LaShawn Merritt Q&A

6 February 07

Superstar 400-meter runner LaShawn Merritt participated in a USA Track & Field media teleconference on Monday. The 2004 world junior champion at 400 meters, Merritt will compete in his specialty this Friday, February 9, at the Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, Ark.

The third stop of the 2007 Visa Championship Series, the Tyson Invitational will be televised on February 11 from 1-3 p.m. Eastern Time on ESPN2.

Merritt, who ended the 2006 season ranked #3 in the world at 400 meters by Track & Field News, also is slated to run on a 4x400m relay that aims to go after the world record in that event in Friday’s competition at Tyson.

The 2007 Tyson Invitational features a $50,000 pool to be shared by athletes who break a world record. Fayetteville’s track is considered one of the fastest in the world and is where Kerron Clement set the existing world record of 44.57 seconds at the 2005 NCAA Indoor Championships.

Merritt first became a star as an 18 year old at the 2005 Tyson Invitational, when he won the 400 meters in 44.93 seconds, a performance which eventually led him to forgo the remainder of his collegiate eligibility at East Carolina and become a professional. Since then, Merritt is the 2006 World Cup champion and the 2006 USA Outdoor Championships runner-up.

Below are excerpts from Monday’s teleconference:

Q: How has your training been going?

A: It’s been going well. Last year I ended up strong and I took a little time off and started back out with my base training, and now I have a couple athletes who train with me, which makes it that much better for me. We push each other at practice and I’m feeling confident about my training right now. We don’t have an indoor facility and I have to train in the cold a lot, but I get it done.

Q: You’ve had success in Fayetteville in the past, so are you looking forward to competing there again Friday night?

A: Fayetteville is a nice track. I ran a big time in the 400 there in 2005, and I was pretty fast there in 2006 in the 300, so it’s been good to me. I’m going to go out there and give it my best.

Q: What kind of time do you expect to run in the 400 on Friday night?

A: I’m not really looking forward to running a particular time. It’s a competitive field and I feel good about my training. I’ve run a 300 this year and a 200 this year, and I’m just going to go out and try to put on a great show. Time-wise, me and my coach are not really focused on a certain time. We’re just trying to get a good race in, and that will be my main focus. It will be my first 400 of the season and I just want to execute my race.

Q: What will it take for you to challenge Jeremy Wariner at the next World Outdoor Championships and Olympic Games?

A: Jeremy is a phenomenal athlete. He’s very competitive. My training has been going well. I plan on getting in a lot of good races this year, so we’re going to meet up quite a few times. When we get on the track it’s pretty much the best man wins. I like to compete, he likes to compete. The 400 is very competitive and anything can pretty much happen. He has been the top man the last couple years. When I get on the track I’m going to give it 100%.

Q: What are you working on specifically that will help you improve and get under 44 seconds?

A: I ended the season with a best time of 44.14. A lot of the races I ran last year I have on film, and we’re taking a lot of those races and breaking them down to see what I was doing wrong and see if I could go out a little bit faster and execute on the curve coming home. We’ve been working on different stuff in my race, not necessarily to get me under that 44-second barrier, but to make me run faster.

Q: How fast can you run, do you think?

A: I’m not sure yet. I’ve got a lot of races and it’s going to be a long season. Last year I peaked towards the end of the season, and the more races I run the better I get because I can see what I’m doing wrong. This year is going to be an interesting year.

Q: You had some impressive wins last year at Eugene, Monaco and at the World Cup. What does that do for your confidence going into this year?

A: A win to me is great. Winning is a great feeling. When I step into a race it’s me against everyone else and I want to run my best. A lot of the races I felt great about that I didn’t win is because each race I was working on a different thing. Of course, the wins boost my confidence, but I have to leave last year, last year. It’s a new year with new training. What happened last year doesn’t really matter any more. I just have to bring the same fire out this year and more because it’s a world championships year and a lot of people will come out of the woodwork trying to be in the top three at the world championships, and that just makes me work that much harder, and there’s only three spots and hopefully I’ll be one of them.