LaShawn Merritt, Justin Gatlin joined in 200m final by high schoolers

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Those two high schoolers really can fly. So can that relative newcomer to the 200 meters, LaShawn Merritt.

Be ready, Justin Gatlin, they’ll be chasing you.

A pair of 18-year-olds, Michael Norman and Noah Lyles, turned heads Friday after blistering performances in the semifinals at the U.S. Track and Field Trials. Norman won his heat over Gatlin. Lyles wasn’t really challenged in his heat.

Moments later, Merritt stole the show; the runner known more for the 400 turned in a 200 time of 19.74 seconds, the fastest mark in the world this season.

“These kids, man, they’re good,” the 34-year-old Gatlin said. “They’re good at what they do. They’re strong. They’re brave man.

“Got to compete against them like they’re real competitors.”

Oh, they’re real all right. Maybe a little in awe and perhaps still a little green, but definitely real.

After crossing the line in 20.21 seconds, Norman reached over and shook Gatlin’s hand. He leaned in and said, “Do you remember me?”

Gatlin sure did. They once hung out at a Nike Elite camp. Norman thought about bringing up their encounter before the race, but didn’t want to interrupt the sprinter who figures to be the biggest threat to Usain Bolt at the Rio de Janeiro Games.

Probably a wise move. Gatlin was all business.

“They’re coming out to be giant killers,” he said.

And Gatlin would be the giant in the final Saturday. Or perhaps it’s Merritt, given the time he ran.

“Came off the curve with everybody, felt good so I made a move,” said Merritt, who’s dabbling in the 200 after already earning a spot by winning the 400. “The key was to win the race. That’s what I did.”

Track and Field Trials: Results Daily Schedule | TV Schedule

Norman is from Murrieta, California, and plans to go to Southern California this fall. Lyles hails from Alexandria, Virginia, and will attend Florida.

They have a friendly rivalry on the junior circuit, with Norman beating out Lyles for the Gatorade Athlete of the Year award. But it was Lyles who beat Norman in the only 200 race in which they’ve squared off – at USATF Junior National Championships in 2015.

“We’re pretty close. We talk to each other all the time,” Norman said.

Feed off each other, too.

“Watch them in the call room, they look at each other, and you can tell they’re like, `We got this,”‘ Gatlin said. “I’m going to rise to the occasion when it’s time.”

Anything one does, the other tries to do better.

“Saw him going and I thought, `Oh, dang, he ran outside Gatlin. He just passed Gatlin,”‘ Lyles said. “I was like, `Oh, I got to get out there.’

“I don’t mean to brag, but we’re pretty extraordinary. We come out here and try to do our best, then try to show up for the crowd.”

Don’t be surprised if they earn a spot on the 200. They are that talented.

“Trying to go to the Olympics – it’s been a goal for four years and we’re trying to make it happen,” Lyles said.

Of course, Gatlin will have something to say about it. He’s already qualified in the 100, but hopes to earn a place in the 200, too. Merritt will be in the mix as well. He had the fastest 200 time coming in and has only gotten stronger despite running three rounds of the 400 earlier at trials.

“Just have to stay humble, stay grounded, get some rest and come out tomorrow and do it all over again,” Merritt said.

Merritt could be in line to try to become the first man to win a 200-400 Olympic double since Michael Johnson in 1996. But that’s a decision for down the road.

“I’m just trying to take it a race at a time,” Merritt said.

Flying under the radar are Ameer Webb and veteran Tyson Gay, who didn’t make the team in the 100.

“That’s two rounds down, one more to go,” Lyles said. “We’re just trying to make something cool happen.”

MORE: LaShawn Merritt eyes Michael Johnson-like double in Rio

Justin Gatlin, Noah Lyles headline U.S. roster for IAAF World Relays

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Justin Gatlin and Noah Lyles haven’t been in the same race since the 2016 Olympic Trials, but they could exchange a baton at the IAAF World Relays next month.

Gatlin, the reigning world 100m champion, and Lyles, undefeated at 200m outdoors in this Olympic cycle, headline the U.S. roster at World Relays in Yokohama, Japan, from May 11-12.

It’s the fourth edition of the meet that was held in the Bahamas in 2014, 2015 and 2017. Competition includes men’s and women’s 4x100m, 4x200m and 4x400m, a mixed-gender 4x400m (making its Olympic debut in 2020), a shuttle hurdle relay and a 2x2x400m.

The U.S. has topped the medal standings at every World Relays, most memorably beating a Usain Bolt-anchored Jamaican 4x100m in 2015.

This U.S. team also includes world 100m champion Tori Bowie, U.S. 100m champion Aleia Hobbs and Lyles’ younger brother, Josephus.

The full U.S. roster:

Devon Allen
Joanna Atkina
Olivia Baker
Jessica Beard
Chris Belcher
Jasmine Blocker
Tori Bowie
Donavan Brazier
Mikiah Brisco
Ce’Aira Brown
Dezerea Bryant
Cameron Burrell
Michael Cherry
Christina Clemons (Manning)
Shania Collins
Freddie Crittenden
Paul Dedewo
Ryan Fontenot
Justin Gatlin
Queen Harrison
Aleia Hobbs
Ashley Henderson
Je’Von Hutchinson
Kyra Jefferson
Fred Kerley
My’lik Kerley
Jordan Lavender
Josephus Lyles
Noah Lyles
Remontay McClain
Sharika Nelvis
Vernon Norwood
Courtney Okolo
Jenna Prandini
Bryce Robinson
Mike Rodgers
Jaide Stepter
Nathan Strother
Gabby Thomas
Brionna Thomas
Ameer Webb
Shakima Wimbley
Dontavius Wright
Isiah Young

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How to watch 2019 London Marathon

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The London Marathon airs live on NBCSN and streams commercial free for NBC Sports Gold “Track and Field Pass” subscribers on Sunday at 4 a.m. ET.

NBCSN coverage also streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers.

Sunday’s race start times (ET)
4:05 – Elite Wheelchair Races
4:10 – World Para Athletics Marathon Championships Ambulant Athletes
4:25 – Elite Women’s Race
5:10 – Elite Men’s Race, Mass Race

The London Marathon is known for the deepest fields of all the annual major marathons. This year is no exception.

Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge will race his first 26.2-miler since shattering the world record by 78 seconds in Berlin on Sept. 16 (2:01:39).

Kipchoge, on a modern-era record win streak of nine elite marathons, won his last three London starts, including setting the course record of 2:03:05 in 2016. Another world record on Sunday is a monumental ask, given Berlin is traditionally a faster course than London.

Kipchoge’s competition includes Britain’s four-time Olympic track champion Mo Farah and fellow Kenyans and past London winners Daniel Wanjiru and Wilson Kipsang.

Yet another Kenyan, Mary Keitany, also eyes a fourth London title. The 5-foot-2 soft speaker bagged either the London or New York City Marathons seven of the last eight years, with the outlier being 2013, when she gave birth to her second child.

Keitany’s greatest feat came in London in 2017, when she won in 2:17:01, erasing Paula Radcliffe‘s world record in a women’s only race by 41 seconds.

But last year, Keitany went out at world-record pace and was passed by yet another Kenyan mom, Vivian Cheruiyot, in the 23rd mile in London. Cheruiyot, a four-time Olympic track medalist, returns to defend her title Sunday.

The top two U.S. runners are Molly Huddle, in her London debut, and Emily Sisson, in her marathon debut. Both are jockeying for position among the deepest group of American female marathoners in history with the Olympic Trials looming in 10 months.

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MORE: 2019 Boston Marathon Results