Justin Gatlin wins 200m at U.S. Championships in another personal best

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Justin Gatlin won the 200 meters in a personal-best 19.57 seconds at the U.S. Track and Field Championships on Sunday, cementing his favorite status over Usain Bolt in the 100m and 200m for August’s World Championships.

“When I was in the warm-up area, I was like, you know, let’s go out here and make a statement,” Gatlin said on USATF.TV, adding in a separate interview, “A lot of people were asking what could I run if I ran through the finish line.”

Gatlin, 33 and five years removed from a four-year doping ban, became the fifth fastest all time in the event with his victory. Those faster are Bolt (19.19), Yohan Blake (19.26), Michael Johnson (19.32) and Walter Dix (19.53).

Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100m champion, was the world’s fastest man in the 100m and the 200m in 2014 and is again this year. Bolt’s fastest 200m time in his three races since the 2013 World Championships is 20.13 from May 26.

Gatlin’s win Sunday came over training partner Isiah Young, who clocked 19.93, and two-time Olympian Wallace Spearmon, who ran 20.10 (race video here). They’re all going to the World Championships in Beijing from Aug. 22-30.

Full U.S. Championships results | U.S. qualifiers for World Championships

The University of Oregon’s Jenna Prandini captured the women’s 200m in 22.20, followed by Candyce McGrone and Jeneba Tarmoh (race video here). They’ll join Olympic champion Allyson Felix on the Worlds team in that event.

The most story-filled final of the day in Eugene, Ore., was the women’s 800m. Alysia Montano won her sixth U.S. outdoor title in 1:59.15 (race video here), one year after she finished last in her first-round heat at the U.S. Championships in 2:32.13 — while seven months pregnant.

“We didn’t even have Nationals on the radar,” an astonished Montano told Lewis Johnson on NBC, while holding 10-month-old daughter Linnea, adding later on USATF.TV, “We really wanted to take the postpartum journey slow.”

Montano said she ran/walked five miles (in 80 minutes) on her due date last year and is 30 pounds lighter at this year’s U.S. Championships than at the 2014 meet.

“I really wanted for my daughter to see her mom put her best foot forward,” Montano told media in Eugene. “Yeah, she’s not going to remember [Sunday’s race], but there will be plenty of video for her to be like, oh, I was there.”

World bronze medalist Brenda Martinez finished second to Montano. Ajee’ Wilson, the world’s fastest 800m runner in 2014 and second fastest this year, grabbed the third and final Worlds spot by .04 over Molly Ludlow while running with one shoe on. Wilson lost her right shoe near the start of the final curve with 200 meters to go, saying she got clipped.

“I didn’t really have time to think,” Wilson told media in Eugene. “It kind of was halfway on, so I wiggled it off.”

Nick Symmonds, who has rarely raced since he won 2013 Worlds silver, took the men’s 800m in 1:44.53, coming back from being way off the pace on the final lap (race video here).

“This time last year I was on my couch, watching this meet and seriously considering retirement,” Symmonds, 31 and a two-time Olympian, said on USATF.TV. “I know that I have at least one more year left in me.”

Duane Solomon, the 2012 Olympic fourth-place finisher who predicted before the race he’d go out so fast — “the Twilight Zone” — that he’d probably be on world-record pace through 600 meters, led coming around the final curve but faded to a walk and finished eighth in 3:08.74.

“The last 100, I just could not control my body at all,” Solomon told media in Eugene. “I was almost blacking out. … I had nothing left. I could barely even walk to the [finish] line.”

World champion David Oliver, who already had a bye into Worlds, won the 110m hurdles in 13.04 seconds (race video here), his fastest time since he won the 2013 World title in 13.00. He’ll be joined on the Worlds team by Ronnie Ash, Olympic champion Aries Merritt and Aleec Harris.

The 2011 World champion Jenny Simpson, who also already had a bye into Worlds, ran the 1500m final anyway and easily prevailed in 4:14.86 (race video here). Shannon Rowbury, also a Worlds medal contender, finished second. Mary Cain, who in 2013 became the youngest U.S. track and field athlete to make a World Championships team at age 17, was eighth, missing the Worlds team.

Olympic champion Jenn Suhr won the pole vault by clearing 4.82 meters, the best mark in the world this year.

Two-time reigning NCAA champion Shamier Little of Texas A&M, a 20-year-old who runs in glasses, won the women’s 400m hurdles in 53.83. Little ran the fastest time in the world this year — 53.74 — at the NCAA Championships on June 13.

Little will be joined on the U.S. 400m hurdles team at Worlds by second- and third-place finishers Cassandra Tate and Kori Carter but not reigning World silver and bronze medalists Dalilah Muhammad and Lashinda Demus. Demus was fourth, .03 behind Carter, and Muhammad was seventh.

Joe Kovacs, the world’s best shot putter in 2014 and 2015, reached 21.84m on Sunday for his second straight U.S. title. He’ll be joined on the Worlds team by 2014 Diamond League champion Reese Hoffa, 2009 World champion Christian Cantwell and Jordan Clarke.

Evan Jager won the 3000m steeplechase in 8:12.29. Jager is the only non-Kenyan to run a top-10 time in the world this year and is the world’s fastest in the 1500m for 2015. The U.S. has never won a Worlds steeplechase medal.

Omar Craddock, Olympic silver medalist Will Claye and Marquis Dendy, all of whom competed for the University of Florida, went one-two-three in the triple jump. They’ll join Olympic champion Christian Taylor, who also competed for Florida, at Worlds in that event.

Three-time Olympian Chaunte Lowe won the women’s high jump, and five-time Olympian Amy Acuff finished third, but nobody in the field has reached the Worlds qualifying standard. They have until Aug. 9 to chase it.

Barbara Nwaba topped two-time Olympian Sharon Day-Monroe in the heptathlon with 6,500 points to 6,458. Erica Bougard was third to round out the Worlds team.

Kara Goucher: ‘People have been threatened’ at U.S. Championships

Jeneba Tarmoh, Oregon WR win USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships

Jeneba Tarmoh
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Jeneba Tarmoh left no doubt at the U.S. Championships on Sunday, two years after her famous tie with Allyson Felix at the U.S. Olympic Trials.

University of Oregon wide receiver Devon Allen and World bronze medalist Curtis Mitchell also won track titles in Sacramento, Calif., where on-track temperatures reportedly topped 120 degrees.

Tarmoh won the 200m in 22.06 seconds. Last year’s U.S. champion, Kimberlyn Duncan, was second in 22.1 with a 3.8 m/s tailwind.

“I really just tried to stay focused on my finish,” Tarmoh told Lewis Johnson on NBC. “My coach told me to stay relaxed. That’s exactly what I did.”

In 2012, Tarmoh and Felix tied for third in the 100m at the Olympic Trials, where three women make the Olympic Team in the event. There were no tiebreaker procedures in place, officials determined a runoff to decide the spot, and Tarmoh ceded it to Felix rather than run.

Tarmoh still made the Olympic Team in the 4x100m relay that won gold (Tarmoh ran in the first round to earn her medal but not the final). She went on to finish fifth in the 200m at the 2013 World Championships. Felix tore her hamstring and fell to the track in the same race.

Now, Tarmoh, at 24, is a U.S. champion for the first time. She owed her ability to focus at such a big meet to her experience.

“It’s very hard, but I think it’s practice, being a professional for probably three years now,” Tarmoh said. “It doesn’t happen in one year. It definitely takes time.”

The track and field season continues with the resumption of the Diamond League in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Thursday. There, Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay will face off in the 100m in Gay’s return from a doping suspension.

In other events Sunday, University of Oregon wide receiver Devon Allen followed his NCAA Championship with the U.S. title in the 110m hurdles. Allen’s dip at the line earned him a victory over 2013 U.S. champion Ryan Wilson in a photo finish — 13.155 to 13.160 (video here).

Allen’s time, rounded up to 13.16, was the same mark he set to win the NCAA title in Eugene, Ore., two weeks ago.

Allen, a redshirt freshman at Oregon last year, caught two touchdowns in the school’s May spring game and was named MVP. Allen said football was his priority after he won the NCAA title.

In the men’s 200m, the heat slowed World bronze medalist Curtis Mitchell, but not until after he won the race.

Mitchell edged two-time Olympian Wallace Spearmon and grabbed his right hamstring shortly after crossing the finish line in 20.13, .09 faster than Spearmon.

“I’m fine, just hot conditions out here,” Mitchell said. “I’ll be OK.”

The 2011 World champion Jenny Simpson comfortably won the 1500m in 4:04.96. Mary Cain, a professional who graduated high school one week ago, was second in 4:06.34.

Bershawn Jackson, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, fell after the first hurdle in the 400m hurdles and was helped off the track. Johnny Dutch won his first U.S. title (in his seventh try) about 350m later in 48.93.

Duane Solomon, an Olympic and World finalist, quickly took the lead in the 800m and was not challenged down the stretch. He won by 1.67 in 1:44.3.

The 2012 World Junior champion Ajee’ Wilson captured the 800m in 1:58.7. World bronze medalist Brenda Martinez was fifth.

The 2013 NCAA champion Kori Carter won the 400m hurdles in 53.84, the second fastest time in the world this year. Only Jamaican Kaliese Spencer has run faster.

Inika McPherson outlasted three-time Olympian Chaunte Lowe and Olympic and World silver medalist Brigetta Barrett to win the high jump with a personal best 2m clearance.

Olympian Evan Jager won the 3000m steeplechase in 8:18.83.

Two-time reigning NCAA champion Sam Kendricks took the pole vault by clearing 5.75m.

Olympian Gia Lewis-Smallwood won her second straight U.S. discus title with a 65.96m throw. London teammate Sean Furey threw 81.1m to prevail in the javelin.

Jeff Henderson leaped 8.52m to win the long jump.

Oscar Pistorius trial set to resume Monday

Nick Symmonds wins silver in 800 meters, first major international medal (video)

Nick Symmonds
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Nick Symmonds snapped a personal drought and an American drought with a silver medal in the 800 meters at the World Track and Field Championships on Tuesday.

Ethiopian favorite Mohammed Aman won in 1 minute, 43.31 seconds, passing Symmonds on the final straightaway. Symmonds grimaced crossing the line in 1:43.55, then poked his tongue out wryly. Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman got bronze in 1:43.76.

Symmonds, 29, in his fourth World Championships, won the first U.S. medal in the event at an Olympics or worlds since Rich Kenah‘s bronze in 1997. It’s the highest an American has finished in the two-lap race at a worlds.

“I think I’d prefer gold, and I did everything I could to get it,” Symmonds told Universal Sports. “I thought I had the gold until the last 10 meters. … I raced for the gold, and I’m happy with the silver.”

Adding in Olympics, it’s the best finish since Dave Wottle‘s hat-wearing golden run at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Both Symmonds and fellow American Duane Solomon were considered medal contenders as the top returning finishers from the 2012 Olympic final. The Olympic gold, silver and bronze medalists were missing from this year’s World Championships, including world record holder David Rudisha.

Solomon, the U.S. champion with the fastest time in the world this year, took the lead at 200 meters in Tuesday’s final and held it through 600 meters. Symmonds came side by side with Solomon at 400, taking the lead around the final turn before being passed by Aman.

Solomon faded to sixth place in 1:44.42.

Clearly, Symmonds’ pre-race strategy of taking a selfie and reading “Fifty Shades of Grey” paid off.

World Track and Field Championships broadcast schedule