Trey Hardee on his way to the US decathlon title in Sacramento (© Kirby Lee)
Trey Hardee continued his dominance on day two of the men’s decathlon at the US Championships, racking up a world-leading score of 8599 and winning by almost 800 points in Sacramento on Friday (27).
The two-time world champion had a lead of almost 400 points overnight and continued his strong form by posting the best marks in the first three events on the second day.
He equalled his season’s best of 13.69 in the 110m hurdles, set a season’s best of 50.65m in the discus and cleared 5.00m in the pole vault. By this point his lead had extended to nearly 900 points over his nearest rival, Zach Ziemek.
After throwing 56.91m in the javelin, Hardee registered a season’s best of 4:43.63 in the 1500m to wrap up the competition with 8599, his best score since taking the silver medal at the 2012 Olympics.
Wesley Bray clocked 4:28.68 in the final event to move into second place overall with a score of 7807.
“It was very consistent,” said Hardee. “There weren’t really many good things that happened, but a lot of athletes struggled. But I was on par. Like golf, I felt like I had a lot of pars. That’s what you want in the decathlon.”
The combined events at the US Championships are part of the IAAF Combined Events Challenge. With his victory in Sacramento, Hardee now takes the overall lead in the series with 17,117 points, more than a thousand ahead of the next-best athlete.
A magnificent seventh national 5000m title for Bernard Lagat – delivered in his trademark, ultra-patient, sit-and-kick fashion – served as a fitting climax to yesterday evening’s action.
In truth, anything besides an easy win for the 39-year-old former world champion would have come as a massive shock, given that Lagat’s strongest domestic rival Galen Rupp withdrew from the race after securing the 10,000m title on Thursday night. Still, the manner in which he delivered showed that his advancing years appear to be doing little to blunt either his potent finishing speed or indeed his tactical nous.
Last night, Lagat stalked his main rivals Andrew Bumbalough and Hassan Mead through the majority of the final lap before launching himself clear of the field with 100m to go to take the title in 13:31.41.
“It feels so good,” he said afterwards. “I’ve been training really well recently. I was confident coming here. I just tried to stay out of trouble.
“The plan was to wait, wait, wait, because I always lose that patience so I said I would be very patient today, not go with 300 or 200 to go, but to wait until the home straight. It was a pity Galen wasn’t here. It would have been wonderful race for the fans to see.”
Richards-Ross back in form, Claye flies to lifetime best
One of the biggest surprises on Friday came in the women’s 400m semi-finals where Sanya Richards-Ross bounced back to form with a world-leading 50.03 clocking.
“I feel really good,” said Richards-Ross after running her fastest time since winning Olympic gold in August 2012. “I’ve been training hard and it’s just nice to feel it paying off. I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I’m feeling really confident.”
She will face off against world indoor champion Francena McCrory in Saturday’s final in what looks a head-to-head duel to savour.
In the field events, Will Claye was the undoubted star performer, setting a lifetime best in the triple jump with a final-round leap of 17.75m, the second longest jump in the world this year and just one centimetre behind Pedro Pablo Pichardo’s world-leading mark. Olympic champion Christian Taylor finished second with 17.37m.
“I’m just glad I’m able to jump again,” said Claye, the 2012 world indoor champion. “I was going through some things for a while where I couldn’t jump. I had a humbling experience indoors, had never been injured like that, or had track taken away from me like that. For me to be able to jump again the way I can is awesome, and I’m going to make the best of it.”
Rodgers and Bartoletta take 100m titles
In the men’s 100m, Michael Rodgers was a convincing winner, clocking 10.09 seconds into a -1.7m/s headwind to take the title comfortably ahead of Ryan Bailey (10.23) and Sean McLean (10.26).
However, it was in the semi-final that Rodgers turned in what was perhaps most impressive performance of the day, scorching down the track to a wind-assisted time of 9.80 (+2.4m/s).
His performance was all the more impressive given that in February this year, Rodgers fractured his ankle and severely strained ligaments when stepping on a wooden plank while warming up for a race.
“This year, I’m in the best shape of my life,” he said. “I’m healthy now, I’m running fast. It’s time to hit the circuit and see what I can really do. The sky is the limit.”
Rodgers will next race at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Lausanne next Thursday, where he is set to face fellow US sprinters Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay over 100m.
It was a similar story in the women’s 100m, with helpful tailwinds in the semi-finals and a stiff headwind in the final.
Tianna Bartoletta took a comfortable victory, running 11.15 into a -2.1m/s wind to finish ahead of Barbara Pierre (11.27) and Lakeisha Lawson (11.30).
Earlier in the evening, Bartolette had won her semi-final in a season’s best of 10.92, aided by a perfect 2.0m/s wind. The fastest performer of the day was sprint sensation of the year Tori Bowie, who won her semi-final in 10.91 – also assisted by a 2.0m/s wind – but she withdrew from the final.
“Every race is one step at a time,” said Bartoletta. “I’m just looking at all the baby steps to make sure I execute each race as well as possible, and I think I did that well today.”
The most exciting contest of the night came in the women’s 5000m, as long-time leader Molly Huddle eventually emerged victorious in a hard-fought struggle with Shannon Rowbury.
Huddle bravely took the race on from the front, intent to draw the sting out of Rowbury’s finish, a plan that looked to have faltered when Rowbury shot past with 200m to run. However, Huddle found extra reserves in the home straight and clawed her way back alongside and eventually past Rowbury in the very final metres of the race.
“I tried to make sure I had enough left for the final kick,” said Huddle afterwards. “I wasn’t confident I would get her in the home straight because I know how good her 1500-metre speed is, but I tried to measure my kick a little better, and not to go too hard at the bell.”
In the pole vault, Jenn Suhr added another national title to her collection, her first-time clearance at 4.60m enough to secure the win ahead of Sandi Morris (4.55m). “I’m happy with the win,” said the Olympic champion. “Now we go back and start training and get ready for our series in Europe.”
Elsewhere, the men’s discus was won by Alabama’s Hayden Reed with a best throw of 62.19m and Sharon Day-Monroe got off to a great start in the heptathlon, ending the first day with a score of 3925, her best ever day-one total.
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF