Gatlin eyes double as 400m win leaves Felix facing choice
Justin Gatlin stayed on course for a sprint double World Championships challenge on Saturday, while Allyson Felix has a choice to make after a storming 400 meters triumph at the U.S. athletics championships.
Gatlin, a polarizing figure who has served two doping bans only to emerge as the dominant sprinter early in the 2015 season, produced a seemingly effortless 19.92 seconds to cruise into the 200 meters semifinals.
Gatlin won his heat ahead of training partner Isiah Young, whose 19.99 seconds made him the only other sub-20 runner in the heats.
“I felt comfortable,” said Gatlin, who opted out of the 100 meters won by Tyson Gay on Friday because his 2014 Diamond League title gives him a World Championships wild card in that event.
“Take it easy, rest right now and get ready for the battle tomorrow,” he said of his mindset for the heats, with semifinals and the final set for Sunday.
With Gay and 100 meters runner- up Trayvon Bromell sitting out the 200 meters, Dedric Dukes clocked the third- fastest time of the morning, 20.15, with Terrel Cotton fourth- fastest in 20.16.
Gatlin, who owns the top times in the world this year in the 100 meters (9.74) and 200 meters (19.68), has made no bones about his desire to challenge Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt in both at the August 22-30 World Championships in Beijing.
But Felix, the Olympic 200 meters champion who has a wild card into the Beijing 200 meters, says the World Championships schedule won’t let her attempt a 200-400 meters double as she did in 2011, even though she is now eligible for both.
Felix, who won 2011 world silver in the 400 meters, ran down Natasha Hastings in the final 100 meters to win in 50.19.
“I didn’t know I had her, I just knew I wanted to dig deep and leave it all on the track,” Felix said.
With the 200 meter semifinals and 400 meter final at Beijing scheduled to be 70 minutes apart, Felix will opt for one or the other, a decision that will ultimately rest with coach Bobby Kersee.
Her own emotions on the matter are mixed.
“I feel like I still haven’t reached my potential there,” she said of the 400. “I feel like I could challenge myself there. But I still love the 200, it’s difficult to be out of it even tomorrow.”
Her decision will be crucial for Francena McCorory, the fastest woman in the world in the event the past two years.
McCorory finished fourth on Saturday in 50.88, and will only be able to race at Worlds if Felix opts out.
“I would hope to get a decision pretty quickly to let the next person know if I decide to go the other way,” Felix said.
The men’s 400 meters went to David Verburg, who clocked 43.63 to edge reigning world camp LaShawn Merritt (43.66).
Thanks to Merritt’s bye, Vernon Norwood and Bryshon Nellum also punched their tickets to Beijing with their third- and fourth-place finishes.
Harper-Nelson Beijing bound
Veteran Dawn Harper-Nelson, the 2008 Olympic champion and 2012 silver medallist, won the 100m hurdles in 12.55 seconds, ahead of Keni Harrison (12.56) and Sharika Nelvis (12.59).
The top trio will be joined on the team for Beijing by defending world champion Brianna opted out of the final.
But Jasmin Stowers, who headed the season’s best list before Nelvis’s effort on Friday missed out on a Beijing berth, finishing fifth in 12.65.
“I’m a gamer,” 31- year- old Harper-Nelson said of beating the women who had dominated so far this season. “I love to go out there and compete.
“I knew these ladies were ready and I said ‘Dawn, you have to be on your A-game today in order to make that team.”
Tianna Bartoletta won the women’s long jump with a world-leading leap of 7.12 meters.
Bartoletta, the 2005 world champion, improved on the previous season’s best of 6.99 by Canadian Christabel Nettey, and also beat reigning world champion Brittney Reese who settled for second with a leap of 6.97. Janay DeLoach (6.95 meters) was third.