Palo Alto, California, USARegina Jacobs and Tyree Washington, two of the US gold medallists from last winter’s IAAF World Indoor Championships, took big steps in the direction of repeating their successes at this summer’s World Championships in Paris, and provided just two of the highlights on the penultimate day of the US Championships on Saturday (21 June).
Jacobs’ win in the Women’ 1500 metres settled a tight duel with Suzy Favor Hamilton, the fast pace of which had been graciously set by last week’s NCAA champion Tiffany McWilliams. With two laps remaining, Jacobs and Favor Hamilton moved past McWilliams and were never more than a metre apart until 250 metres remained in the race.
Jacobs then picked up the tempo, and Favor Hamilton tried to stay with her for another 50 metres, but over the final 200 it was all Jacobs, as the 39-year-old won her twelfth US title in the 1500/Mile with a world-leading 4:01.63 time. Favor Hamilton, knowing her second place was not in jeopardy, eased into the wire in 4:03.70, while McWilliams came back to out-kick Collette Liss for third, 4:10.85 to 4:11.04.
“I thought the running conditions here were absolutely brilliant today,” said Jacobs. “It was breezy but not really strong. The pace was honest, not really fast, just about what I expect we’ll see in the Paris semifinals.”
Regarding her upcoming schedule, Jacobs indicated a heavy training regimen, with no specific competitions planned. A light Achilles condition also figures into her light competition plans before Paris.
“Today’s race was just to make the team,” said Favor Hamilton. “The best thing about this race is getting it over with. You don’t want anything to happen which would keep you from Worlds. I really look forward to getting to Europe now. That’s where I can really show my true form. Over there, it’s a totally honest race, it’s even, and it’s a true sense of how fast you can run, without tactics.”
McWilliams shocked everyone by announcing that she would forego participation in Paris, preferring to join her university team in late August for cross-country preparation. The 20-year-old’s decision was most likely also aided by the fact she would need to achieve the “A” standard of 4:05.80, and felt that she needed a rest after a long collegiate season.
That would put Sarah Schwald, today’s seventh-place finisher in 4:16.89, in a provisional spot on the US team by virtue of her qualifying time from last season.
Tyree Washington sent out a strong signal about his summer intentions with a powerful 44.33 win in the Men’s 400 metres.
The reigning World Indoor Champion tossed aside any possible challenge coming off the final curve and sped away to this year’s leading time, holding off a furious finish by Calvin Harrison, who somehow found a way to run 44.62 out of lane one, and into his first-ever individual assignment as a national team member.
Two-time US champion Jerome Young took third in 44.79, and will be in a US uniform for the fourth time at a World Championships.
“I’m really happy with the time,” said winner Washington. “The race was definitely what I expected. I knew it would be a hot one. I knew that Calvin and Jerome were going to push me and that we would push each other. [Coach] Antonio Pettigrew (1991 World Champion) and I went over the race plan, and it worked out to a ‘T’.”
The breezy conditions in the early afternoon kept the runners on guard the entire way. “The wind was changing directions. You didn’t know which way it was going to come. I train in the wind back at home, so I think I was prepared for it,” Washington continued.
Harrison was glad to have finally emerged from the shadow of his twin brother Alvin, who was the Sydney silver medallist but was eliminated in the semi-finals this weekend. “Sometimes the guard changes, and that just happened. Alvin will be back ready in a few weeks. He had a minor injury in Australia, and that was nagging him coming into the Championships.”
Finishing behind the top three were Derrick Brew (45.05), Mitch Potter (45.29) and Adam Steele (45.51), all of whom will be considered for relay duty in Paris.
The women’s 400 metres definitely underwent a changing of the guard, as World Junior record holder Sanya Richards - still only 18 years old - won her first senior US title in 51.01. Demetria Washington (51.54) and Dee Dee Trotter (51.78) will complete the US trio in Paris.
“I geared my training to this race today,” said Richards. “I tried to come out of the start aggressively, and I felt good about how things went. It’s a big accomplishment for me, because I’m running with the seniors for the first time.”
Richards was immediately drawn into making comparisons with 17-year-old Allyson Felix, who is making her own headlines in the 200 metres.
“She’s doing amazing things for her age. But I’m not trying to compete with her. After all, we’re primarily in different events. It’s always good when there are two major people doing well. I’m proud of her success and I hope she keeps getting better.”
Felix finally went into action in the Women’s 200 metres heats and came away with the day’s fastest performance at 23.19, despite a whopping 4.8 headwind. Behind her was Crystal Cox (23.36), while in other wind-wracked heats were LaTasha Jenkins (23.35), Torri Edwards (23.49) and 100 metres champion Kelli White (23.54).
Today was also the moment Maurice Greene changed roles, from armchair commentator to competing athlete. His 21.10 behind Leo Bookman’s 21.06, against a 5.3 headwind, was not particularly distinguished, but it moved him forward with minimal effort.
“I’m just glad to get it started. We’ll come back tomorrow and see what everyone has. If I concentrate on myself, I think I can win. I’m the toughest person I have to compete against.”
Others against whom Greene will contend include defending champion Ramon Clay (20.51), Coby Miller (20.71), Sydney finalist John Capel (20.67), former World Indoor Champion Shawn Crawford (20.83), J.J. Johnson (20.79), and Darvis Patton (20.80), plus 100 metres champion Bernard Williams (20.76).
Although he didn’t have the best season resumé of the hurdlers in the final, two-time World Champion Allen Johnson was perhaps the most prudent, using a minimalist approach during the elimination rounds. That, plus a bear-down effort in the final, led to a sixth US championships win in 13.37, a performance chiseled out of the 2.4 headwind to pip training partner Terrence Trammell (13.38) at the wire. Larry Wade, who had brought the season’s greatest consistency to the final, finished third in 13.43.
Johnson preached the same kind of moderation after the race. “I think these days, the prime of your career is whenever you want it to be. Whenever you’re working hard, staying healthy, watching what you eat, you can maintain your peak from 20 to 40, if you really want to.”
Stacy Dragila made a whirlwind trip to Europe in the weeks before the Championships, but was sufficiently recovered to win her seventh US title, a 4.50 effort which bettered the 4.40 of Jillian Schwartz, and the 4.35 jumps of Mary Sauer and Becky Holliday, who tied for third.
Because Dragila has a wild-card entry for the World Championships, all of the top four jumpers will be on the US team in Paris.
“I’m working with a new coach now [Greg Hull], and we’re working on some new things, like having a more consistent run and getting my step out at takeoff. I’m jumping on smaller poles now, and for me to jump 4.70, it would have to be an almost perfect day. I’m right where I want to be.”
The winners’ interview after the men’s Shot Put resembled an episode of “General Hospital” more than an upbeat conversion of heavyweights ready to take on the world.
Winner Kevin Toth (21.22) told of an adductor problem and a chronic finger condition, while runner-up (and two-time World Champion) John Godina (21.04) revealed he had dropped a barbell onto his chest during the last year . . . twice! Only Reese Hoffa (20.64), who sat patiently at the end of the table during all of the medical talk, had nothing to complain about.
Hoffa’s third-place finish was actually a closely-waged battle against last year’s champion, Sydney and Edmonton silver medallist Adam Nelson (20.61), and Christian Cantwell (20.57). With Godina possessing a wild-card from 2001, Nelson will also be part of the US contingent in Paris.
At the halfway point of the Decathlon, Sydney fifth placer Tom Pappas posted a career-best first-day total of 4691, helped along by two PBs (LJ and 400). Only Atlanta champion Dan O’Brien (4747) and three-time World Champion Tomas Dvorak (4706) have scored more on the opening day. Trailing Pappas are Bryan Clay (4446) and Paul Terek (4336).
Already with a team spot secured in the 100 metres, Gail Devers is looking to add a position in her specialty, the women’s 100 metres Hurdles. Her heat time of 13.00, against a wind of 2.5, was the session’s best, slightly faster than Melissa Morrison’s 13.03. More telling was Devers’ direct defeat of America’s top hurdler of this season, Miesha McKelvy (13.12), who was running in the same heat. Edmonton fifth placer Jenny Adams (13.17) also advanced, as did Danielle Carruthers (13.17).
The women’s 400 metres Hurdles win that Raasin McIntosh was supposed to have claimed in the NCAA Championships last week finally materialized today, when the rewards were even greater. The 21-year-old Houston native sprinted ahead of leader Sandra Glover after the final hurdle and nearly equalled her own PB with 54.62, with Joanna Hayes following closely in 54.76. Glover preserved a team position with a third-place 55.12.
Looking unexpectedly weak for no announced reason was World Junior record holder Lashinda Demus, who faded to the back and finished last in 59.05.
The men’s 400 Hurdles were at the semifinal point today, and Bershawn Jackson reaffirmed his stature as the leading performer of the year with a 48.77 win over Eric Thomas (49.02) and Ken Garrett (49.30). Joey Woody (49.10) controlled the other section, ahead of James Carter (49.36).
The men’s Steeplechase was won off the final sprint by last year’s runner-up, Steve Slattery, in 8:23.58. The 23-year-old Slattery was able to capitalize on a last-lap miscalculation by NCAA champion Daniel Lincoln, who still ran a season-best 8:24.10 for second, just ahead of Robert Gary’s 8:24.82.
The fourth placer in the Edmonton men’s Javelin, Breaux Greer, won his fourth consecutive US crown with a 79.37, but he may be making a solo appearance in Paris, due to the lack of an “A” standard of 83.50 by Robert Minnitti (77.21) and Joshua Johnson (76.16), the son of 1960 Rome Olympic Decathlon champion Rafer Johnson.
Grace Upshaw finds herself in the same situation as Greer after her 6.64 win in the Women’s Long Jump, as Rose Richmond (6.56w) and 2001 champion Jenny Adams (6.45) also lack the “A” standard of 6.75.
Although not an event for a team spot in Paris, the Women’s Steeplechase was won by Briana Shook in 9:44.71.