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Toth, Devers Headline Record Day In Prefontaine Classic

Toth, Devers Headline Record Day In Prefontaine Classic
Kirby Lee for the IAAF
26 May 2002-Eugene, USA-Shot putters Kevin Toth, Adam Nelson and John Godina and hurdler Gail Devers rewarded a standing-room only Prefontaine Classic crowd with milestones never witnessed in the United States in the IAAF Grand Prix I event on Sunday, May 26.

Toth won the shot put with a career-best 22.19m with Nelson and Godina in second and third at 21.95m and 21.91m that marked the first competition with three Americans over 21.91m. All three broke the oldest meet record of 21.52m set by Al Feurbach in 1974.

Devers turned in the fastest performance under any conditions by an American in the women’s 100 hurdles in her season-debut in a wind-aided 12.29 seconds.

The enthusiastic audience of 11,227 at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field also spurred Marion Jones and Hicham El Guerrouj to global-leading and meet-record marks in the women’s 100m and men’s mile.

Jones overcame a slow start to time 10.90 in her first century of 2002. El Guerrouj outdueled Kenya’s William Chirchir and Bernard Lagat to win 3:50.89.

Toth, Jones, El Guerrouj along with Stacy Dragila (4.72m) in the women’s pole vault and Charles Clinger in the high jump (2.35m) were among five meet records in the 28th annual competition named after American distance runner Steve Prefontaine, who died in an automobile accident in 1975.

The men’s shot put elicited as much response from the crowd as the events on the Oval on Sunday.

A 100 miles north in Portland a week ago, Nelson, Toth and Godina highlighted the adidas Oregon Track Classic going 1-2-3 in 22.51, 21.89, 21.78 for the top three marks on the yearly world-leader list.

The three turned in another stunning battle on Sunday. Toth, 34, who missed last season with a back injury and surgery to repair a herniated disk, eclipsed his previous best of 21.78 set in 1997 and equalled last week three times in breaking Godina’s stadium standard of 22.02 set in 1999.

“This is the beginning of the short, long career for Kevin Toth,” Toth said. “With the three of us out there competing, you have to get a big throw off in the first round. Every week the bar is raised.”

In a competition in which Toth and Nelson traded leads four times. Toth opened with an effort of 21.80 with Nelson responding two throwers later at 21.83. In the second round, Toth regained the lead at 21.91 with Nelson answering at 21.95. Toss unleashed his winning throw of 22.19 in the fourth round.

“The shot put is quickly becoming the most electrifying event right now in track and field,” Nelson said. “If you get three guys like this together and a multitude of other guys who are right there knocking on the door, you are going to have competitions like this every week. Nobody wants to lose to each other.”

Devers, 35, was never in danger of losing in the 100m hurdles. She is training on her own this season after working with longtime coach Bobby Kersee since her collegiate days at UCLA.

With the help of a 2.7 m/s gust, the three-time world champion blasted away from the start in her 2002 debut to turn back a loaded field of U.S. yearly leader Miesha McKelvy (12.51), Lacena Golding-Clarke of Jamaica (12.70), Jenny Adams and 2001 world champion Anjanette Kirkland, both 12.71, and 2002 Olympic bronze medalist Melissa Morrison (12.80).

“I used to say I am going season by season. Now, I am going meet by meet,” Devers said with a laugh. “It’s hard when you ‘re out there training by yourself and you really don’t know where you are until your first race. I always used to having somebody out there curse me out. I was really kind of apprehensive telling everybody that I want this race to get over so I know where I am training wise.”

In the women’s 100m, Jones was caught in the blocks after being called for a false start by an official who held the runners in the blocks for more than two seconds before firing the gun.  Jones had little difficulty running down runner-up Tanya Lawrence of Jamaica (11.00) and Chryste Gaines to break Gwen Torrence’s meet and Hayward Field record of 10.96 run in 1996.

“I tested (the starter) a little bit and she got me,” Jones said. “The false start flustered me a little bit. I would have run much faster without the false start. My start was horrible and when I looked up I saw everybody ahead of me, I had to bear down to bring it on through.”

In the men’s mile, wind hampered El Guerrouj’s bid to improve on his American all-comers record of 3:49.92 set in last year’s Prefontaine Classic but the Moroccan was able to fend off final-stretch challenges from Chirchir (3:51.03) and Lagat (3:52.63) with a 54.3 final 400.

Americans Seneca Lassiter (3:55.30), Bryan Berryhill (3:56.30), David Krummenacker (3:56.45), Adam Goucher (3:56.76) and Matt Lane (3:57.57) were among 11 men under four minutes.

In the women’s pole vault, Dragila shook off an opening round miss at 4.22 to win in a third-attempt clearance of 4.72, equalling the fourth-best outdoor performance of all-time to defeat runner-up Mary Sauer and Mel Mueller, both 4.52.

Amid rhythmic clapping in a city that prides itself with the nickname Track Town USA and as the most knowledgeable in America, Dragila took three attempts at 4.82 in an effort to break her world record of 4.81 set last year.

“Sometimes you have to change your focus,” Dragila said. “Maybe the world record wasn’t there today but being confident, getting on bigger poles and working on technique was huge for me. I just think it’s a matter of putting the perfect vault together. It wasn’t perfect today by any means but I am right where I want to be.”

Tim Montgomery and Allen Johnson emerged victorious in photo finishes in the 100m and 110m high hurdles while Marla Runyan won the women’s 3000m at the wire.

With Maurice Greene watching and waving to the crowd from the infield, Montgomery outleaned of Kim Collins of St. Kitt’s, 9.97 to 9.98, in a race aided by a 3.5 mps wind. Greene did not compete in the Nike-sponsored meet after recently changing his affiliation to adidas.

In the high hurdles, Johnson held off training partner Terrence Tramell to win, 13.16 to 13.17 with Larry Wade in third in 13.21.

Runyan moved from fourth on the final lap to win, 8:39.36 to 8:39.88, over Ireland’s Sonia O’Sullivan, just missing O’Sullivan’s 1996 meet record by three hundredths.

In the women’s discus, American Aretha Hill repeated her victory in the adidas Oregon Track Classic at 63.48m to turn back 1997 world champion Beatrice Faumuina  of New Zealand (60.97m) and new American record-holder Suzy Powell (60.48).

Nicole Teter and Michelle Collins were women’s winners in the 1500m and 400m. Teter defeated Regina Jacobs in a tactical metric mile to win in 4:12.93. Collins clocked 50.87 to defeat high school senior Sanya Richards (51.16) and Jearl Miles-Clark (51.22). In other men’s events, Tim Mack captured the pole vault in a career-best 5.84m, intermediate hurdler Angelo Taylor won the 400m in 44.85 and Kenyan Abraham Chebii was victorious in the 5000m in 13:13.53.