Day four yields solid performance at 2014 USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships, by Mark Winitz

Leo Manzano takes the 1,500 meters! photo by

Day Four Yields Solid Performances at

2014 USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships

By Mark Winitz

SACRAMENTO (June 28) -- Even in a so-called "off year," with no Outdoor World Track and Field Championships or Olympic Games on the calendar, U.S. athletes rose to the occasion on the fourth day of competition at a robust championships held on the California State University Sacramento campus. Here are highlights from an array of finals.

Francena McCorory (adidas, VA) and Sonya Richards-Ross (Nike, TX) staged an impressive duel in the women' 400m final. McCorory, this year's World Indoor gold medalist in the 400m, scored the victory over 2012 Olympic gold medalist Richards-Ross. McCorory's winning time of 49.48 is the fastest in the world this year, and ranks among the top-five all-time American performances. Richards-Ross was second in 49.66.

"It's always great running against a great field," McCorory said. "You know the times are going to be good, so it gives you more motivation to push yourself to your highest. [It's] a big PR for me, so I'm just happy. I want to break the world record [47.60] so I'm going to have to be movin' and groovin'."

"My race went really well today. I got out hard and I'm really pleased," said Richards-Ross, who still has pain in her right big toe, which she injured last year. "I was glad there were three rounds here because I was able to focus on the different phases of my race in each round. In the first round I got my first 200 down well, hitting my pace well. In the semis, I ran my curve well. But today I knew I had to hit even harder and come off the 150m as hard as I could."

Emma Coburn (New Balance, CO) recorded her third national title in the women's 3000m steeplechase with a winning time of 9:19.72, the third-fastest time ever by an American woman and a new USATF Outdoor Championship record.

"I'm not always great running in the heat, so my plan going into this was to be conservative and run with the group at least until the last kilometer," Coburn related. "With about three-and-a-half laps left I felt great, and off the water jump I took over. When I saw my time at the end I was a little surprised because I wasn't really pressing the last 400m that hard. It's great to see that three American women have now run under 9:30 this year. The entire American field is getting more competitive and I'm excited about it."

In the men's high jump final, Olympic silver medalist Erik Kynard (Nike, OH) overcame an early slip-up and won the men's high jump with a clearance of 2.35m/7-8.5, equaling the Hornet Stadium record set at the 2000 Olympic Trials by Nathan Leeper. Kynard missed his first try at 2.25m/7-4.5, and then had the bar raised to 2.41m/7-10.75, one centimeter better than the American record. He missed on all three attempts at that height, but ultimately scored the winning clearance.

"It was kind of up and down at first today," Kynard admitted. "I took a few attempts at the American record. I've been resting a lot with an injury [hip flexor], but everything has been moving forward. I'm looking to put[ting] up some big marks this season."

In the men's 1500m final, it was a tight and tactical pack all the way. Down the final backstretch, Leo Manzano (Hoka One One, Austin, TX) moved into contention, and, coming off the final bend, sprinted away to win his second U.S. title in 3:38.63.

"My overall strategy was to be somewhere in the front of the race," Manzano said. "Unfortunately, it didn't quite pan out. U.S. distance running has come a long way, so any time you compete against our guys it's not going to be easy. My plan was to be a little bit further ahead at 800m, and when I saw that there was nothing really opening up I started to get a little nervous. Other than that, things came through for me."

Manzano said his training is re-vitalized under his new coach [former Texas Longhorns' distance coach John Hayes] and is incorporating more speedwork into his training.

"I'm thinking about doing more 800s this year and will, hopefully, break 1:44 [at that distance], 3:50 in the mile, and 3:32 in the 1500m," he said.

In the heptathlon, Sharon Day-Monroe (ASICS, Los Angeles) added to her first-day lead on the way to finishing with 6,470 points and her third U.S. outdoor title.

"For an off-year I feel like I've been making a lot of good progress with various events. It feels really good to win the championships in front of a great crowd in my home state," said the California Poly San Luis Obispo graduate. "The javelin went really well, just two feet under my overall PR. I felt good and I knew that I could run a comfortable 800m [the final event] to get the championship.

"I hope to keep improving in every event [and] be consistent at scoring higher marks. Right now, I have no plan to compete for the rest of the summer. I'll take a break and get in more cross training. I'm gaining a lot better understanding of all the events. I've only been doing the heptathlon since 2009, so it's still a bit of a learning process here and there." 

In the women's long jump final, Brittney Reese (Nike, MS) recorded a best mark of 6.92m/22-8.5 (wind: +1.9), earning her sixth national outdoor title. After fouling on three of her first four attempts, Reese made her fifth jump a winner to seal the victory. Reese's stepfather passed away the day before the competition.

"I'm very happy to get the win because I feel like I did it for him," a subdued Reese said. "The track is real fast, so I constantly had to keep moving back [on the runway] because I was getting faster and faster. On my fifth jump I finally got it down. It's not where I usually would like it, but I'm happy with it. I feel like I just need to get into a rhythm."

2012 World Indoor 4x400 gold medalist Gil Roberts (Nike, OK) stepped up to the top of the podium in the men's 400m for the first time, zipping to a lifetime-best 44.53. Josh Mance (Los Angeles) was second in 44.89.

"I focused on coming off the second curve strong and maintaining technique over the last 100m," said runner-up Mance. "I can't focus on what anybody else is doing. I just worry about myself. I'm getting better each race."

In the women's 100-meter hurdles final, Dawn Harper-Nelson (Nike, MS) and Queen Harrison (VA) raced stride for stride in the lead. Harper-Nelson earned a narrow 0.01-second victory in 12.55 over Harrison (12.56) and Lolo Jones (12.65).

"I had a good start but I felt myself making some mistakes," Harper-Nelson told reporters. "I knew I had to run the race of my life. Sometimes you don't have a perfect ten hurdles, so you just do the best that you can. Luckily, I have a good lean, so [overall] I was very happy with my race.

"Today was about going out there and having fun. You're not out there to make a [U.S. international] team, so you just want to run your race and I think that's what I did."

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