The final day of competition in Eugene featured a potpourri of events.
The race of the day had to be the men’s 800m on the fourth and final day of competition at the 2009 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore. After the University of Connecticut’s Michael Rutt led the field through 400 meters in 51.50, two heavyweights of the event, Nick Symmonds and Khadevis Robinson, charged toward the front. Symmonds had finished second to Robinson in two previous National Championships (’06 and ’07), while Symmonds turned the tables on “KD” in winning last year’s Olympic Trials. The familiar foes ran side-by-side down the entire length of the homestretch, driving the crowd into hysterics. Symmonds hit the line first in 1:45.86. KD was just 11 hundredths of a second behind him. Ryan Brown snatched the bronze medal in 1:46.67.
The men’s 1500m was almost as close, but lacked a bit of luster due to a very slow early pace and the late scratch of American mile record holder Alan Webb, who suffered a hamstring injury in his qualifying race. Beijing Olympian Leo Manzano took the field through 400 meters in 61 seconds and through 800 in a truly pedestrian 2:03. With 550 meters remaining Stephen Pifer saw a chance and bolted into the lead. He stayed in front until entering the final bend, where first Lopez Lomong and then Manzano went by him. In a virtual replay of the men’s 800 finish, Lopez and Manzano battled the length of the homestretch, with Lomong eventually winning in 3:41.68. Dorian Ulrey of the University of Arkansas also passed Pifer to capture third place in 3:42.84.
Hazel Clark led wire to wire in the women’s 800m to claim her fifth U.S. outdoor title with a time of 2:00.79. She took the field through 400m in 59.43 and held strong into the homestretch before tightening up and nearly handing the race to the fast-closing NCAA champion, Geena Gall.
The women’s 3000m steeplechase final featured two rivals who have traded the American record back and fourth a few times
over the past two years (it’s a very new event): the University of Colorado’s Jenny Barringer and reigning indoor 1500m national champion Anna Willard. As predicted, Barringer went straight to the front and Willard tucked in behind her. Runners popped off the back of the lead pack one by one under the pressure of Barringer’s steady, unrelenting pace. Barringer opened a 10-meter gap on everyone in the first lap of the last mile. A lap later it was 25 meters. The race for second remained close between Lindsay Anderson, Willard and Bridget Franek. Franek made her move entering the bell lap and Allen was dropped. Willard covered the gap and countered, pulling clear of the Penn State junior. Although her victory was already assured, Barringer kicked hard in the homestretch. Her winning time was 9:29.38. Willard, perhaps tired from the previous day’s 1500m final, was well off her best in 9:35.01. Franek shattered her PR in finishing third at 9:36.74.
Sprints, Hurdles and Legends
Things went from bad for worse for Lolo Jones in the 100m hurdles. The gold medal favorite in Beijing, who shockingly crashed out of the finals there, hit almost every hurdle in Friday’s prelims and barely qualified for Sunday’s semifinals. Less than halfway through her semifinal race, Jones and Michelle Perry appeared to get tangled up, and Jones was unable to clear the next hurdle. “The problem was me and Michelle Perry locked arms over the fourth hurdle,” said Jones. “That’s happened before because I go to the right and she goes to the left. So I tried to prepare for that fact by moving my blocks over some but I guess I just veered and we locked arms and that threw me off balance.” Dawn Harper, who took advantage of Jones’ fall in Beijing to claim gold, later won the final in 12.36.
The men’s 400m hurdles final featured the four fastest men in the world. But it was upstart Johnny Dutch who nearly stole the show, pushing Bershawn “Batman” Jackson all the way to the line. Jackson won in 48.04, the fastest time in the world this year. Dutch, a sophomore at the University of Georgia, set a personal best of 48.18 in second.
A resurgent Shawn Crawford won the men’s 200 meters in a super-fast (but wind-aided) time of 19.73 seconds. Joining him at the World Championships in Berlin will be surprise second-place finisher Charles Clark (20.00), Wallace Spearmon (third in 20.03), Ivory Williams (fourth in 20.05) and defending World Champion Tyson Gay, who took advantage of a bye and did not compete. Allyson Felix won the women’s 200m final in 22.02, also wind-aided.
At age 52, Joan Benoit Samuelson made an appearance in the masters women’s 1500m. Joanie took fourth place with a time of 5:02 and drew louder cheers than any other athlete who competed on this day.
A Final Note
Attendance for the final day was announced at 10,643 spectators. The four-day total exceeded 31,000-a record for the event. For this reason and because of the heavy interest of Nike, Headquartered in nearby Beaverton, the USA National Championships will probably stay in Eugene for some time to come.