Today at the USATF National track and field Championships while I was watching former No.1-ranked world 100-meter hurdlers Brianna Rollins (2013) and Lolo Jones (2007) having their problems in the qualifying heats of their event I may have overlooked what was going on at the front of their parade.
Today, they ran the semifinals and finals of the women's 100-meter hurdles.Both were pretty terrific races. The first semi was won by former UCLA star Dawn Harper-Nelson, by a foot or two in 12.54 from Lolo, who closed fast and clocked 12.55. Rollins got out of the blocks well but couldn't hold the lead, yet held onto fourth to qualify for the final.
Both Harper-Nelson and Lolo Jones seemed to get stronger with every race. They certainly did that in the final, where Harper-Nelson edged Queen Harrison, 12.55 to 12.56, with Jones closing fast to take third. And by golly, that's how the final turned out, too. Rollins fifth-place finish at 12.81 was no disgrace; as winner Harper-Nelson noted,"America hurdlers are the strongest in the world. We welcome this competition.".
Both the men's and women's 400 meters made news. The fastest men's qualifier, 2013 World Champion LaShawn Merritt, skipped the final because he had a commitment for a race in 'Europe and took a get-out-of-town plane get him to in another's good luck. Texas Tech star Gil Roberts ran a perfectly judged race to win the title in 44.53, and not far behind him was Florida State's Josh Mance, second in 44.89. These times look good for the future of U.S. 4x400 relay teams.
The women's 400 final was a sizzler. Francena McCorory fought off Sanya Richards Ross down the straight and moved to Number Three on the U.S. all-time list with a time of 49.48, behind only Richards Ross (48.70) and Valerie Briscoe (49.83). Defending champion Natasha Hastings was a distant third in 50.53. With those three still in the game, the 4x400 future for the U.S. looks strong.
When Leonel Manzano arrived at the University of Texas a few years ago, he was stunned to find out that some of his lecture classes had more people than the entire size of his Marble Falls, TX High School. But Leo wasn't cowed by the crowd. He adapted, well enough so that he won the NCAA outdoor 1,500-meter championship.
Here today in Sacramento, he stayed in the middle of a 12-man pack for the first three laps. Then he went into action; around the turn, he moved into second behind leader Pat Casey, then took the lead and won going away in 3:38.63. If you're watching Leo in a race, he's easy to spot - the shortest guy in the race. Or if you're just watching the finish, he's probably the fastest guy in the race.
He sure was that today. He covered the final 400 meters in 54.2 seconds.