Merritt, Felix WL

World leads by Merritt and Felix, while Stuczynski continues her steady climb - Fayetteville report
Saturday 10 February 2007
Fayetteville, USA - World leading performances by LaShawn Merritt and Alyson Felix and another personal best by in the Pole Vault by Jenn Stuczynski were the highlights at the Tyson Invitational on Friday (09), the third stop of the USA Track & Field Visa Championship Series.

Merritt dominates strong 400m field

Allyson Felix just holds off a determined Sanya Richards at 2006 World Athletics Final in Stuttgart
(Getty Images)

Merritt, still only 20, returned to the setting that catapulted his name to the upper echelon of the 400 metres. Two years ago, he clocked a World junior record of 44.93, the fourth fastest performance ever, on the fast University of Arkansas oval. This time around he wasn’t as fast, but won handily in 45.51, the quickest of the 2007 indoor season. Milton Campbell was the runner-up in 46.05, with reigning world 400m hurdles champion Bershawn Jackson third in 46.10.

Merritt returned to anchor - and ultimately save! - an all-star 4x400m relay squad who came to Fayetteville with World record aspirations. But when Merritt got the baton, he found himself some 15 metres behind Baylor University’s Quentin Summers. Choosing not to panic, Merritt ran behind the Baylor sophomore until reaching the final straightaway to reach the line in 3:04.97, powered by a sizzling 44.62 split.

The other three runners (Wallace Spearmon, Andrew Rock and Xavier Carter) haven’t run a 400 all year so this was a tune-up for them,” said Merritt. “I thought about passing the Baylor runner right off, but I decided to watch him. I didn’t want to pass him in the curve because I didn’t want to trip him so I waited for the straightaway. I didn’t think it would be that close, but I was able to pull of the victory.”

Jenn Stuczynski en route to her 4.70 PB in Reno. She improved to 4.72 in Fayetteville.
(Kirby Lee)

Spearmon, the 2005 World championships silver medallist in the 200, led off with a 46.92 effort, and described the run as a good workout, and added that he wasn’t surprised by the Clyde Hart-coached Baylor quartet’s performance. “I figured it would be closer than people expected because Baylor has been running good times. It was fun to come back in front of the home crowd and win even though we didn’t run as well as we could have.”

U.S. best for Felix in the 300

Felix, the reigning world outdoor 200 metre champion, made her season’s debut a memorable one with her 36.33 victory over the rarely-contested distance, eclipsing the previous national standard of 36.67 set three weeks ago by Hampton University freshman Francena McCorory.

Wallace Spearmon en route to his 300m World best in 2006
(Randy Miyazaki)

“It was my first time to run the event outside of practice,” said Felix, whose somewhat abbreviated 2006 campaign included an 11.04 personal best in the 100 metres and a 22.11 victory in the 200 at the World Athletics Final. “It was fun to get out there and chase the time, I did not know what to expect.”

Runner-up Dee Dee Trotter also dipped under the previous national best, clocking 36.42. The two are now the fourth and fifth fastest ever over the distance indoors.

Stuczynski improves to 4.72

In the only field event of the evening, Jenn Stuczynski continued her domestic domination of the women’s Pole Vault with her second attempt clearance at 4.72, a career best and the secod best performance in the world this indoor season.

"“Overall I’m happy with my effort because it was a new personal record for me,” said Stuczynski, who celebrated her 25th birthday on Tuesday (06). She then had the bar raised to 4.82, one centimetre higher than Stacy Dragila’s 4.81 national record, but missed.

“The jump for the American record was one that could have stayed up, but it fell unluckily for me. I’m disappointed with it now because I had a chance, but when I look back at it I’ll be happy with it.”

Mary Sauer was the runner-up with a clearance of 4.52m.

Hooker, Crawford continue tour success in the sprints, but the collegians faster

In the sprints, the winners in the afternoon collegiate division 60 metre races outdid their professional rivals. Courtney Champion from the University of Tennessee won the collegiate divison race in 7.21, while Clemson’s Jackob Ford took the men’s race in 6.60. Marshevet Hooker (7.26) and Shawn Crawford, the Olympic 200m champion (6.61) claimed wins in the evening invitational division.

“I am happy that I came out with the victory because that is the most important thing, but the time was not my best effort,” said Crawford, who won the Millrose Games title a week ago in 6.56 as well as the Reebok Boston Indoor Games race in 6.55. “It reminded me of my college times. When I looked up, I saw that there were people in front so I knew I had to turn it on and I was able to get to the tape first.”

David Oliver, one of the revelations of the 2006 season, dominated the men’s 60m Hurdles with his 6.60 win???, a .01 improvement on his career best, well ahead of Joel Brown (7.73) and David Payne (7.77). Millros Games winner Arries Merritt, LaShawn Merritt’s cousin, hit the second hurdle and ended his race as he reached the third.

Nichole Denby won the women’s contest in 8.02, just 2/100s of a second ahead of Canadians Priscilla Lopes (8.04) and former world outdoor champion Perdita Felicien (8.05). Lopes was the runner-up in the sprint hurdles races at both the indoor and outdoor NCAA championships last year. In a tight finish, Olympic champion Joanna Hayes was fifth in 8.08.

Spirited battles in the middle & long distances, NR for Sullivan

Athletes from three countries won the four middle & long distance contests, the most spirited of which was a brisk men’s 3000.

Two-time Canadian Olympian Kevin Sullivan and former University of Wisconsin standout Matt Tegenkamp duked it out, with Tegenkamp maintaining the lead down the final stretch before Sullivan overtook him with 25 metres to go to win in 7:40.17, another national record for the 32-year-old veteran. Tegenkamp’s runner-up time of 7:40.25 moved him up to No. 4 on the U.S. all-time list, while Irishman Alistair Cragg, the reigning European champion over the distance and a seven-time NCAA champion while at the University of Arkansas, was third in 7:43.30.

Australian standout Mark Fountain, who lives and trains in Fayetteville, excited his home crowd with a strong effort in the men’s mile. Running by himself most of the way, Fountain won the race in 3:55.58, well ahead this year’s American middle distance revelation Nick Symmonds (4:01.21) and Rob Myers (4:01.22).

The women’s mile was a hotly contested race that featured the most dramatic finish of the evening as Ethiopian Mestawot Tadesse barely crossed the finish line ahead of Canadian Malindi Elmore. Tadesse won in 4:32.48, with Elmore just a breath back in 4:32.50.

Canadian standout Reid Coolsaet won the men’s 5000 in 13:42.84, a world leader.

Also notable on the afternoon collegiate program were Ricardo Chambers’s 46.05 victory in the 400 metres, and Sally Kipyego’s solo 15:39.51 win in the 5000. Last fall, Kipyego, who is still relatively new to indoor racing, became the first Kenyan woman to win an NCAA cross country individual title.

USATF and Bob Ramsak for the IAAF

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