Richards moves into Visa Championship lead with win at AT&T USA Outdoor Champs

06-24-2006

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Jill Geer
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INDIANAPOLIS - Sanya Richards accomplished a hat trick in the women's 400 meters Saturday at the AT&T USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, held in front of 7,907 fans at Michael A. Carroll Stadium, while exciting finishes were the theme of the evening.

The final stop of the 2006 Visa Championship Series, the AT&T USA Outdoor Championships is the selection event for the 2006 IAAF World Cup, with the champion in each event being named to the team. The AT&T USA Outdoor Championships will be televised live on ESPN2 from 5-7 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday, June 25.

Richards repeats in 400

The 21-year-old Richards won her second straight national title in the 400, broke her own meet record, and took the lead for the $100,000 Visa Championship first prize on Saturday. The 2005 Visa champion, Richards broke from the blocks quickly and never relinquished her lead. She finished in 49.27 seconds to shave .01 second off her own meet record from last year. Her time was worth 1,227 points on the IAAF scoring tables, giving her the lead for the 2006 Visa Championship and its accompanying $100,000 first prize. Trailing Richards were Dee Dee Trotter in second (50.40) and Monique Henderson in third (50.71), replicating the 1-2-3 finish of 2005.

Dynamic duels in men's 400 hurdles, 400 dash

The men's 400 hurdles featured a thrilling finish as two of the world's best talents did battle. 2005 Visa Champion Kerron Clement got out quickly in lane 4, but 2005 World Outdoor gold medalist Bershawn Jackson had the lead coming into the final straight. In a footrace to the finish, Clement's strength won out in a world-leading time of 47.39. Jackson was second in 47.48, the second-fastest time in the world, and World Outdoor silver medalist James Carter was third in 48.44. Clement's time moved him into second in the race for the Visa Championship with 1,253 points.

The men's 400 sprint was an even closer race. LaShawn Merritt and World Outdoor silver medalist Andrew Rock entered the race as the favorites, and they didn't disappoint. The two were in a virtual dead heat in the final 100 meters of the one-lap race, but the more experienced Rock held his form and won his first national title in 44.45 seconds, moving to fourth in the Visa Championship Standings with 1,216 points. Merritt was second in a personal-best 44.50, with Indiana University's David Neville third in a personal-best 44.75.

Howard hits new heights

Chaunte Howard was a surprise silver medalist in the women's high jump at the 2005 World Outdoor Championships, but her performance Saturday proved she is consistently among the world's best. The 22-year-old set a meet record, personal best and 2006 U.S. leader with her clearance of 2.01m/6 feet, 7 inches, and moved into second in the Visa Championship standings with 1,204 points. Three-time Olympian Amy Acuff was second at 1.92/6-3.5, with Destinee Hooker third at 1.86m/6-1.25.

In the women's 100-meter hurdles, Ginnie Powell followed up her second consecutive NCAA title with her first U.S. title as a professional athlete, moving to third in the Visa Championship standings with 1201 points. The powerful, 5-foot-9 Powell got out very well and held on to win in 12.63 seconds (-.4mps), just ahead of hard-closing Damu Cherry (12.64). Michelle Perry was third at 12.67. In the afternoon's semifinal round, Cherry had posted the fastest time with 12.58 in heat 1, and Powell won heat 2 with 12.72.

Pappas back on top

At age 29, 2003 World Outdoor champion Tom Pappas won his fourth U.S. title, completing his first decathlon since the 2004 Olympic Trials. Pappas scored 8,319 points to win over Ryan Harlan (7,872) and Jake Arnold (7,827). It marked a fine return for the former #1 world-ranked decathlete who has battled injuries for two years.

Despite nearly collapsing with low blood sugar after the 400 meters on Friday, defending world champion Bryan Clay entered the day in the lead and was in first after seven events heading into the pole vault. But he still suffered from dizziness and weakness throughout the day, eventually withdrawing from the competition after failing to clear a height in the vault.

The vault laid waste to the field while Pappas literally and figuratively soared. He cleared 5.10m/16-8.75 to score 941 points and move into the lead with 7,083 points. In addition to the pole vault, Pappas' performances on Saturday included 14.32 seconds in the 110-meter hurdles (934 points), 49.78m/163-4 in the discus throw (866 points), 55.68m/182-8 in the javelin (674 points) and he ran 4:59.50 the 1,500.

GiGi Johnson won her first national heptathlon title after finishing second in 2005. On Friday she ran 13.04 in the 100m hurdles, high jumped 1.72m/5-7.75, threw the shot 13.62m/44-8.25 and ran the 200 in 23.81 seconds. On Saturday she long jumped 6.20m/20-4.25, threw the javelin 40.53m/133-0 and ran the 800 in 2:19.56 to score 6,183 points, just 9 points off her personal best. Defending champion Hyleas Fountain was second with 6,148 points and Fiona Asigbee was third with 6,030.

More winners

Russ Buller scored an emotional victory in the men's pole vault. Dedicating his performance to his deceased brother, Jordan, Buller won his first USA title with a first-attempt clearance of 5.80m/19-0.25. Olympic silver medalist Toby Stevenson was second at the same height, clearing on his second attempt, and Tommy Skipper was third at 5.60m/18-4.5.

Joanne Dow took won her third U.S. outdoor title in the women's 20 km race walk in 1:32:20.76, followed by Teresa Vaill in 1:39:20.04 and Sam Cohen (1:40.29.46). In the women's steeplechase, Lisa Galaviz (9:57.58) held off Kristin Anderson (9:57.98) and Delilah DeCrescenzo (10:03.31) for the win.

Treniere Clement successfully defended her title in the women's 1,500m, running 4:10.44 to hold off Lindsey Gallo (4:10.72). Sarah Schwald was third in 4:11.60.

Aretha Thurmond easily won her second career title in the women's discus with a throw of 62.50m/205-1, followed by Suzy Powell in second (58.68m/192-6) and 2005 champion Becky Breisch (57.97m/190-02). 2005 U.S. indoor champion Rose Richmond had an upset win in the women's long jump, leaping 6.93m/22-9 with a 2.2mps tailwind to defeat world champion Tianna Madison, who had only one legal jump (6.77m/22-2.5). Two-time U.S. champion Grace Upshaw was third with 6.65m/21-10.

Around the rounds

In qualifying rounds, World Outdoor silver medalist Lashinda Demus laid down a world-leading time of 53.50 in the women's 400-meter hurdles semifinals. Tiffany Ross-Williams won the second semi in 54.94.

World and Olympic 400m champion Jeremy Wariner posted the fastest time in the first round of the men's 200 (20.28, -1.3mps) while Ball State alumna LaTasha Jenkins was the fastest woman with her time of 22.51 (-2.2mps). Marion Jones did not start due to lingering fatigue from Friday's three rounds of the 100. Dominique Arnold had the fastest time in the men's 110-meter hurdles (13.35).

Masters WR for Gault

In masters exhibition races, Willie Gault broke the listed world record in the men's 45-49-year-old 100-meter dash, winning in 10.72 seconds with a 1.0 mps tailwind. He surpassed the previous record of 10.96 held by Neville Hodge since 2001 and improved his own time of 10.79 (no wind reading) run May 15 at Occidental College. Kathleen Shook won the women's 400 meters in 1:02.38.

Visa Championship Series standings

With one day of competition remaining at the AT&T USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Indianapolis June 21-26, Justin Gatlin maintains his lead in the men's standings with 1263 points, while Sanya Richards leads the women with 1,227 points.

The winner of the men's and women's Visa Championship Series each will win $100,000. To score points, athletes must win their event during Visa Championship Series meets. To be eligible for the cash bonuses, athletes also must win their events at the AT&T USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

Visa Championship Series men's standings: 1) Justin Gatlin, 1263; 2) Kerron Clement 1253; 3) Adam Nelson, 1243; 4) Andrew Rock, 1,216; 5) Wallace Spearmon 1211

Visa Championship Series women's standings: 1) Sanya Richards, 1227; 2) Chaunte Howard, 1204; 3) Ginnie Powell, 1201; 4) Marion Jones, 1189; 5) Treniere Clement 1170

For complete results, athlete quotes, event schedule and start lists, visit www.usatf.org