Merritt, Richards cruise
Little competition for 400 crowns
EUGENE, Ore. - If only they were all this easy.
LaShawn Merritt and Sanya Richards made their 400-meter races look like strolls around the track yesterday, each cruising to titles at the US championships.
With no Jeremy Wariner in the field, Merritt was missing his only real rival and quickly pulled away from the field. The Olympic gold medalist, who beat Wariner in Beijing, won in 44.50 seconds, tying his world-best time for 2009.
Now that’s a birthday present.
Merritt turned 23 yesterday, but doesn’t plan to celebrate until returning home to Virginia.
“I’m getting old, getting old,’’ he said, laughing.
With no one to push Merritt, the battle was for second, where Gil Roberts held off Kerron Clement. Olympic bronze medalist David Neville finished fifth.
“I don’t take anything for granted,’’ Merritt said. “I know my competitor is going to bring their ‘A’ game, and I’m going to bring mine, too.’’
This was Richards’s fifth national championship and second in a row.
Wearing hot pink shoes and matching top, Richards only got stronger as the race went along. She finished in 50.05 seconds. Debbie Dunn took second and Jessica Beard was third.
“I don’t think it was one of my best races of the season,’’ Richards said. “I just wanted to run smart and make sure I brought it home to win. I’m ready to move on and focus on Berlin.’’
Dwight Phillips drew the biggest ovation of the night from the crowd when he leapt 28 feet 1 1/2 inches in the long jump on his second attempt.
That jump was good enough to win gold and banish some personal demons at Hayward Field.
The 2004 Olympic gold medalist endured an injury-riddled 2008 and missed out on a trip to Beijing in this stadium.
“It’s always frustrating when, most of my career I’ve made every team I’ve tried out for,’’ he said. “Not to make the Olympic team was very disappointing . . . I’m not looking back.’’
Phillips is quickly rounding back into form.
Earlier this month at the Prefontaine Classic, Phillips jumped 28-8 1/4, marking the longest jump in the world since 1991.
Lashinda Demus (400 hurdles), Brad Walker (pole vault), Shannon Rowbury (1,500), Kara Patterson (javelin), A.G. Kruger (hammer), Josh McAdams (steeplechase), and Tim Seaman (20K walk) also won titles yesterday.
In the men’s 110 hurdles, David Payne edged Terrence Trammell by three/1,000ths of a second for the win.
Allyson Felix had a much better showing in her best event, turning in the top time in the 200-meter prelims.
Felix had a start in the finals of the 100 the night before she labeled “atrocious.’’ This time, her burst from the block was less important but still much cleaner. The two-time Olympic silver medalist in the 200 breezed past the field, hardly even challenged.
Shawn Crawford had the top time in the prelims of the men’s 200, crossing the line in 20.19 seconds.
Wariner, meanwhile, stepped away from his signature event to run in the 200. Wariner, who’s already qualified for the world championships in the 400 - thanks to his victory at worlds in 2007, back when he was on top of the rivalry with Merritt - finished second in his heat in 20.77 seconds.
Two-time Olympic bronze medalist Walter Dix pulled out of the 200 field a day after injuring his right hamstring while running in the semifinals of the 100.