Miesha McKelvy’s splendid 12.60 victory in the women’s 100 metres Hurdles was the highlight of the Oracle US Open - IAAF GPII - meeting yesterday (7 June). Gusty winds at Standford University’s track played havoc with the middle distance races, which witnessed a surprising defeat for World Indoor 1500m champion Regina Jacobs over 800m. Yet over and above everything most of the attention was still centred on J.J. Johnson’s 200m hammering of last week’s seemingly resurgent Maurice Greene.
The Maurice Greene sitting at the post-event interview table at Saturday’s Oracle US Open Meeting was not the Maurice Greene of old. None of those quick comebacks, none of that effervescence which formerly oozed from layer upon layer of underlying confidence.
Instead, the Sydney 100 metres champion had a glassy-eyed look as he stared down at the table while listening to J.J. Johnson explain today’s facts of life in the 200 metres after his winning 20.26, with Greene never much of a factor in his third-place 20.43.
“It was rough out there. I just tried to hang on with those guys coming off the turn,” said Johnson, the world’s top 200 runner this season. “We had a head wind for the first 80 metres or so.”
When asked about his start, Greene drew comparisons between the longer race and the straight sprint event. “In the 200, you don’t have to be as aggressive. You have to negotiate a whole lot of other things as you go into the turn. So, no, I wasn’t really disappointed today in my start. I think it was OK.”
But it wasn’t Greene’s start which had observers shaking their heads. It was his lack of a strong finish. Coming into the final straight with 100 metres remaining, Maurice was no better than fourth, and the entire stadium expected to see some of that same acceleration which had propelled him to a 9.94 clocking last weekend in Carson.
With Johnson barreling ahead to the finish virtually unchallenged, Greene looked almost motionless by comparision, and it was all he could do to move past former World Indoor champion Shawn Crawford (20.47) and draw within a breath of 2000 Olympic Trials champion John Capel (20.42) before the finish.
“You have to understand that it’s still early in the season,” said Johnson, almost seeming to come to the aid of Greene as the former 100m World-Record holder was being pressured to criticize his performance today. “What really counts is after the Trials [US Championships] and going into the World Championships.”
Greene confirmed that if he runs the 100 metres at the US Championships, it would “probably be only one round”, since he has a Paris wildcard as the defending World champion. But he held out hope for also making the US team in the 200 metres.
Greene’s HSI club-mate Inger Miller was more successful with her wind-aided 11.04 win in the Women’s 100 Metres, as LaTasha Jenkins chased her home with a second-place 11.11. Angela Daigle (11.28) was third, as Savatheda Fynes of the Bahamas was far off her normal form with a fourth-place 11.54.
Almost at the same time Johnson and Greene were admitting to their interviewers that the Cobb Track at Stanford University “wasn’t the fastest in the world”, Miesha McKelvy was providing a counterexample with a splendid 12.60 victory in the women’s 100 Metres Hurdles.
Still, McKelvy wasn’t satisfied. “I didn’t feel normal out there. My coach and I have been spending lots of hours studying tapes. I wanted to run down in the 12.40s.”
Like Greene, McKelvy seemed to run tentatively during the early stages of the race, as Jenny Adams appeared to be the frontrunner at the midway point. But over the final four barriers, McKelvy was supreme, while Adams had no problem holding second with 12.73 ahead of Commonwealth Games champion Lacena Golding Clarke (12.89) and Britain’s Natasha Danvers (12.96 PB).
Danvers earlier had solved the breezy conditions on the track for a 56.25 season best in winning the Women’s 400 Hurdles over American Brenda Taylor (56.86).
Kevin Toth’s withdrawal from the shot put late in the week after injuring a finger in training robbed that event of its leading performer for the season. And although the results were a bit off the mark, the five competitors staged an audience-appealing back-and-forth competition which was ultimately won by John Godina with 20.67.
The two-time World Champion had taken a lead with 20.57 in the third round, and it held up until Jamie Beyer tossed 20.64 leading off round five. Reese Hoffa - in normal dress and not as the “unknown shot putter” - then followed with 20.65, before Godina settled the closely-fought affair on his final effort of the day.
“I wasn’t very happy with my winning throw. Everything is just a comeback right now,” explained Godina who was injured over the winter when a barbell fell on his chest. “I’m just trying to make a push at the end of this year and hopefully win everything next year.”
The Sydney and Edmonton silver medallist, Adam Nelson, was himself shaking off the effects of a chronic back condition with his first Shot Put competition in almost two months. Of his fourth-place 20.09, he said, “The speed is OK and the strength is fine. I just have to put it all together now.”
The gusty winds throughout the afternoon made for less than optimal running conditions in the longer races. The most outstanding result came from David Lelei’s world-leading (and PB) 2:16.43 in the Men’s 1000 metres, as the Kenyan admitted later being immensely helped in his battle against the elements by staying behind World Indoor 800 Champion David Krummenacker, before pipping him at the end.
Krummenacker’s 2:17.10 second-place time was almost two seconds ahead of Canada’s Kevin Sullivan (2:19.06), with Michael Stember (2:19.43) right behind.
The Men’s 1500 metres saw William Chirchir of Kenya overhauling his countryman Laban Rotich in the last 50 metres to win, 3:37.99 to 3:38.84, with Brazil’s Hudson de Souza third with 3:39.50, just ahead of Graham Hood of Canada (3:39.75).
Rotich had passed Chirchir at the bell and held the lead throughout the final 400 metres, until Chirchir delivered the knockout blow at the end.
Likewise in the 3000 metres, the bell sounded with Martin Keino in the lead, but down the final back straight, Luke Kipkosgei (7:46.86) and Albert Chepkurui (7:47.47) mounted an attack which left Keino in third place at the finish with 7:48.53.
American runner Adam Goucher never lost contact during the final-lap acceleration, and a strong finish brought him 7:48.72 time for fourth.
Kipkosgei, said, “I was hoping for something around 7:35. The wind made this impossible.”
Steeplechaser Robert Gary took over the US lead in that event with a runaway 8:27.77 win over Tom Chorny (8:36.35).
In her final race before the US Championships, Regina Jacobs was toiling away with a five-to-ten metre lead with 200 remaining in the Women’s 800 Metres. Suddenly, Michelle Ballentine made a strong move and was on the shoulder of the World Indoor 1500 champion.
As the pair moved out of the curve and into the final straight, the Jamaican surprised everyone with a PB win in 2:01.62, ahead of Jacobs’ 2:02.42. Former collegiate standout Chantee Earl was third in 2:03.77, with Sydney fourth-placer Brigita Langerholc taking fourth (2:04.60).
Jacobs’ goal of running a sub-2:00 fell short. “I think I was really tired this week after having run two weekends in a row,” said the almost-forty runner. “Today was more of just a training day than a racing day.”
The windy conditions threatened to make non-events out of both pole vault competitions. But both Kellie Suttle (4.50) and Jeff Hartwig (5.70) muscled their way to wins at very respectable heights under the circumstances.
The women’s high jumpers paid no mind to the breezes, judging from the results. Amy Acuff won the event at 1.97 and had a close attempt at 1.99, defeating Karol Rovelto on misses at the same height. But it was the 1.95 jumps of Gwen Wentland and Tisha Waller which made this competition so special. Never before in the annals of US women high jumping had four women cleared 1.95 during the same competition.
The 2002 world leader in the Women’s Discus, Suzy Powell, was a winner with 61.24, as Seilala Sua (60.76) and Aretha Hill (60.39) also cracked the sixty-metre mark while throwing with a strong wind at their backs. “The negative wind kept pushing the discus down, and we all had to work hard,” said Powell.
The fourth-place javelinist in Edmonton, Breaux Greer, threw 77.75 on his third attempt and passed his remaining throws, as Chris Clever was a close second at 77.31.
Erica Wheeler won the Women’s Javelin with a margin of almost seven metres at 52.88.