combined Events Challenge were held in San Juan. Many of these athletes will join the South American specialists at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, 22-29 July.

Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF

Leading Results:

1. Ryan Harlan          USA    7901
2. Leonel Suarez       CUB    7843
3. Junior Diaz            CUB    7816
4. Chris Boyles          USA    7791
5. Paul Terek            USA    7609
6. Carlos E. Bezerra BRA    7416    
7.  Craig Slaunwhite CAN    7295    
8. Steven Marrero    PUR    6861    
1. Grechen Quintana CUB   6007 CR
2. Fiona Asigbee        USA   5770
3. Lola Nelson             USA  5760
4. Yasmiani Pedroso   CUB 5754
5. Juana Castillo          DOM 5741
6. Yaritza Rivera         PUR   5462
7. Jackie Paulson          USA  5273
8. Francia Manzanillo  DOM 5223 

Click her for complete results