The AT&T Outdoor Championships-Like an Opera?

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The AT&T Outdoor Championships may have been one of the most exciting events in years, with the quality of competition, the vagaries of weather and the surprises during the rounds, this meet is like an Opera. The high points and low points, the surprises and the heroics, make track & field meets, especially this one, something to view. Here is what I wrote for our local regional publications to give an overview of the meet. See what you think.

This years' AT&T USA Outdoor championships gave track fans and sports fans alike something to savor. The event, held in Indianapolis this year ( June 21-24) at the IUPI Track & Field Faciltiy, determined positions on the world championship team for Osaka, Japan, to be held August 25-Sept 2. The U.S. team, strengthened by some new talent and a bevy of past champions, will be out in force in Osaka!

The first day of the meet, June 21, gave sports fans a shot at watching the sprints, throws and distances, and no one dissappointed. Breux Greer, arguably the best javelin thrower in the world, set a new American record on his second throw, of 299-6 or 91.29 meters, the farthest throw in the world this year! In the distance events, Abdi Abdirahman, who had dropped out at 8k last year in the 10,000 meters, traded the lead with Ryan Hall, Dathan Ritzenhein and Galen Rupp. Abdi made his move at 9k and went on to win, unopposed in 28;13.11. Second place was much more of a race, as Galen Rupp, who had dropped off the pace, caught a fading Dathan Ritzenhein near the finishline, taking second in 28:23.31to Dathan's 28:31.88, with Ryan Hall, just off his marathon debut at Flora London, fading to seventh. Deena Kastor made it clear that she was going to Osaka, Japan, leading from the start to the finish with a fine 31:57. Kellie Goucher won a spirited battle for second with her fine 32:33.80 and Katie McGregor took third in 32:44.69. Also on this fine Thursday night, NCAA winner Walter Dix ran 10.08, to which Tyson Gay answered with a leading qualifier in 9.98. Torri Edwards qualified in 11.01 on the women's side, with Lisa Barber leading with a 10.95 for 100 meters.

Friday, June 22, 2007 was a great day of sport! Tyson Gay lead Trindon Holliday and Walter Dix over 100 meters: Gay won in 9.84, the new stadium record and the largest margin of victory since electronic timing was instituted in 1975! On the women's side, Torri Edwards, the 2003 champion, won here in 11.01, with Lauryn Williams in second in 11.16, the 2005 Helsinki winner, with Carmalite Jeter in third in 11.17. Allyson Felix, who took fourth, gets to go to Osaka, as Lauryn Williams, the winner of the 100 meter from Helsiniki and defending winners get a bye into the world championships!

In the 5,000 meters, two, very different, fascinating races. The men's race was run at 13:40 pace, keeping the pack together. At 4k, Matt Tegankamp ran a 58 second 400 meters, then a second 58 second four hundred meters, before the field woke up. Actually, it was Adam Goucher that woke up the field, as he charged from sixth to fourth, to third, and fought Bernard Lagat for second place. Lagat woke up and caught Tegankamp just before the finish, in 13:30.73, with Matt Tegankamp taking second for the second year in the row in 13:31.31, barely holding off Adam Goucher in 13:31.50 for third.

In the women's 5,000 meters, Shalane Flanagan, who set the new American record for 5,000 at Mt. SAC in April, took off after a few laps and ran 14:51.75. A following pack of Michelle Sikes, the NCAA winner, Jenn Rhines, coming off six personal bests on the track this season and Lauren Fleshman, featured in the new Nike advertising campaign, duked it out until 4k, when Fleshman stopped running!
Twenty seconds later, she took off in mad pursuit of Rhines and Sikes, who were running along at 15:10 pace. Jenn Rhines held off Michelle Sikes, with Rhines running 15:08.53 for second, Sikes running 15:09.28--just missing the IAAF 'A'
Standard of 15:08.70. Lauren Fleshman ran 15:24, after having stopped at 4,000 meters!

In the junior men's 5,000 meters, Kenny Klotz of Oregon had taken the lead with 600 meters to go, only to be beat in the last 200 meters, by Elliot Heath of Minnesota. The next day I heard Kenny's dad say how proud he was of his son Kenny, but how he had just wanted his boy to win his first title.

Saturday, June 23 started off rainy and gray, perhaps an ominous sign of things to come? First, Christian Cantwell, the man with four of the six farthest throws in the world, finished fifth in the shot, with a thow of 65 feet-11. The best throw of the day was Reese Hoffa, who hit 70 feet, 5 .25 inches. In fact, Reese was so good on Saturday that any of his six throws would have won the competition. In second
was Dan Taylor, who has emerged on the scene in the past two years, with a throw of 68-11. Adam Nelson, the Olympic and World champ silver medalist, was third today, with a sore hamstring, throwing 67-4.25.

In the women's 400 meters, the odds on favorite was Sanya Richards, but as Sanya came off the final turn, it was Dee Dee Trotter who was in control, winning in a personal best of 49.64, the fastest time of the year. Running in second was Natasha Hastings, the NCAA champion, who set a collegiate record with her fine 49.81. In third, in 50.24, was Mary Winebrg in 50.24.

The men's 400 meters was a showdown between pure long sprinter, La Shawn Merritt, and 2000 Olympic gold medalist Angelo Taylor at the 400 meter hurdles and 2002 US champ at 400 meters. Taylor had run 44.52 this year. This was the race of the day as Taylor used first a lunge, then a lean at the tape to win with the world leading time of 44.05 with Merrit in second in 44.06. Lionel Larry, the NCAA runner up ran a superb 44.84 for third.

The 400 meter hurdles, a race that combines the agility of a hurdler and the endurance of a middle distance runner did not disappoint as James Carter, the 2005 Helsinki silver medalist held off a late charging Kerron Clement, 47.80 to 47.82. Clement, a 400 meter runner/400 hurdler is one of the most talented long sprinters in the world. Clement used a different tactic here, coming from behind. His hurdling, especially over the painful last two hurdles, has to improve and this man will not only win US championships but set a new world record. Clement is that good!

In the two junior 1,500 meters, new stars were emerging. On the women's side, 15 year old Jordan Hasay, running with high school seniors and college freshman, made a bold run with 700 meters to go, and broke Michelle Taura, to run 4:16.98! That broke the 25 year old sophomore record for 1,500 meters! In the mens' junior race, AJ Acosta, an Oregon freshman, and Matt Centrowitz, Jr, came down to a photo finish, where Acosta outleaned Centrowitz, the soon to be Oregon freshman, in 3:49.54!

The women's distance races, the steeplechase and the 1,500 meters, were thrillers as well. In the women's steeplechase, it came down to the final barrier, and Jennifer Barringer of the University of Colorado, took the lead after the final barrier and broke the meet record, running 9:34.64, the second fastest ever by an American! Anna Willard was just behind Barringer, running 9:34.71 to take second, and Lindsay Allen finished third in 9:40.74. In the 1,500, it came down, as always to the kick. Christin Wurth-Thomas took the lead with 300 meters to go, only to be caught by Treniere Clement, with Clement taking her third 1,500 meter title in 4:07:04. Wurth-Thomas held on to second with 4:07.86 and Erin Donahue got the nod for third over Tiffany McWilliams. (Donahue has to get the A standard of 4:06.50 yet for her to go to Osaka.) Saturday also saw Tom Pappas, 2003 World Champion, back from shoulder surgery, take the decathlon with a score of 8372. Hyleas Fountain won the women's heptathlon with a score of 6090.

Saturday night, the junior 10,000 meters was run and Kenny Klotz, second in the 5,000 meters from the night before, was running to help a teammate. Well the teammate faltered, and Kenny took the lead and went to to win his first US title, in 30:51. Patience is rewarded.

Sunday June 24, 2006 was an appropriate end for the AT&T USA outdoor championships. The weather started out with pounding rain as the women's pole vaulters warmed up. Even in those trying conditions, American record holder Jenn Stuczynski won, clearing 4.45 m or 14-17.25 and making the team to Osaka. Also joining the pole vault squad will be Nikole McEwen and Lacy Janson.

The men's 800 meters was all Khadevis Robinson. Khadevis lead from the start, hitting the 400 meters in 51.9 and not stopping, running a fine 1:44.37. While Nick Symmonds has relied on his kick all season, but it did not get him the prize this time, as Symmonds finished second in 1:45.17. USC's Duana Solomon ran 1:46.59 for third place. In the women's 800 meters, high school phenom Chanelle Price led the pack through 57.9 for the opening 400 meters. After that, it was Hazel Clark, Alice Schmidt and Alysia Johnson, the NCAA indoor and outdoor champion. Johnson took the lead with 300 meters to go and Clark was on her shoulder, with Clark going past with 30 meters to go. But, in the end it was Alysia Johnson, who took the lead just before the finish as Johnson won in 1:59.47 to Clark's 1:59.60. In third, Alice Schmidt ran 1:59.63.

The final big upset of the weekend was the men's steeplechase. Max King did the early leading duties, with the pack of Joshua McAdams, Daniel Lincoln, Thomas Brooks and Aron Aguayo in pursuit. With 600 meters to go, Daniel Lincoln, who broke the American record for the steeple last year, took the lead. Lincoln is a little short of racing this year, having spent the year as a full time medical student. Joshua McAdams took the lead with 250 meters to go and McAdams went on to win in 8:24.46. The battle for second and third was epic, as Aaron Aguayo dropped behind Lincoln and made a move on the inside of the barrier, to pass Lincoln for second with Thomas Brooks following him for third! Lincoln was caught by Familgietti for fourth and an exhausted Daniel Lincoln ended up in fifth place with three new steeplers in the top three positions! Problem is, Aguayo and Brooks do not have A standards (8;24.6), so Fam and Lincoln may have a shot at going to Osaka.

The women's 200 meters saw Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards running hard, with Felix showing why she is the queen of the half lap with her win in 22.32 here. Sanya Richards, who did not make the 400 meters, her best event, made the team to Osaka with her second place in the 200 meters. In third was Torri Edwards.

In the men's 1,500 meters, a new Alan Webb showed his new skills. Taking the field through 57.56 at 400 meters and 1;56.23 at 800 meters. Bernard Lagat took over after 800 meters with Webb, Chris Lukesic, Leonel Manzano and Said Ahmed on his shoulder. Lagat lead through 2:53.8 for 1200 meters when Chris Lukesic made a move, but could get no farther than third. Then it was Leonel Manzano, who sprinted past Lukesic and hurled himself past a tiring Lagat for second. In the final 30 meters, Alan Webb, in the thick of this battle, made a strong move to take over first place and he did, running a fine 3;34.82, breaking Steve Scott's meet record from way back in 1982!

The final event of the meet was the men's 200 meters. Tyson Gay got out of the blocks well, and was clearly in the lead at the top of the turn, as he blazed the final straight, running 19.62 for the number two time EVER, and breaking the meet record of one Michael Johnson's 19.66 from the 1996 U.S. champs. Wallace Spearmon, the training partner of Tyson Gay, opened up on the final straighaway to take second in 19.89, and Rodney Martin took third in 20.18, with Jeremy Wariner in fourth in 20.35.

In the final analysis, the AT&T Outdoor champs was a like a great opera: high points, low points and lots of heroics.

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