Wariner and Merritt Maintain Their Collision Course at the adidas Track Classic

May 17, 2009

Carson, California -- In an exciting event at the Home Depot Center featuring some of the biggest names in U.S. track and field, it was LaShawn Merritt and Jeremy Wariner who stole the show, as both posted impressive victories at Saturday's adidas Track Classic.

The Wariner-Merritt rivalry has emerged as one of the more intriguing tug-of-wars in the sport, with Merritt recently gaining the upper-hand after upsetting Wariner in the 400m at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Although the two did not compete directly with each other at Saturday's meet, both delivered message-sending performances that will surely put the world's other 400m runners on notice.

Merritt's message would come via a dominant victory in the Men's 200m, as the Olympian got off to a decent start against a talented field that included Xavier Carter and Shawn Crawford. As Merritt completed the turn and entered the final straightaway, his 400m stamina seized control, allowing him to power down the stretch and finish several meters ahead of the pack.

Merritt's time of 20.07 seconds constituted the fastest time thus far in 2009, and was particularly impressive considering that he experienced cramping in his calves prior to the race. Carter finished a distant second in 20.71 seconds.

Despite the victory, Merritt stated that he had no intention of attempting a 200m/400m double at the upcoming 2009 World Championships in Berlin.

Meanwhile, Wariner put forth an outstanding performance of his own in the Men's 400m. Wariner had a solid start in the race's first 100 meters, and then exploded down the backstretch in the second 100 meters to gain control. In the final 200 meters, he extended his lead, effortlessly cruising to a winning time of 44.66 seconds - the world's second-fastest 400m time in 2009.

However, Wariner's biggest move came off the track, as he made the stunning announcement that he had reunited with his ex-coach Clyde Hart.

Wariner stated that he had recently "gotten away a little bit from my speed and endurance training," and that the move back to Hart could correct those concerns. He then added, "coach Hart is a great fit for me."

For Wariner, this is the one adjustment that can immediately help him regain the 400m crown. It was probably no coincidence that Wariner's stranglehold on the 400m began to slip when he decided to leave Hart. At a minimum, Hart's return should provide Wariner with a renewed sense of confidence in his training regimen going into the World Championships.

And he will need it. After all, LaShawn Merritt will be waiting in the wings.

In addition to Merritt and Wariner's triumphs, several other stars turned in excellent performances on the afternoon. Notable winners included Allyson Felix in the Women's 200m, Carmelita Jeter in the Women's 100m, and Bernard Lagat in the Men's 1500m.

Still, not everything was rosy, as the meet encountered several bumps in the road.

The sprints were plagued by numerous false starts, enough so that a certain level of frustration began to set in among some of the fans in attendance. In the Women's 100m, Bianca Knight was disqualified for a false start, while in the Men's 100m, Jamaican prospect Yohan Blake appeared to anticipate a false start, as he failed to react properly to the starter's gun.

Then the inexcusable occurred.

In a loaded Men's 400m Hurdles that featured Kerron Clement and former Olympic gold medalists Angelo Taylor and Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic, meet officials failed to properly align the hurdles. Specifically, the eighth hurdle was placed too close to the seventh hurdle, causing the athletes significant trouble with their step counts.

After the race, nearly all of the hurdlers expressed their frustration about having such a fundamental error occur at a meet of this magnitude. For these hurdlers who were hoping to gauge their training progress, the meet constituted a complete waste of time.

In particular, Taylor vented, "We ran for nothing! Whoever is in charge of putting up the hurdles needs to be fired. I came all the way out here and the hurdles are in the wrong spot."

Despite that debacle, the meet was an overall success, as the talent was superb and the athletes stayed injury-free. Among those in attendance were track legends Michael Johnson and Maurice Green, sprinter Tyson Gay, and New York Giants cornerback Aaron Ross.

Here are the results and recaps of some other selected events:

Women's 800m

Veteran Hazel Clark came out fast and took an early lead, running the first 200 meters in a split of approximately 28.4 seconds. By the 600 meter mark, Christin Wurth-Thomas had overtaken her, running a 1:29.8 pace up to that point. However, in the final 100 meters Clark turned on her jets, blowing past the field to win in a meet record time of 2:01.40 seconds.

1. Clark, Hazel (USA) 2:01.40
2. Simpson, Jemma (CAN) 2:01.58
3. Wurth-Thomas, Christin (USA) 2:01.58

Women's 400m

This time Natasha Hastings ran with both shoes on her feet, outkicking the field in the final 100m to win in a time of 51.46 seconds.

Hastings explained that she was finally feeling healthy again after injuring her big toe at the Penn Relays while running with only one shoe. She stated that the injury had caused her "to back off training a little bit."

1. Hastings, Natasha (USA) 51.46
2. Williams, Novlene (JAM) 51.83
3. Shereefa Lloyd (JAM) 52.03

Women's 100m

No race Saturday featured as much collective talent as the Women's 100m. After two false starts, Carmelita Jeter pulled away from her competitors in the final 50 meters to win by a full stride in a time of 11.09 seconds. For Jeter, the victory marked a triumphant return to her home track, as she is a former Cal State Dominguez Hills alum.

1. Jeter, Carmelita (USA) 11.09
2. Lee, Muna (USA) 11.22
3. Durst, Stephanie (USA) 11.22

Women's 100m Hurdles

Olympic champion Dawn Harper prevailed in a very tight race, thanks in part to a nice lean at the tape.

1. Harper, Dawn (USA) 12.78
2. Felicien, Perdita (CAN) 12.83
3. Perry, Michelle (USA) 12.84

Women's 200m

In a sprint featuring two of track's brightest female stars, Allyson Felix exploded out of the turn and outkicked Sanya Richards in the last 100 meters for the victory.

Despite the victory, Felix expressed some slight disappointment because her time was slow, stating, "The speed was not there today."

Felix also told the assembled media that she had no plans of running a 200m/400m double at the upcoming World Championships.

Richards said that at this point in her training, she had done very little speed work, and thus, she used Saturday's race itself as means of getting in some work and measuring her speed.

1. Felix, Allyson (USA) 22.66
2. Richards, Sanya (USA) 23.03
3. Solomon, Shalonda (USA) 23.10

Women's 1500M

Because of some mediocre pacing by the rabbits, this race was abnormally slow entering the final lap. As a result, a large pack of runners sprinted home, but Kenia Sinclair outlegged them all to finish first. Young high school student Jordan Hasay of the U.S. finished eleventh.

1. Sinclair, Kenia (JAM) 4:13.16
2. Muncan, Marina (SRB) 4:13.43
3. Tadeese, Mesta Wot (ETH) 4:13.69

Women's Pole Vault

1. Stuczysnki, Jenn (USA) 4.76m
2. Dragila, Stacy (USA) 4.42m
3. Shuying, Gao (CHN) 4.27m

Women's 5000m

1. Kiros, Aheza (ETH) 14:56.33
2. Dibaba, Ejegayehu (ETH) 15:07.45
3. Kipyego, Sally (KEN) 15:09.03

Men's 100m

Darvis "Doc" Patton closed strongly in the last 40 meters of a competitive sprint, winning in a solid time of 10.12 seconds. Olympic silver medalist Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago finished sixth with a time of 10.22 seconds.

1. Patton, Darvis (USA) 10.12
2. Bailey, Daniel (ANT) 10.14
3. Mullings, Steve (JAM) 10.19

Men's 110m Hurdles

Veteran Terrence Trammell outlasted a charging Antwon Hicks at the finish to win in 13.39 seconds. At least in this race, meet organizers set up the hurdles correctly.

1. Trammell, Terrence (USA) 13.39
2. Hicks, Antwon (USA) 13.45
3. Sands, Shamar (BAH) 13.58

Men's 1500m

Bernard Lagat sprinted free from Lopez Lomong and the rest of the pack in the final 150 meters, finishing in a time of 3:36.38. Afterward, Lagat stated that he had finally recovered from his past Achilles injury, and that he was "training at 99%."

Lopez Lomong was pleased at his performance and training results, stating that "the race was great. I just didn't have it at the end."

Lomong also spoke touchingly about being able to finally bring over his siblings to the U.S., commenting that it's "My dream come true."

1. Lagat, Bernard (USA) 3:36.38
2. Brannen, Nate (CAN) 3:37.03
3. Van Der Westhuizen, Pete (RSA) 3:38.29
4. Lomong, Lopez (USA) 3:39.21

Men's 5000m

The final event of the day might have also been the meet's most thrilling, as young running sensation Dejen Gebremeskel of Ethiopia and veteran Alistair Cragg of Ireland battled each other for several laps. In the final 400 meters, Cragg made his move, passing Gebremeskel and maintaining a lead into the final 100 meters. However, Gebremeskel refused to concede, outkicking Cragg down the stretch to win in 13:16.52, the world's second-best time in 2009.

1. Gebremeskel, Dejen (ETH) 13:16.52
2. Cragg, Alistair (IRE) 13:16.83
3. Baughs, Scott (USA) 13:38.95

By Mike Elliott
Staff Editor for TheDailySportsHerald.com

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