LaShawn Merritt won the 300m in the Road to Eugene '08 Meet (Kirby Lee/Image of Sport) © Copyright
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Merritt and U.S. Junior Women’s 4x100m Relay World Bests in Eugene

Eugene, Oregon, USAWorld bests by LaShawn Merritt in the 300m and the United States junior women’s 4x100m relay kicked off the inaugural Road to Eugene ’08 High Performance Meet at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field on Tuesday, 8 August.

Merritt clocked 31.31 in the 300m for the best all-time mark at sea level in the seldom-contested event and fastest on US soil. The effort ranks as the second-fastest ever behind Michael Johnson’s 30.85 set in the altitude of Pretoria, South Africa in 2000.

In the junior women’s 4x100m relay, Jeneba Tarmoh, Bianca Knight, Elizabeth Olear and Gabby Mayo timed 43.29 to eclipse the previous age 20 and under standard of 43.39 set by the US in 1999.

In the Junior Hammer, Walter Henning set an American Junior record 72.59m and twice bettered his previous record of 71.62m, opening the competition at 72.28m and unleashing his 72.59m throw in the final round.

Notable track performances in the open competition were turned in by Shawn Crawford in the 100m (10.15) and Matt Tegenkamp in the 1500m (3:36.07). Reese Hoffa and Miguel Pate were winners in the Shot Put (21.61m) and Long Jump (8.19m), respectively.

 Zurich Tune-up for Merritt in the 300m  

Merritt dominated the 300m busting to the lead in the opening 100m and cruising to a victory over Derrick Brew (32.40) and Darrold Williamson (32.42).

Tuesday’s competition was the first race at 300m for Merritt. He often runs 300m in workouts alone and didn’t hesitate to take the lead. Merritt said he ran conservatively over the curve after he made up the stagger and eased up at the finish.

“Once I was clear of the field I tried to keep my form and stay relaxed,” Merritt said. “My objective going in pretty much was just to win. My 200 metre speed is faster than everybody out there and I know I can hold my own in the 400. I knew that I could get out at a pretty good pace and not crash and burn.”

Merritt, 20, a 2004 World Junior Championships 400m gold medalist, wasn’t particularly concerned about etching his name into the record books in the non-Olympic event on Tuesday. His main focus was an indicator of his fitness for the IAAF Golden League Weltklasse Zürich meeting on 18 August.

“I know (the 300m) is not run very often,” Merritt said. “I am pleased with my time and wanted to come out and get a good race before I go overseas.’’

Fast Debut for US Junior Women 4x100m relay
The US foursome of Jeneba Tarmoh, Bianca Knight, Elizabeth Olear and Gabby Mayo had only one day of practice before Tuesday’s meet. Olear, who will be a freshman at USC in the fall, is the only non-high school runner among the quartet.

Faster times may be in store in the IAAF World Junior Championships in Beijing China on 15-20 Aug. with the addition of USATF Junior 100m champion Alexandria Anderson, who ran the anchor on an opposing team, in the two-team time trial.

“It was kind of a warm up for China,” said Mayo, 17. “We weren’t thinking about the record. We were just trying to get the stick around. That’s all we were concentrating on and working on our handoffs.’’

Mayo, the USATF Junior 200m champion, also won the Junior 100m in 11.42 with four hundredths separating the top three places with Kenyanna Wilson (11.43) and Anderson (11.46).

Sa’de Williams and Bryshon Nellum, teammates at Long Beach Poly High (Calif.) which has produced the most NFL players than any high school in the country, swept the Junior Men’s and Women’s 300m in 33.19 and 37.13.

Hoffa wins World champion battle in Shot Put
Reese Hoffa defeated training partner Adam Nelson to win the Shot Put at 21.61m in a match-up between the 2006 World Indoor and 2005 Outdoor champions.

Runner-up Dan Taylor took the lead in the second round at 21.17m but Hoffa responded with a 21.42m on the next throw and unleashed his winning effort of 21.61m in the third round. Nelson was third at 20.27m.

It was another battle of training partners in the Discus where Ian Waltz nipped Jarred Rome for a 63.67m to a 63.46m win. A.G. Kruger won the Hammer at 74.95m.

Women’s throw winners were Suzy Powell in the Discus (60.53m) and Erin Gilreath in the Hammer (68.84m).
Stevenson Returning to Form in Pole Vault
Toby Stevenson won a three-way battle in the Pole Vault over 2006 World Indoor champion Brad Walker and Russ Buller on fewer misses with all three vaulters scaling 5.70m.

It was a satisfying outing for Stevenson, who has cleared 5.81m this season, but has been inconsistent during the 2006 campaign.

“Today, I felt a lot more like my old self,” Stevenson said. “My rhythm has been way off. I have been trying too hard. It’s kind of vicious cycle. My rhythm gets off so I try harder. I had to relax and have fun with it.’’

Kellie Suttle, the women’s Pole Vaulter winner at 4.40m, adopted a similar attitude in her final competition in the US. Suttle, 33, a two-time US Olympian, is retiring at the end of the season.

Amy Acuff won the women’s High Jump at 1.92m with Gwen Wentland in second at 1.89m.

Hughes and Jones surprise Hurdle winners

There were surprise winners in the men’s and women’s high hurdles. Robby Hughes held off four-time World champion Allen Johnson to win the 110m Hurdles in 13.37. Johnson was second in 13.47.

In the women’s 100m Hurdles, Lolo Jones won in 12.70. Danielle Carruthers was second in 12.81 and 2004 Olympic champion Joanna Hayes was third in 12.92 in her outdoor season debut.

It was a sentimental victory for four-time US champion Sandra Glover, the women’s 400m Hurdles winner in 55.49 who won her first national title in Eugene in 1999. In the men’s 400m Hurdles, Kenneth Ferguson beat James Carter, 49.47 to 49.70.

Crawford, Barber post sprint wins

In the 100m, Shawn Crawford ran a controlled race to overtake a fast-starting Jason Smoots at the finish, 10.15 to 10.17. In the women’s 200m, Barber powered away from Crystal Cox for a 22.92 to 23.08 victory.

McKinney rebounds in women’s Long Jump

Akiba McKinney, who showed promising form to win the women’s Long Jump with a career-best 6.83m in the Mt. San Antonio College in April, won at 6.62m to defeat reigning World champion Tianna Madison (6.50m).

McKinney has struggled since her Mt. SAC performance where she had five jumps over her previous PB in her outdoor season debut. The 2006 USATF Indoor champion was forced to pull out of meets in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic in May after sickness from contaminated ice cubes.

McKinney, who had not competed since placing fourth in the USATF Championships, has been fighting a viral infection that caused an irritating rash on her stomach and a twitching left eye.

Miguel Pate won the men’s Long Jump at 8.19m on his second jump and passed on his final three attempts. Trevell Quinley was second in a wind-aided 7.98m. Defending World Indoor and Outdoor Triple Jump champion Walter Davis was third at 7.87m.

Tegenkamp and Schmidt middle distance victories

Matt Tegenkamp, who ran a 5000m PB 13:04.90 in Stockholm on 25 July, notched another lifetime best in the 1500m at 3:36.07 in Eugene. Alice Schmidt held off 1500m specialist Tiffany McWilliams in the 800m, 2:00.25 to 2:00.88.

Professional Athletics Assn Benefit

The Road to Eugene ’08 meet was a cooperative effort between the Local Organizing Committee for the 2008 US Olympic Team Trials, USA Track & Field, and the USATF Athletes Advisory Committee with proceeds benefiting the Professional Athletics Association (PAA), a newly formed union to professionalize athletics in the US.

Kirby Lee for the IAAF

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