SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Olympic 100-meter hurdles gold medalist didn’t race. The bronze medalist couldn’t make the team.
Still, they’re thinking a red, white and blue sweep in the event at the London world championships. Just shows the depth of the hurdles.
World-record holder Keni Harrison used a strong start to win her first U.S. outdoor track and field championship Saturday. Pleasantville High School graduate Nia Ali, the silver medalist at the Rio de Janeiro Games, was second and Christina Manning took third. Because Harrison already had a wild-card berth into worlds in August, 2008 Olympic gold medalist Dawn Harper-Nelson also made the hurdles squad courtesy of her fourth-place finish.
“Everyone in this event is really strong,” said Harrison, who finished in 12.60 seconds to beat Ali by a 0.08 margin. “These girls are going to represent and get that sweep like last year (at the Olympics).”
In Rio, the 1-2-3 hurdles finish was led by Brianna Rollins, who received a one-year suspension in April for repeated failures to disclose her whereabouts to anti-doping officials. Rollins’ suspension is retroactive to Sept. 27, 2016, the date of her last missed whereabouts report. Also missing from the world team will be Kristi Castlin, the bronze medalist in Rio who wound up sixth in the final.
“To make this (hurdles) team, you have to work for it and earn it,” said Harper-Nelson, who drew a three-month suspension that began in December for a positive test. She told anti-doping officials it was caused by blood pressure medication. “That just shows you how strong our team is.”
Harrison went all out despite already having a safety net to worlds thanks to her Diamond League title. She needed the work after breaking her left hand while warming up for a hurdles race this spring.
“To come from breaking a hand to winning, it means everything,” Harrison said. “My confidence is where it needs to be.”
The highlights of Day 3 from nationals:
DID YOU SEE THAT
Pole vaulter Sam Kendricks became a member of the six-meter club (19 feet, 8 1/4 inches) in his win. He even waited through a roughly 20-minute delay while officials filled the water pit for the steeplechase.
“Every great jumper in history had at least one six-meter jump under their belt,” said Kendricks, an Army reservist. “I wanted to be part of the club, the very prestigious club.”
NO DOUBLE DESIRE
LaShawn Merritt and Allyson Felix both ran the 200 on Saturday simply to stay race sharp, with no plans to double in London. They each have automatic entries into worlds in the 400.
Justin Gatlin won’t double, either. The winner of the 100 the night before, Gatlin didn’t take the starting line for the 200. He’s been dealing with nagging quad/groin injuries.
Former University of Colorado runners Jenny Simpson (1,500) and Emma Coburn (steeplechase) earned national titles. Another former Buffalo, 31-year-old Sara Vaughn, finished third in the 1,500.
“We have an enormous school pride,” Simpson said.
UNDER THE WEATHER
Olympic gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz recently recovered from a viral infection and an adductor injury that left him wondering how well he would be able to compete in the 1,500. He made the team, but couldn’t catch Robby Andrews down the stretch.
“It feels great to win a race again,” Andrews said. “I’m not gonna lie, it’s been awhile since I’ve won.”
“This year, I’m very healthy.” Aries Merritt after breezing into the next round of the 110 hurdles with the top time. The world-record holder underwent a kidney transplant shortly after winning a bronze medal at the 2015 world championships in Beijing.
FACTS & FIGURES
Quanera Hayes won the 400 in a world-leading time of 49.72. ... Fred Kerley of Texas A&M held off Gil Roberts to capture the 400 title. Baylor’s Wil London III was third, meaning, as his coach, Clyde Hart, pronounced: “London is going to London.” ... The field events winners included: Raven Saunders (shot put), Tianna Bartoletta (long jump), Riley Dolezal (javelin) and Mason Finley (discus).
Christian Coleman looks to earn a spot at worlds in the 200 on Sunday. He’s already going in the 100.