Tyson Gay reaffirmed his status as USA’s sprint king in the 100m and English Gardner began her reign in the women’s 100m at the US Championships at Drake Stadium on Friday night (21 June).
Gay won the 100m in a world-leading 9.75 to equal the 10th-fastest performance of all-time to win his first national title in the event since 2008. Gardner won the women’s 100m in a world-leading 10.85 in her first meeting as a professional after relinquishing her collegiate eligibility at the University of Oregon.
The times by Gay and Gardner were among four world-leading marks on the second session of the four-day meeting. Sharon Day won the Heptathlon with a world-leading 6550 points to move to fifth on the all-time US list. Barbara Pierre ran 10.85 in the women’s 100m semi-finals before her time was equalled by Gardner in the final.
In the 100m Hurdles semi-finals, Brianna Rollins ran a wind-aided 12.33 (2.3m/s) for the third-best mark by an American under any conditions in her first professional race for the NCAA champion and collegiate record-holder.
Gay turns back Gatlin in 100m final
In the men’s 100m final, Gay overcame a sluggish start to overtake Justin Gatlin and pull away over the final 40m for a 9.75 to 9.89 victory, aided by a 1.1m/s tailwind. Collegian Charles Silmon was third in a PB of 9.98, edging Mike Rodgers by two thousandths of a second for the final spot on the US team for the IAAF World Championships in Moscow.
“I kind of rushed my transition a little bit when I saw Gatlin get out good,” said Gay. “That’s just normal instincts.”
In the semi-finals two hours earlier, Gay ran a wind-aided 9.75 (2.4m/s) with Gatlin in second in 9.89. Gay called his start in the semi-finals better than in the finals but said the triumph had little bearing on the outcome in the final.
“It gives you confidence to beat any medallist but at the same time I just wanted to work on me,” Gay said. “I haven’t had that many races so I am not as sharp as I probably could be.”
Gay wasn’t able to confirm his participation in the 200m but would wait to see how he felt after the demanding rounds of the 100m on Friday in warm temperatures. Gay also wanted to relish the win with his mother and brother who were in attendance.
“It’s mentally draining when you get a victory and can’t enjoy it,” Gay said. “Two 9.7s in a day is pretty tough on your body.”
Gay, who has only two competitions scheduled in Diamond League meetings in Lausanne (4 July) and Monaco (19 July) before the World Championships at the moment, said his main priority was to be injury free for Moscow, not a showdown with Usain Bolt.
Gay, who missed most of the 2011 season after hip surgery, has not raced Bolt head-to-head since finishing fourth in the 100m at the 2012 London Olympics.
“I’m feeling a lot better and have a stronger finish,” Gay said. “It just shows when you’re healthy, the playing field is a lot more even. I have a good base under my belt. “
And the key to beating Bolt in the World Championships?
“Everybody knows it’s going to take a fast race when it counts. It’s no secret that he is going to be ready like he always is,” Gay said.
Triumphant debut for Gardner in the women’s 100m
Gardner was overwhelmed with emotion after edging Octavious Freeman in a career-best 10.85 to 10.87 (1.8m/s) in the women’s 100m final in a race that produced the top four times in the world this season.
Alexandria Anderson was third in 10.91 and Jeneba Tarmoh was fourth in 10.93. Pierre, who had run 10.85 (2.0m/s) in the semi-finals, was fifth in 10.94. Reigning World champion Carmelita Jeter did not run in the meet.
Gardner also defeated Freeman to win the NCAA 100m title on 7 June in a then career-best 10.96 in her last collegiate race for Oregon.
The top four finishers in the final finished in exactly the same positions they did in the second semi-final earlier in the evening, and they were followed by the top four from the first semi-final, again in the exact same order they finished earlier.
It was a brutal round, which saw former World champion Lauryn Williams miss the cut, despite running 11.00 – her fastest time since 2008 and the fastest time never to make a 100m final in any championships.
At the NCAA Championships, Gardner had been doubtful for the 100m final on her home track in Eugene because of inflammation in her right ankle that had prevented her from qualifying for the 200m final. Gardner said that the injury was still bothersome on Friday night.
“It’s not something that is going to go away until I am fully rested and can take some time off,” Gardner said. “It’s going to be a long haul going to Moscow on this ankle. It is going to be an emotional battle so I am definitely not trying to worry about the things that I cannot control and just get out there and perform the best that I can.”
Gardner said it’s been a long season competing during the indoor and outdoor season and felt at a disadvantage against her competitors who have not had to run the extensive collegiate indoor and outdoor seasons like herself.
“Dealing with the nicks and the pains throughout the year has been rough on me,” added Gardner, the American junior record-holder. “It’s hard for any runner to endure so much running. These girls’ legs are a little fresher than mine.”
Fatigue didn’t seem to hamper Gardner on Friday. She ran a PB 10.87 (1.7m/s) in the semi-finals, and then in the final she built a quick lead out of the blocks and held off a late charge by Freeman to knock two hundredths more off her lifetime best.
“I’ve overcome so many obstacles the last two weeks,” Gardner said. “I really came and performed well and I am just happy.”
Change of sprint direction results in brisk times
A change of direction of the sprints on the home-straight resulted in dramatic improvement in the times from Thursday’s heats where most of the races were run into headwinds as high as -3.5m/s. Officials placed a mat along a wall at the end of homestretch, similar to indoor meetings. After complaints from runners about gauging the finish line, organisers placed tape on the track as a makeshift marker for the finals.
In the women’s 100m semifinal, all eight finalists ran 11.07 or better. Lauryn Williams was left out of the final after placing fifth in her heat in 11.00. In Thursday’s heats which were run into headwinds, no woman ran faster than 11.18.
In the men’s 100m semifinals, it took a time of 10.02w to make the final, while Diondre Batson missed the cut after running 10.04 – equalling the fastest ever time never to make a championship 100m final. In the heats, the fastest time was 10.19.
“It is scary indoors when you run into a mat,” said Gay. “You’re running a lot faster outdoors so it’s a little bit scarier.”
Day scores 6550 in Heptathlon
Day won the Heptathlon – part of the IAAF Combined Events Challenge – with a career-best 6550, an improvement of 207 on her mark of 6343 at the 2012 US Olympic Trials. The score moved her from 12th to fifth on the US all-time list and it’s the best score by US heptathlete since 2010.
Day, the first-day leader with 3908, equalled her PB of 13.54 in the 100m Hurdles and posted lifetime bests of 24.02 in the 200m and 47.38m in the Javelin. She also recorded marks of 1.90m in the High Jump, a wind-assisted 6.16m in the Long Jump (2.6m/s) and 2:12.12 in the 800m.
Bettie Wade was second with 6018 points and NCAA indoor champion Erica Bougard was third with 5990.
Other winners were Brad Walker in the Pole Vault (5.65m), Lance Brooks in the Discus (62.29m) and AG Kruger in the Hammer (75.52m).
Rollins leads 100m Hurdles qualifiers with windy 12.33
Rollins’ wind-aided 12.33 in the 100m Hurdles highlighted a first round that included marks of 12.44 (3.5m/s) by Queen Harrison, a stadium record 12.50 (1.9m/s) by Lolo Jones and 12.60 (2.1m/s) by Dawn Harper-Nelson.
Olympic silver medallist Harper-Nelson will not run in the semifinals, but as the 2012 Diamond Race winner she has a bye for the World Championships.
Gunnar Nixon leads World record-holder and Olympic champion Ashton Eaton, 4449 to 4405, after the first day of the Decathlon, also part of the IAAF Combined Events Challenge. Eaton has been competing with caution as he has tendonitis in his left leg, but still looks set to break 8500, which should be enough to hold off Nixon, who is on course for a big PB in the region of 8400.
Trey Hardee didn’t contest the Decathlon High Jump, but as the defending World champion he will have a guaranteed place on the team for Moscow.
LaShawn Merritt had the top time in the 400m semifinals of 44.36. Francena McCorory had the top women’s time of 50.53 with Sanya Richards-Ross advancing to the final as seventh-fastest with 51.53.
Brandon Johnson (1:44.78) and Duane Solomon (1:45.07) were the top qualifiers in the 800m semifinals, while Brenda Martinez was the leader in the women’s 800m with 1:59.84.
In the first round of the women’s 400m Hurdles, Olympic finalist Georgeanne Moline ran 55.04 in the absence of LaShinda Demus who withdrew because of a leg injury and was granted a medical waiver by USATF use her bye for Moscow as a defending World champion. Bershawn Jackson was the leader in the men’s 400m Hurdles semifinals at 48.76.
Kirby Lee for the IAAF