WAF Catchup-Merritt in a Thriller, courtesy of USATF, note by Larry Eder

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The big lesson this year with Merritt and Wariner is that it is all about the head to head races--it is all about the competition! A close race gets people talking for days. As this season comes to an end, it is time to consider how we improve our sport. I welcome comments and notes and will be publishing interviews from fans, coaches, athletes, managers, critics of the sport. Our sport needs to understand what it does well and then find ways to improve the weak points....

Merritt takes thrilling men's 400 at WAF

LaShawn Merritt again proved his big-meet moxie to lead Americans to four wins Saturday during day 1 competition at the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart, Germany. He was joined on the winner's stand by fellow Americans Sanya Richards, Bernard Lagat and Kerron Clement.

The Olympic Games and Olympic Trials men's 400m champion, Merritt in 2008 had won three times against 2004 Olympic gold medalist Jeremy Wariner, with Wariner also winning three. On Saturday, Merritt broke the tie and kept his big-meet victories going, adding the World Athletics Final to his yearly achievements to take the three biggest titles of the year. Trailing Wariner in the straight, Merritt dove at the finish line to beat Wariner by .01, with a time of 44.50 to Wariner's 44.51 in somewhat chilly and gray conditions. Olympic 400m hurdles gold medalist Angelo Taylor was fourth in 45.37.

Olympic 400m bronze medalist Sanya Richards won over a strong field in the women's 200, taking the victory easily in 22.50 over Olympic Trials third-place finisher Marshevet Hooker in second (22.69) and Olympic silver medalist Kerron Stewart of Jamaica third in 22.72. Carmelita Jeter was fifth (22.98) and Lauryn Williams sixth (22.30).

Double world champion Bernard Lagat posted another strong performance in winning the men's 3,000m in 8:02.97, taking a technical race that came down to Lagat's kick in the final 250 meters. Matt Tegenkamp was third in 8:03.56 and Chris Solinsky was seventh in 8:04.78.

Olympic silver medalist Kerron Clement took the men's 400m hurdles in 48.96 seconds, just ahead of Danny McFarlane of Jamaica (49.00). Americans Reuben McCoy (51.38) and LaRon Bennett (52.02) were seventh and eighth, respectively.

World indoor champion Lolo Jones was narrowly nipped in the women's 100m hurdles, placing second in 12.56 behind Josephine Onyia of Spain (12.54). Olympic gold medalist Dawn Harper was fourth in 12.67, and 2004 Olympic gold medalist Joanna Hayes was eighth in 13.06.

Other American finishes included Olympic silver medalist Christian Cantwell second in the men's shot put (20.73m/68-0.25), Dan Taylor third (20.38m/66-10.5), Reese Hoffa fourth (20.37m/66-10) and Garrett Johnson eighth (19.24m/63-1.5) behind gold medalist Tomasz Majewski of Poland (20.88m/68-6). Jesse Williams was third in the men's high jump at 2.29m/7-6. Grace Upshaw was fifth in the women's long jump (6.48m/21-3.25) and Funmi Jimoh eighth (6.00m/19-8.25) in the women's long jump. Olympic Trials champion Shannon Rowbury was fifth (4:08.16) and Erin Donohue eighth (4:08.64) in the women's 1,500. USA indoor champion Michael Rodgers was sixth (10.27) in the men's 100; 2005 world champion Walter Davis was fifth (16.94m/55-7) in the men's triple jump.

Elsewhere in competition, Barbora Spotakova of the Czech Republic set a world record in the women's javelin with her throw of 72.28m/237-2 as she won the competition by nine meters.

For more info, check on www.usatf.org

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