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Merritt, Wariner, post top times

1 April 2008
www.wcsn.com

By Dave Ungrady

Two Olympic medal hopefuls clocked world leading times during early season outdoor meets in the United States this past weekend.

LaShawn Merritt, silver medalist in the 400 meters at the 2007 outdoor world championship, was surprised with the 44.72 seconds he ran in the event at the Raleigh Relays in Raleigh, North Carolina on Mar. 28.

"It was the fastest I have opened up," Merritt, 21, told Reuters by phone Monday. "It's going to be a good year. It [the race] wasn't all out but it wasn't like I was just trying to get in a practice race. But I didn't realize I was running that fast."

Merritt topped Olympic and world champion Jeremy Wariner's outdoor opener in Melbourne on Feb. 21 by a tenth of a second for the world lead. Merritt ran 43.96 seconds to Wariner's 43.45 as both set personal bests in last year's world championships final.

Wariner ran the 200 meters in a world-leading 20.37 seconds at the Bobby Lane Invitational at the University of Texas, Arlington on Mar. 29 in his fourth outdoor meet of the season and second race in the United States this year. On Mar. 22 he ran the anchor leg on a 4x400-meter relay team that ran a winning 3:01.10 at the Texas Southern University Relays.

Sanya Richards, the top-ranked women's 400 meters runner, ran 11.28 seconds for 100 meters at the Bobby Lane meet. "I really want to be on the 4x100 relay team in Beijing, so today was kind of a rehearsal for that," Richards told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "In a perfect world, I'll get three gold medals - one individual and two in relays (4x100 and 4x400)."

Ethiopian distance kings could battle in Beijing - Marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia has competed against his countryman Kenenisa Bekele on the track five times, but has never won. He may get another chance in the 10,000 meters at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

"It's a big possibility," their manager Jos Hermens told Reuters by telephone from Edinburgh shortly after Bekele won his sixth world long-course cross country title on Mar. 30.

Gebrselassie's fitness in a 10,000 meters race at Hengelo in the Netherlands on May 24 and Bekele's choice of events for Beijing will determine the possible matchup. Bekele has yet to decide whether to defend his Olympic 10,000-meter title, chase gold in the 5,000 where he was the silver medalist in Athens four years ago, or tackle both races.

"I can't say this far ahead but to do both would not be easy," Bekele told a news conference in Edinburgh. "The pollution might mean I would have to focus on one."

Gebrselassie is bypassing the longer race at the Games because he is concerned the pollution could affect his health. The 1996 and 2000 Olympic 10,000 meters champion and former world record holder hopes to qualify for Beijing at that distance with a strong showing in Hengelo.

"He has to catch up with some speed work," Hermens said. "He needs the track training."

Hermens said Bekele was likely to run the 5,000 meters at Hengelo. The current 5,000 and 10,000 meters world record holder also wants to compete in the African championships from April 30 to May 4 on home soil in Addis Ababa.

"It won't be easy but I do believe I have to take part, though I'm not sure what distance I will run," he said at Sunday's news conference.

Bekele hopes to run outdoors in the United States for the first time at the Prefontaine Classic June 8 in Eugene Oregon. "He knows he needs to be there," Hermens said.

Bekele was scheduled to compete in the two mile last year in Eugene but withdrew because of a lack of fitness.

Meet director Tom Jordan also confirmed Bekele was expected in Eugene. "I do anticipate he will be competing in the Prefontaine Classic, but I do not know at what distance," Jordan told Reuters by phone Monday.

Gits shows grit, Torres makes top-20 at cross-country worlds - Alex Gits finished 13th in the junior women's race and Jorge Torres finished 19th in the senior men's race to lead U.S. runners in muddy conditions at the 36th IAAF World Cross Country Championships Mar. 30 in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Gits, a freshman at Stanford University, ran the six-kilometer course in 20:41 despite a fall near the three-kilometer mark and led the U.S. to a sixth place finish.

Torres ran 36:03 in the senior men's 12-kilometer race and led the USA to a seventh place team finish. His result was the first individual top-20 finish for a U.S. runner in the senior men's race since 2003.

"I told myself that I wasn't going to be afraid to run with those guys," Torres, who finished second at the 2008 U.S. cross-country championship, said after the race. "I'm a little disappointed that I didn't finish in the top 10. I gave it a good honest effort, and that's all that I can ask for."

Josh Rohatinsky in 44th and Edwardo Torres in 46th were the next U.S. senior men's finishers.

In the junior men's race, German Fernandez covered the eight-kilometer course in 24:15 to finish 25th, leading the Americans to a sixth-place team finish.

Emily Brown's 18th place finish on the eight-kilometer course in 26:36 led the American senior women to a fourth-place team finish. Teammates Katie McGregor, Molly Huddle and Kathy Newberry finished within two seconds of each other to take 22nd, 23rd and 24th places, respectively.

"I really didn't know what to expect, "Huddle said after the race. "The only thing that kept me from panicking during the race was looking for another girl with a USA jersey. We really helped each other a lot."

Akbar wins trials tune up at National Half Marathon - Samia Akbar, 26, led a group of six female runners using the National Half Marathon in Washington, DC on Mar. 29 as a final race tune up for the U.S. Olympic Trials in the Women's Marathon April 20 in Boston.

Akbar won the race in 1:16:28. She ran 2:34:14 in the 2006 New York City Marathon and finished 49th at the 2007 world championship marathon in 2:56.27. She said she is ready for Boston.

"At this point, all the work is done," Akbar told the Washington Post. "I haven't raced a lot, but my training is going OK and I'm healthy, that's the most important thing."

Abby Dean, who finished fifth in the Philadelphia Marathon in November, finished third in DC, followed immediately Briana Whaley, Susan Graham-Grey, Emily Levan and Phebe Ko in fourth through seventh places. All are marathon trials qualifiers.

Masters of their ages - 90-year-old Orville Rogers led a half-dozen American masters runners who set world records at the 2008 USA Masters Indoor Track and Field Championships in Boston last weekend.

Rogers set world records in the men's 90-year-old 800 meters (4:19.97) and the men's 80-year-old one mile (9:56:58). Joe King broke the men's 80-year-old world record in the 800 meters (3:07.66).

The women's 4x400-meter relay team from the Athena Track Club set a 40-49 age group world mark in 4:17:10. The team consisted of Terri Cassel, Terri Rath, Charmaine Roberts and Kathleen Shook.

Middle-aged runners to mingle at MORE Marathon - As the president and CEO of the New York Road Runners, which stages the globally renowned New York City Marathon, Mary Wittenberg constantly monitors demographic trends in distance running. A weak participatory area for women is those over the age of 40. To help create interest among women approaching middle age, the NYRR five years ago began the MORE Magazine Marathon for women over 40.

Some 7,000 runners are expected to compete in the fifth edition scheduled for April 6, including two-time U.S. Olympic marathon trials qualifier Kelly Keeler. Three-time defending champion Susan Loken and reigning USA masters cross-country champion Jody Hawkins will compete in the half marathon. The winner of the marathon and a half marathon will each win $2,000.

The half-marathon offers a team competition for two-women, one of which must be over 40. Loken, a mother of three, and Hawkins, one of the top U.S. distance runners in the mid-1990s who has overcome osteoporosis, will try and become the first team of over-40 women to win the competition.



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Merritt topped Olympic and world champion Jeremy Wariner's outdoor opener in Melbourne on Feb. 21 by a tenth of a second for the world lead. Merritt ran 43.96 seconds to Wariner's 43.45 as both set personal bests in last year's world championships final.
Wariner ran the 200 meters in a world-leading 20.37 seconds at the Bobby Lane Invitational at the University of Texas, Arlington on Mar. 29 in his fourth outdoor meet of the season and second race in the United States this year. On Mar. 22 he ran the anchor leg on a 4x400-meter relay team that ran a winning 3:01.10 at the Texas Southern University Relays. " target="digg"> Digg



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