A refocused and riled-up Xavier Carter won the star-studded 200-meter showdown at the Prefontaine Classic
XAVIER CARTER has nothing against Asafa Powell or Jeremy Wariner, as long as they stay where they belong. In Carter's opinion, they don't belong in the 200 meters, the event in which his personal best of 19.63 seconds is the second-fastest ever, behind only Michael Johnson's 19.32. Carter wasn't pleased that Powell, the world-record holder in the 100, and Wariner, the reigning Olympic champion in the 400, had the temerity to enter the 200 at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., on Sunday. "I wanted to show them that they came into the wrong neighborhood," Carter said after accelerating past both men, and the rest of a distinguished field, to win in 20.23.
After leading for the first 150 meters, Powell ran out of steam in the last 50 and finished third in 20.55; Wariner was never a factor, finishing sixth in 20.78. "I don't know if they're trying to get publicity or what, but I take offense to it," he said of Powell's and Wariner's presence in the 200. "Asafa was telling people, 'If you're not going to run a 19.5 or 19.6 in this meet, you might as well not line up.'"
Powell meant it as an innocuous comment about the strength of the field, but Carter, a sprint star for two years at LSU who doubled as a backup wide receiver for the Tigers, used it as fuel. Carter's interpretation didn't seem to mean much to Powell, who said he decided to enter the 200 partly because he had been running so many of them during his rehabilitation from a recent case of tendinitis. "Tell [ Carter] he ran a fine race," Powell said as he left the stadium. "As for the rest of it, what does it matter?"
Powell, a Jamaican who holds the world record in the 100 (9.77), has the requisite speed to compete in the 200 but has to prove he can sustain it over the second half of the race. It was no surprise to Carter that Powell took the early lead, and he told himself not to panic. "He's the world-record holder, so of course he's going to run a good 100, but can he hold on?" Carter said. "I just stayed relaxed, and when it was time to make my move, I went by him."
Given the quality of the field—reigning U.S. champion Wallace Spearmon, who finished second in 20.25, has run a 19.65, third-best in history, and 2004 Olympic gold medalist Shawn Crawford finished fourth—sub-20-second times seemed likely. "There may have been other 200 fields with more talent," said meet director Tom Jordan, "but I guarantee that the tickets to those meets had OLYMPIC GAMES FINAL written on them." This field faced a substantial headwind at the University of Oregon's Hayward Field, leading to the relatively pedestrian times.
For Carter, there was also the matter of conditioning. He acknowledges that after he turned pro following his sophomore year last June, his training suffered. "I was just kind of going with the flow," he says. "I didn't realize how hard you have to push yourself to compete with the best in the world. By the time we get to the world championships [in August, in Osaka, Japan], I'll be ready."
Powell and Wariner said they plan to continue experimenting with the 200, and Powell appears capable of challenging the event's elite. The 200 may not be the wrong neighborhood for the newcomers, but it is a rough one, and for now Carter is the toughest man on the block.
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