Sanya Richards blasts to 49.27 - USATF nationals (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Indianapolis, USA

Richards explodes to 49.27 – USATF Nationals, Day Four

With its wide, sweeping 113-metre curves and short 87m straights, Carroll Stadium here is known as a paradise for long sprinters.

And so it was on Saturday (24) on the fourth day of the 2006 AT&T USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships (21 – 25 June), with exceptional performances in three one-lap races, won by Sanya Richards, Andrew Rock and Kerron Clement in dazzling fashion.

And away goes Richards...

Sanya Richards, still only 21, exploded in the homestretch to win the women's 400 metres in 49.27, the fastest time in the world so far this year and a full 10 metres ahead of second-placer DeeDee Trotter's 50.40.  It looked like anyone's race until 150 from the finish, but Richards drew a metre or two ahead coming into the stretch. Even then for a moment she looked beatable -- before engaging a gear none of the others had. And awayyyyyy she went!

"My coach told me to kick when I thought I had a lot of energy coming in," said Richards. "I have been looking forward to the World Cup since the season started."

Rock drives home past Merritt

Andrew Rock, 24, who like Richards was a World silver medallist over 400m last summer, continued his march toward the top of the men's 400m pile. With LaShawn Merritt cutting a swift early pace, Rock stayed nearer to the lead than has been his wont. Coming into the straight Merritt was a clear leader, but Rock's finishing drive looked inevitable as he overtook Merritt a few metres from the tape to win, 44.45 to 44.50. Behind them, David Neville hung tough to finish third in a PB 44.75.

Clement claims Jackson’s scalp

The men's 400 Hurdles was strictly a two-man race - and fast. Bershawn Jackson and Kerron Clement took turns leading over hurdles 5, 6, 7 and 8, but Clement hit the ninth barrier and Jackson led by more than two metres coming off the tenth. It wasn't enough: Clement's sheer speed  (44.57 indoors) carried him past the 2005 World champion to win for the second straight year, finishing in 47.37 to Jackson's 47.48, the two fastest times of the year.  James Carter, the World silver medallist, was never in the race, and finished a distant third in 48.44.

2.01m PB for Howard

On the field, it was for the most part Ladies' Day. The High Jump, Chaunté Howard, another World silver medallist set a meet record and a personal best, clearing 2.01 with ease and having one reasonably close effort at a national record of 2.04. Amy Acuff was second at 1.92, passing 1.95 and 1.98 before unsuccessfully attempting 2.01.

Howard, who competes at a high level of personal emotion and shares it with the spectators, said, "I felt unsure, but I just went out there with the attitude that I could do it. Now I am going to go and train like a crazy person."

Richmond ascends to the top

Rose Richmond has been hovering near the top of the U.S. women's Long Jump list, and she made it to the top today. She took the lead with her third jump of 6.84m (PB), raised it to 6.93m (+2.2) on her fourth, and was a clear winner over World champion Tianna Madison's 6.77m w and Grace Upshaw's 6.65m. Richmond said, happily, "things finally came together."

Aretha (Hill) Thurmond won her third U.S. women’s Discus Throw title with a release of 62.50 metres, as all three of her fair throws were good enough to win from runner-up Suzy Powell's 58.68.

Buller over Stevenson

In the men's Pole Vault, all of 2005's top-ranked U.S. vaulters were in the field, Over the years, many pole vaulters have met with misfortune in this arena, and so an upset wasn't surprising. Only two of the top-ten could go higher than 5.60m, and the eventual winner was tenth-ranked Russ Buller, who beat Olympic silver medallist Toby Stevenson on the count-back at 5.80.

Buller, who returned to full-time athletics earlier this year, said, "It was a big deal to quit my job. To win a national title my first year back is just great. My whole goal is to make it to 2008."

Pappas benefits from Clay, Hardee, vault debacle

The Pole vault also gave two of America's best decathletes trouble. Both world champion Bryan Clay and new collegiate record-holder Trey Hardee no-heighted and abandoned the ten-eventer, leaving Tom Pappas an easy winner (by 447 points) with 8,319, a good re-entry after missing a year with injuries.

In the women’s Heptathlon Gi-Gi (Miller) Johnson came within 9 points of her PB in edging 2005 champion Hyleas Fountain, 6183 to 6148.

NCAA star Virginia Powell won the women's 100 metres Hurdles in 12.63, inches ahead of Damu Cherry (12.64) and World champion Michelle Perry (12.67).
 
In other events:

- Jeremy Wariner, eschewing the 400 here, won the fastest heat of the men's 200 eased up in an eye-opening 20.28.

- Lashinda Demus won her semi-final of the women's 400 hurdles in 53.50, fastest in the world this year.

James Dunaway for the IAAF

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