It's getting pretty obvious that Darold Williamson is on a mission.
Yesterday evening (10 June), in a semi-final of the men's 400 metres at the third day of the NCAA championships here, Williamson strode confidently through a PB 44.27 race - world season lead - that left him looking (1) surprisingly fresh and (2) formidable.
After running a conservative first 200 metres, the 22-year-old Baylor University student from San Antonio accelerated on the curve and came into the straight two metres ahead of Miles Smith of Southeast Missouri University and Ricardo Chambers (JAM) of Florida State University. Then halfway to the finish, he accelerated again, winning by six metres from Terry Gatson of the University of Arkansas. Gatson and Chambers also set PBs, at 44.93 and 44.94 respectively.
In the second semifinal, Jamel Ashley of Mississippi State University also joined Club Sub-45 by winnng in 44.98, and it took 45.22 to make the final.
The goal is 43 seconds
Although Williamson won an Olympic gold medal with his 43.83 anchor leg in Athens, Williamson missed the chance to run for the individual gold medal, which was won by his Baylor teammate, Jeremy Wariner. In addition, Williamson finished a dismal sixth in last year's NCAA, also won by Wariner. Yet Williamson has a 13-9 lifetime edge on Wariner.
So Williamson has some scores to settle, not of revenge, but of pride. Both ‘Flying Ws’ train on the same Baylor track, running workouts for the same coach, Clyde Hart, who of course was Michael Johnson's coach from 1988 through 2000. And their rivalry has always been that of teammates, a friendly but now increasingly serious one because so much appears to be at stake over the next few years.
Williamson's first order of business, of course, is to win Saturday's 400 final (11 June). You can't take anything for granted, of course, in a field where the slowest runner has a PR of 44.22. But he should win, and if he does win the way he wants to win, that will set up a classic 400 at the U.S. championships two weeks from now.
After his race today, Williamson said, "I didn't think I was running that fast. I just came here to run hard and win. I was upset about last year.
"I was comfortable out there and I'm not tired right now. My goal tomorrow is 43, and now that I've seen it, I know it's there."
Slow start for Dix
In the men's100 metres, Walter Dix of Florida State came on strong in the final 15 metres to win in 10.21, edging Wes Felix of Southern California (Allyson's big brother). Dix said, "If I had come out of the blocks better, I would definitely have gone sub-ten."
Sprinter-jumper Marshevet Hooker of the University of Texas, second Thursday's Long Jump with 6.60, was back in action today. First she anchored her team to victory in the 4x100 relay, crossing the finish line in 42.87, by far the best collegiate time this year. Two hours later she won the women's 100 in 11.16 (0.0). The men's 4x100 was fast, too, with Arkansas edging Florida, 38.49 to 38.54.
Sub-49 400m Hurdles and 20.88 Shot win
The semifinals of the men's 400m Hurdles produced four sub-49 second performances, with Louisiana State's Benny Brazell's 48.33 leading the way.
In the field events, Edis Elkasevic (CRO) of Auburn University had four puts over 20.42, the best one being 20.88, a PB and also a Croatian national record. Beth Mallory of the University of Alabama won the women's Discus with a throw of 59.35, which puts her into the top rank of American throwers. And Rodrigo Mendes (BRAZIL) of Brigham Young University, with a fast, low style resembling Jonathan Edwards', rode a 3.4m/s tailwind to a 17.54 qualifying mark in the men's Triple Jump.
James Dunaway for the IAAF
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