USA 400 meter hopes, by Elliott Denman, note by Larry Eder

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Merritt_LaShawnSF-USout12.jpg
LaShawn Merritt, 
photo by PhotoRun.net

In Elliott Denman's column for Day three, he focuses on the improved chances for the US males at 400 meters, thanks to the return of one LaShawn Merritt to a high level of fitness....

USA 400 METER HOPES....

 

By ELLOTT DENMAN


DES MOINES, IOWA - Kirani James, watch your step.

 Rest of the world, beware.


  We're talking one-lap running here and some determined Americans are focused on relegating all of Team USA's missteps at the 2012 London Olympic Games into the category of

distinct aberration.


  London last year?  A horror show for America's men over the 400-meter route.


  American males had won every Olympic 400 title from

Alonzo Babers (1984 at Los Angeles) to LaShawn Merritt

(2008 at Beijing.) That was seven straight - until Kirani James of Grenada at London.


  Team USA had claimed every 4x400 relay crown in that stretch, too.


  London bridges falling down?  USA 400-meter running followed suit.


 Injuries and assorted mishaps did the dirty on  the nation.


    No American man even got to the London 400 final, the race

King  Kirani claimed as private property.


   Then, to thoroughly compound the situation, inspired Team Bahamas knocked off the stunned Team USA in the 4x400 relay final.


  Well, Kirani James - a University of Alabama graduate, mind you - continues at the top of his game and is the 2013 world 400 leader with his 44.02 at Shanghai on May 18.


   Merritt - injured at London - is rounding back into pretty sizzling form of his own.


  He dashed off to his fourth gold medal in the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.


With his 44.21 run Saturday at Drake Stadium.  It solidified his status - back only of James - on the 2013 charts - and built further optimism for Moscow.


  "It was smooth," said Merritt, the 2008 Olympic champion who will be 27 on June 27.


  "I was confident. I came in and ran my own race."


    His Moscow buddies will have youth on their side.


    Tracking him at Drake were Tony McQuay (age 23, 44.74), Aman Hall (age 19, 45.01),

Josh Mance (age 21, 45.22) and James Harris Jr. (age 21, 45.23)


   But tough luck again plagued Manteo Mitchell, who ran a 4x400 Olympic semifinal on a broken fibula, gallantly keeping his nation in  the old ballgame.


A year later, the now-fully healhy Mitchell managed only a 45.81 in seventh place; almost surely no Moscow

for Manteo.


    "It is definitely going to be a younger (USA) team (for Worlds)," said Merritt.


  "We are always growing, and it keeps everyone on their 'A' game. In the U.S.,

 someone is always up and coming. These championships were very important

 to get a feel about the rounds so when we get to Moscow it won't be new

 to anyone on the team."


  London 2012?


  To Merritt, "That's done with for me.


  "Now, I'm taking it one race at a time. Last year was last year.

I've been training hard, and my plan was to come here and (just) make this team.


Sure it was unfortunate last year about London.


  "But this year is a new year.  We're just focused on Moscow." 


 McQuay put it this way:

  "This is like my fourth or third go-round. My first Worlds team was in 2011 when I won USAs

(Nationals.)  I've been here before on the big stage. All I had to do was come out here

 and stay focused and compete."



  The changing American culture in the 400?


  "I'm ready to right the ship. It's tough competition, being a young guy on the big

 stage. It's about stepping up, being the next competitor for Team USA."


  Arman Hall's view, out of lane 2: "I just went out as hard as I could and

 kept the momentum going down the backstretch. At 200, I said

'Let's give it everything I have left so I can make this team.


  "I'm ecstatic. I've always watched the Trials, and I've always watched the Worlds

 and now I get to compete in it. I can't wait to go to Moscow and run for my country.


 "I'm just so happy to be a part of this country and help out as much as I can."


  Of course/of course/ that's the kind of patriotism American fans love to hear.


  But, on this steamy day in Central Iowa, was it just so much hot air?


  The planet's track and field fans will find out in August.

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