Wariner, Richards-Ross run well at Texas Relays
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Jeremy Wariner is still shaking off the rust of a toe injury that put him in a walking boot last year and knee surgery to clear out some leftover problems from previous injuries.
Yet he's also running fast and serving notice that if he continues to find his stride, he's still very much a force to be reckoned this summer at the London Olympics.
Wariner ran a strong anchor leg Saturday to propel his Central Texas All Stars relay team to victory in the invitational 1,600 in 3 minutes, 1.54 seconds. Wariner, who had to shut down training late last year to let his toe and knee heal, held off a strong challenge from two runners on the backstretch before coasting to an easy victory by several meters.
Wariner, who won the gold medal in the 400 in 2004 and the silver medal in 2008, says he feels strong and his foot feels good. The Olympic trials begin in June.
"The injury will go away and you've just got to stay focused on what your long goal is and for me that's the Olympics,'' Wariner said.
Wariner, 28, tore a ligament in the second toe on his left foot last year, an injury that sent pain shooting through his entire foot when he walked and forced him to drop out of the 2011 world championships.
"It was best for me to stop. It hurt to do that. I wanted to run worlds but I was looking at the long run, and the long run for me right now is to get back and get ready for the Olympics,'' Wariner said.
Wariner's coach, Clyde Hart, said his training is slightly behind where Hart would like it to be, but Wariner has an aggressive schedule planned for the coming months to gear up for the Olympic trials in June. Wariner will run his first individual 400 meters next week at a meet at Texas State University. He hasn't won a major international title in the 400 since the 2007 world championships.
"The last few years I've been kind of taking it easy and trying to get ready at the last second. This year we wanted to start a little earlier and just get going,'' Wariner said.
Fighting off the challenge on the backstretch was a good test of his strength.
"I had a great finish. I Haven't had a finish like that in a while,'' Wariner said.
Wariner wasn't the only U.S. international to show off Saturday.
Sanya Richards-Ross, also a 400-meters specialist, blew away the field in the invitational 100 meters, winning with a wind-aided personal best 10.89 seconds. She followed that about 20 minutes later by anchoring the Hart of Texas relay team to an easy win in the 1,600 in 3:27.03.
Richards-Ross has been one of the top 400 meters runners in the world for several years but has yet to win Olympic gold. She faded badly down the stretch in the 2008 Olympic final, falling from first to third. She rebounded from that loss to win the 2009 world championship, but hadn't won top individual title since then until winning the world indoor 400 championship three weeks ago.
Her surprise win in the 100, a training exercise for her, showed she is in top shape. Richards-Ross said she won't run an individual 400 until May in Jamaica
"I know whenever my speed is on, the 400 gets easier for me so I'm just ready excited about the rest of the season,'' she said.
Hart, who also coaches Richards-Ross, said she's had to carry the burden of the late defeat in Beijing for four years.
"You kind of wear that mantle for four years. She was the favorite. That's not something you enjoy,'' Hart said.
Hart encouraged Richards-Ross to compete a lot during the indoor season and the extra work has paid off in conditioning and confidence.
"Sanya needs to run. She's like a bottle of pop that you shake up. It's going to pop if you don't take the top off,'' Hart said.
In other events Saturday, Texas junior Marquise Goodwin, the current U.S. long jump champion and a favorite to make the Olympic team this year, pulled out of the meet with an unspecified injury. His withdrawal was announced by Texas officials about an hour before the long jump. Goodwin had already been replaced on Texas 400 meter relay team.
Mississippi State freshman Jarrett Samuels won with a leap of 26 feet, 2 1/4 inches
Goodwin was later seen walking with an ice pack on his left knee, but Texas coach Bubba Thornton refused to say what Goodwin's injury is or when it happened. Thornton noted he wanted Goodwin ready for the Big 12 championships in May.
"There's a big meet in five weeks,'' Thornton said. "He'll be fine. He just needs a few days.''
Florida senior Jeff Demps, who won the NCAA indoors 60 meter title on March 11, won the men's university 100 meters with a wind-aided 10.01. Kimberlyn Duncan of LSU won the women's 100 with a wind-aided 10.94.
Erik Kynard of Kansas State won the men's high jump at 7-feet, 3 inches.
On Friday, Shelbi Vaughan of Mansfield Legacy High School set a national record in the girls' discus with a throw of 191-6, topping the previous mark of 190-3 set by Anna Jelmini of Shafter, Calif., in 2009. Vaughn has signed with Texas A&M.