It was the best of times, it was the worst of times - oh, you know, just another day at the USATF national championships, where almost anything can happen, and pretty much did today.
A sizzling 110m Hurdles battle
To give Dickens his due, we'll start with the good stuff. In one of the best High Hurdles races anyone ever saw, 34-year-old Allen Johnson squeezed out a victory over Dominique Arnold and Terrence Trammell, 12.99 to 13.01 to 13.02.
Johnson, in Lane 2 after finishing third in his semi, had a one metre lead halfway through the race, but then Trammell and Arnold charged after him. They went over the tenth hurdle three abreast, and Johnson's lean got him the win by inches.
Johnson said, "I was in Lane 2 away from the action. I didn't know if I'd won until I saw it on the scoreboard." It was his tenth visit to Sub-13 Land and of course the fastest in the world this summer.
The oft-injured Arnold, 31, whose PB coming into 2005 was a 13.11 in 2000, said, "I always knew I could run faster than 13.11, but the injuries hindered me. To run that fast now is great."
Trammell, youngest of the three at 26, said, "To me finishing third is a victory, because I ran 13.02 (his previous PB was 13.09, last year). I got beat by big times, and that's not bad."
Alluding to Johnson, he added, "The old man just won't go away - but I couldn't be happier for him."
Jones cites injury
It was the worst of times for Marion Jones. Seeded third thanks to a May 2004 clocking of 11.04 (her best this year is 11.28), she came out on the track for the third heat of the women's 100 metres wearing black ski-style sweat pants and a bright red, long-sleeved pullover blouse. She took one practice start, running hard and smoothly for about 40 metres, walked back and forth in her lane a couple of times, and then walked off the track, citing a hip injury.
Later her agent, Charlie Wells, told reporters that she was withdrawing from the 200 as well.
Her companion and friend, Tim Montgomery, had earlier told officials that he was withdrawing from the men's 100m heats, but they offered plenty of drama anyway.
Gatlin is out and then in – men’s 100m
In the first heat, Mark Jelks false started once. On the second start, the recall gun was again firedŠand after a long moment, it was announced that Justin Gatlin had been DQ'd. A large collective sigh - as if a soufflé were collapsing - came from the crowd as 10,000 people realized that the Olympic 100m champion was not going to run in the World Championship 100 metres.
Gatlin said, "I reacted to another athlete in the field, and I guess that wasn't called and I was off with the first athlete that left the blocks. So I reacted to somebody else and that's all I can really say.”
"I'm protesting it, and if it comes out my way, hopefully people (will) understand if it doesn't, then I'll go on and cross my fingers for the 200 metres."
But after all five heats had been run, it was announced that Gatlin's protest had been allowed by the referee, Ed Gorman, a former coach of wide experience. In part, the official statement said that Gorman "studied a print-out of the start of the race and determined that the runner in lane 5 (adjacent to Gatlin in lane 4) was not motionless prior to the start. Therefore, Gatlin's protest was approved and he will compete in Saturday's semifinal round."
Since 18 runners had already been advanced to two 9-lane semis, they will be redrawn into three races, with the first two in each semi plus the next three fastest advancing to the final.
Oh - there were some races, too. The men's 100 heats were won by DaBryan Blanton, Maurice Greene, Leonard Scott, Walter Dix and Shawn Crawford; the fastest were Crawford, at 10.10, and Greene, at 10.12. Several 100 runners said they thought the starter was holding them in the set position for too long.
More tranquil women’s dash
The women's 100m was more tranquil, although in addition to Marion Jones, the next-two-most-well-known women - Chryste Gaines and Inger Miller -- also withdrew from their respective heats; not, however, as dramatically as Jones.
The most important result was MeLisa Barber's 11.04 heat victory (a PB) which confirmed her 11.05 win in New York at the Reebok Grand Prix two weeks ago.
Distance race produces Helsinki qualifiers
The distance races were excellent. In the men's 5000m, Tim Broe, Ian Dobson and Ryan Hall broke away early and shared the lead until Broe kicked the last lap to win in 13:12.76. All three were well under the Helsinki "A" standard of 13:21.50.
Similarly, in the women's 10,000m, Katie McGregor won with a long sprint to finish in 31:33.82 ahead of Blake Russell and Jen Rhines, with all three under the "A" standard of 31:40. Afterwards, McGregor, who finished fourth in last year's Olympic Trials 10,000m, said, "Last year we were all struggling to make the ("A"]) standard, but now it seems easy."
Does this make up for the Olympic Trials? someone asked. "No," she said, "I wanted to go to Athens." Next question.
Clay wins from first event to last - the Decathlon
In the field, facing difficult winds that ranged from 0.0m/s to 5.1, three women long jumpers came very close to a three-way tie, Grace Upshaw beating Tianna Madison on the countback after both jumped 6.70m, and Brianna Glenn taking third at 6.68.
The women's Shot Put was won with two last puts of 18.62 and 18.68 that not only brought Kristen Heaston two PBs and her second national championship, but also surpassed the Helsinki "A" standard of 18.55.
2004 Olympic silver medalist Bryan Clay led the Decathlon from the first step of the 100 metres to the last step of the 1500, scoring 8506 points to runner-up Paul Terek's 7976. Clay's Discus Throw of 55.87 which is a Decathlon world best (previous best was 55.00m in 1980).
Williamson and Wariner on song for the final
And finally, in the men's 400 metre semi-finals, two, and only two, men broke 45 seconds: Darold Williamson won the first semi in 44.83, and his training partner Jeremy Wariner won the second in 44.82!
James Dunaway for the IAAF
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