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Top sprinters primed for Beijing

5 July 2008
www.wcsn.com

Allyson Felix still has work to do to earn her trip to Beijing.

If things keep going the way they did Friday, it won't be hard work.

Felix coasted to a victory in her 200-meter preliminary heat, leaving her three races away from earning the Olympic spot that pretty much seems preordained.

She would already be in had she finished in the top three last weekend in the 100, but that didn't happen, so she must get there in her best event.

She won her heat in 22.68 seconds, wiping the brow below her white headband when it was over, then heading quickly off the track. Quarterfinals and semis are Saturday, and finals are Sunday.

"I've been waiting for this moment since I was a child, so it's good to get it started," Felix said.

She conceded her fifth-place finish in the 100 was hard to overlook in the long week since the finals.

"I thought about it," she said. "I didn't set myself up good in the semis, I put myself way out there in lane 8, which was not smart. I felt out of touch with the race. But I felt like I executed as best as I could."

Joining Felix in the next round will be all the usual suspects: 100 trials champion Muna Lee, Lauryn Williams, Marshevet Hooker, Carmelita Jeter.

There weren't any surprises in a competition that included five heats to eliminate only five runners.

It was pretty much the same thing on the men's side, where Tyson Gay returned to the track for the first time since his wind-aided 9.68-second win in the 100 last weekend. He eased to a win in the 200.

He practically jogged to the finish, looking around him for anyone who might be closing in. Nobody was.

He finished in 20.43 and there was no scare, the way there was in his first 100 heat, when he pulled up early, misjudging the finish line before finishing strong to save face, and the race.

"It feels good," Gay said. "I just needed that first run to get rid of the cobwebs. It felt pretty good and relaxing. That's about the time I wanted to run."

Wallace Spearmon is in the same spot as Felix, having missed the 100 -- his bonus race of sorts -- and now concentrating on the 200. He cruised to the next round in 20.81.

Spearmon hopes to contend with Gay, the defending world champion in the 100 and 200, in the final.

"It was easy," Spearmon said. "I'm just trying to get through these rounds as easy as possible. Saving it for the final."

For surprises, fans had to look to the field, where the colorful Breaux Greer -- he of the pink, black and white mohawk and the personality to match -- finished 17th and failed to qualify for javelin finals.

"It was like I was skiing out there on ice," he said.

Greer, an eight-time defending national champion, hurt his shoulder at the world championships in Osaka and was throwing for the first time in competition since.

He said he felt more relieved than upset, and this disappointment certainly won't match his Olympic letdown of four years ago. He had the longest throw of anyone in the games, but it came in preliminaries. In the finals, his bad knee gave out in the first round, and he was unable to finish.

He said he was basically hoping for a miracle this year.

"All the doctors, my team of 3,000 people that keep me duct-taped together, suggested not coming here," he said. "I came anyway. Don't tell me what to do. From time to time, you eat [it]. From time to time, you get a little gold in your pocket. Today, I ate [it]."

In the women's 5,000 final, Kara Goucher finished first and Shalane Flanagan came in third, giving both a chance at a double in Beijing. Each already had qualified in the 10,000. Jen Rhines, who just turned 34, earned the other spot.

In the men's 1,500-meter semifinals, there were no surprises. The finals are Sunday -- the last event of the 10-day meet -- and it is shaping up as one of the most competitive races on the card. There are only three spots available for five, maybe more, contenders. Bernard Lagat, Alan Webb, Leonel Manzano and Lopez Lomong are all in the mix, and all advanced to the final.

Chaunte Howard, Amy Acuff and Sharon Day took the top three spots in the women's high jump, qualifying them for the Beijing games.

Howard earned her second trip to the Olympics with a jump of 6 feet, 5 1/2 inches. Acuff, a six-time U.S. champion, failed to get her first repeat title, but still made her fourth straight Olympics.

Day earned the third spot with a jump of 6-3 1/4, which tied Dierdre Mullen. But Day won the tiebreaker, and Mullen wouldn't have been eligible because she didn't have the Olympic standard this season.



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