Javier Culson on the way to another victory in Ponce (Organisers) © Copyright
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Home win for Culson, fine sprinting by Ashmeade in Ponce

Jamaican Nickel Ashmeade and USA’s Marshevet Myers posted fast sprint times at the 5th Ponce Grand Prix on Saturday (14) as Puerto Rican idol Javier Culson reigned supreme in the 400m Hurdles at a full 12,000 crowd Francisco “Paquito” Montaner stadium.

Ashmeade's improvement continues

One week after becoming the first man to break the 20-second barrier (19.95) over 200m this year, Ashmeade confirmed his excellent early season form with a close win in the 100m, which resulted in the top three breaking the previous meet record.

Ashmeade edged out USA’s 2004 Olympic and 2005 World champion Justin Gatlin by just one hundredth of a second (10.05 to 10.06) on a very humid night that could have seen the first sub-10 second on Puerto Rican soil had the weather conditions been better.

It was massive improvement for the Jamaican, who had 10.29 as a previous personal best. He is now a strong candidate to make the national team for the World Championships in Daegu this summer.

Trinidad and Tobago’s World and Olympic relay medallist Keston Bledman was a close third in 10.09 as the first three eclipsed the three-old meet record of 10.11, set by Antigua and Barbuda’s Brendan Christian.

Last-minute entrant Marshevet Myers led a USA sweep in the women’s race with 11.09 and erased the 11.15 meet record set by fellow countrywoman Gloria Asumnu in 2010. 2005 World champion Lauryn Williams (11.19) and Bianca Knight (11.22) were far second and third, respectively.

Culson comes through

A drizzle fell towards the end of the meeting, especially during the last and most awaited race, the men’s 400m Hurdles.

Culson could not repeat his sub-48 second performance from last year, but pleased his home crowd with a comfortable 48.92 win, ahead of USA’s Michael Tinsley (49.20) and Jamaica’s 2004 Olympic runner-up Danny McFarlane (49.77). Trinidad and Tobago’s Jehue Gordon, fourth at the 2009 Berlin Worlds and third in Ponce last year, didn't make it Ponce due to visa delays.

“Thanks to all who support me in the good and bad times,” Culson told the roaring crowd after the race.

Olympic silver medallist Shenna Tosta led a USA sweep in the women’s race with 55.65, followed by Christine Spence (55.90) and Tiffany Ross-Williams (56.47).

One hour and 15 minutes after finishing second in the 100m, Lauryn Williams returned to the track and took the 200m in a new meet record of 22.73, followed by countrywomen Choranda Williams (22.96) and 2010 World Indoor 400m champion Debbie Dunn (22.99).

Fourth in the 100m, 2009 CAC champion Rondell Sorillo of Trinidad and Tobago took a clear win in the 200m with 20.46 with a -1.8 head wind, ahead of Panama’s 2009 World Championships silver medallist Alonso Edward (20.60). Keston Bledman was again third in 20.91. 2007 Pan American Games Brendan Christian finished fifth in 20.99 but had the consolation to keep his 20.21 meet record from 2008 intact.

Together with Culson, USA’s Natasha Hasting was the other athlete who successfully defended her 2010 victory and she did in fine style by improving her 400m meet record by half a second to 50.97. Great Britain’s Shanna Cox (51.24) and Jamaica’s Shereefa Lloyd (52.67) followed her home.

Carrasquillo takes close men's 400m, Wariner stops after 80 metres

The men’s race was probably the closest in the Ponce Grand Prix history and the crowd was pleased to know national record holder Hector Carrasquillo was declared the winner with 46.41, after revising the photo-finish.

Lionel Larry and 2010 World Indoor bronze medallist Jamal Torrence of the USA also clocked the same time and had to be content with second and third. Their countryman, 2004 Olympic and two-time world champion Jeremy Wariner stopped the race after 80 meters and complained about pain in his lower back.

In the two-lap race, USA´s Mark Wieczorek produced one of the six meet records of the night as ran a personal best of 1:46.46 to prevail over American Karjuan Williams (1:47.17) and Puerto Rico´s Wesley Vazquez (1:47.38, PB).

The sprint hurdles were taken by Loreal Smith (12.94) and Jason Richardson (13.45) of the USA, while Ukraine's Victoria Rybalko took Europe’s only victory in Ponce in the Long Jump with 6.64m on count-back over Canada’s Ruky Abdulai (6.64m). Catherine Ibarguen bettered her Colombian record to 6.58m for third.

Created in 2007 after the successful hosting of the 2006 Iberoamerican Championships, the Ponce Grand Prix joined the NACAC circuit and has become a favourite season opener or early season stop for many athletes in the Americas.

Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF

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