News21 Jun 2002

“Wow!” Jones, Greene get US Championships off to a Fast Start


“Wow!” Jones, Greene get US Championships off to a Fast Start
Ed Gordon for the IAAF
21 June 2002 - Palo Alto, CA (USA) - “Sunny” California was anything but that on Friday, but Marion Jones and Maurice Greene paid no attention to plummeting temperatures, stiff winds and infrequent sunshine.

Those two Sydney gold medallists did their work like true professionals in the semifinal round of their respective 100-metre events.

Jones was particularly impressive, winning in 10.98 while battling a 2.3 headwind. IAAF Council Member Bob Hersh, one of the stadium announcers, summed up the magnificent performance to the opening-day crowd with the single word, “Wow!”

Ironically, Jones did not post the fastest time of the day. That honour went to Chryste Gaines, who used a more favourable wind of 0.7 and preceded Jones’ race with a PB 10.96. Only the 10.90 by Jones in winning the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene one month ago is faster among this season’s performances.

In their first matchup since the Edmonton World Championships, Greene and Tim Montgomery found themselves assigned to adjacent lanes in their semifinal race.

Greene had a magnificent start, while Montgomery seemed glued to his starting blocks. The result was a 9.99 for the world-record holder, as his top rival from last season was totally out of range at 10.13.

In the other semifinal race, Jon Drummond won in a season-best 10.09 ahead of Coby Miller (10.21) and J.J. Johnson (10.23).

The splendid 100-metre results were in stark contrast with most of the other track events, as drab weather conditions preyed on the minds and feet of the athletes.

Of the twenty-five aspirants in the men’s 400 metres, only Alvin Harrison was able to really conquer the conditions with his 45.15. At the other end of the 45-second realm, NCAA 400 hurdle champion Ricky Harris led the remaining five who dipped under 46 with a 45.75, although he opted not to contest the more gruelling event.

In his absence, the 400 hurdle heats were led by 2000 Olympic Trials runner-up Eric Thomas in 49.48, with Joey Woody only slightly in back in winning his race in 49.54.

Approaching his 32nd birthday in just over a week, Atlanta Olympic champion Derrick Adkins nipped the bronze medallist from the same Games, Calvin Davis, 49.67 to 49.68 in the opening heat, while James Carter was also a heat winner with 50.16.

Titles were awarded in numerous field events on this first day of competition. As expected, the men’s long jump was a tight battle between Edmonton silver medallist Savanté Stringfellow and the lead player of the past indoor season, Miguel Pate.

After Stringfellow opened with a long foul, Pate countered with his best of the year at 8.45. That was just the nudge that defending champion Stringfellow needed, as the Mississippian leaped a world-leading 8.52 on his next jump for a lead that Pate could not overcome.

Using a fifth-round jump of 6.46, Brianna Glenn nipped last year’s runner-up in the women’s long jump, Grace Upshaw, who finished second at 6.43.

One of the more unexpected winners was hammer thrower Lance Deal, who cut short a one-year retirement period to win his ninth US championship with a throw of 74.49. It moved him even with Hal Connolly, who also won nine titles from 1995-61 and 1964-5. John McEwen finished second at 74.18.

The Atlanta silver medallist told the crowd, “Nowhere in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be back here. I started throwing again in December, and in March I decided I would make a serious try at returning to competition. I’m glad I did. It’s like revisiting an old friend.”

An American record resulted from Serene Ross’ victory in the women’s javelin with a throw of 60.06. She had also held the previous record of 59.64, set three weeks ago in winning the NCAA Championships.

Other wins went to Teri Steer with 19.20 in the women’s shot put, and to Tisha Waller, who won the women’s high jump at 1.96 as only six of the fourteen jumpers could clear a height under the uninviting weather conditions.

The US Junior (U20) Championships--the selection meeting for next month’s IAAF World Junior Championships--are also being contested concurrently with the senior event, and several performances were of note.

In spite of a strong crosswind, 18-year-old Tommy Skipper pole vaulted 5.35 and had one good attempt at 5.52 at the conclusion of the event.

On his final throw, Michael Robertson established a new national junior discus (1.75 kg) record with a throw of 61.61.

And Sanya Richards pipped Allyson Felix in the final steps of the women’s 200 metres, 23.31 to 23.34, as a headwind of 3.5 made faster times impossible. Richards had earlier run 53.98 in the heats of the women’s 400 metres, the top mark of which was the 53.10 of Monique Henderson. 

Both of the 10K titles were decided at the end of the evening, by which time the winds had abated to produce rather excellent running conditions.

 Jen Rhines responded to this gift from Mother Nature with a wire-to-wire win of 31:57.38 in the women's event, as Milena Glusac (32:15.09) held off Katie McGregor (32:17.49) for second.  Deena Drossin chose not to contest another 10K on the track so soon after her American-record run last month, and will compete Saturday evening in the women's 5000.

The men's race ended up as a duel between Mebrahtom Keflezighi and Abdi Abdirahman, which national record-holder "Meb" won by outsprinting his rival in the last lap, 27:41.68 to 27:42.83.  Alan Culpepper had a close view of the action as he finished third in 27:48.09.