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Fast Times Take Webb, Robinson, Johnson to 2007 USATF Titles
By David Monti
(c) 2007 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

INDIANAPOLIS (24-Jun) -- The air was warm and defintely sticky, but that didn't prevent Alysia Johnson, Khadevis Robinson and Alan Webb from posting fast times as they each won their respective events on the final day of the AT&T USA Outdoor Championships at the Michael A. Carroll Stadium at Indiana University-Purdue University.

Johnson, the University of California star who won the NCAA 800m title on June 9, needed to run nearly the same fast time here to beat back the challenges of Hazel Clark, three-time USA 800m champion, and Alice Schmidt, the 2006 USA indoor champion.  The early pace was set by high school sensation Chanelle Price, who took the field through 400m in 57.90.  Johnson, Clark and Schmidt followed Price in that order.  Johnson took charge of the race on the backstraight, leading through 600m, then into the final turn.  But Clark and Schmidt hadn't yet given up their hopes of winning.

"I've been so confident," Johnson said of her final kick.  "I was just honestly thinking, 'Dig!'"

Johnson made a frantic dash to the line in the last 100m with Clark right on her and Schmidt closing hard from third.  Both Johnson and Clark lunged at the finish and crashed hard to the track.

"If that's what it takes to come out on top then that's OK," Johnson said, her white uniform stained red from where she rubbed the track on her chest.

When the dust cleared, Johnson was credited with the win in 1:59.47 to Clark's 1:59.60.  Schmidt also got under two minutes: 1:59.63.  Not since the Olympic Trials in 2000 have the top-3 women in a U.S. 800m championship broken two minutes.

The drama in the men's 800m was completely different.  It was no surprise that Khadevis Robinson was already leading the race at a fast clip through 200m (24.7), but had expanded his margin to four meters by the time he went through the 600m checkpoint (1:18.5).  Despite a terrific sprint by Nick Symmonds, who had been running in sixth position at 500m, Robinson was already out of reach and sailed to the finish line in a snappy 1:44.37, defending his title.

"You know, I just love to run a tough race," said an elated Robinson.  "Somtimes you go out and go for it, and it doesn't work every time," he admitted.

Symmonds finished second just like last year, recording a 1:45.17.  He was impressed with how his IAAF World Championships teammate Robinson had run the race.

"I just really, really respect how he ran that," Symmonds told reporters.  "It was ballsy."

USC's Duane Solomon finished third in 1:45.69 to round out the U.S. team for Osaka.

The two-lap finals were only an appetizer for the thrilling 1500m final which followed.  Alan Webb and Bernard Lagat agreed before the race that the pace should be fast to keep the field thin, letting them race it out for the title at the end.

"Me and Bernard talked before the race, and preferred it would be a man-on-man race," Webb told reporters.  He also said that he should take the early pace in fairness to Lagat who had also run (and won) the 5000m final on Friday.

The first 400m was passed in 57.56 with Webb on the front with Lagat and Said Ahmed following.  Webb kept the pace high through 800m (1:56.23) and there was no change in the running order.  But, just past the 800m mark, Lagat took the lead and was on the front with Webb, Leonel Manzano and Chris Lukezic all still in contention.

"Alan ran really smart at the front, really fast," Lagat, the defending champion, observed.  "Then I said, 'I'm going to take over.'"

Lagat was leading through the final turn, with Webb, Lukezic and Manzano chasing.  Then Webb launched the kick which put him in the winner's circle at the mile at the Reebok Grand Prix earlier this month, burying his rivals in the last 50m, and running the fastest time at this meet since Steve Scott ran 3:34.92 in 1982: 3:34.82.

"That kind of kick wins a big, big meet, like Osaka," said Lagat who could not hold off Manzano and finished third.  Manzano set a personal best 3:35.29 to Lagat's 3:35.55.  Lukezic ran a great race, but finished fourth in 3:36.95.

"That's how you've got to win races," said a beaming Webb who had also won the U.S. indoor title at the mile last March.  "Through the last 300 I felt great."

Webb, along with his coach Scott Raczko, has added more speed training after two years of focusing mostly on building his endurance.

"After I ran that 10-K last spring that was the end of two years of longer stuff," Webb explained.  "That 10-K was the end of that phase."

The men's 3000m steephechase final didn't feature fast times, but produced the biggest upset of the day.  Joshua McAdams, the 2006 NCAA steeplechase champion, was sitting second behind defending champion and U.S. record-holder Dan Lincoln at the bell.  Anthony Famiglietti, perhaps the biggest favorite for a top-3 finish, was in third and Thomas Brooks was fourth.  McAdams made his move for victory on the backstraight, and had an eight meter lead going into the final turn.  Lincoln faded in the final sprint (he would finish fifth), while Arizona State's Aaron Aguayo, Brooks, and Famiglietti battled for the final podium positions and world team spots.  McAdams won easily in a personal best 8:24.46, while Aguayo was the best of the rest in 8:27.01.  Improbably, Brooks beat Famiglietti by 3/10ths of a second to take third.

"I knew if it came down to 400 to go I'd give it a good fight," said McAdams.

The U.S. team for the men's steeplechase isn't settled, however.  Adams just finished under the IAAF "A" standard of 8:24.60, so he's on the team.  Second place Aguayo finished under the "B" standard of 8:32.00, so he has also secured his place on the team.  However Brooks only has the "B" standard and under IAAF rules a nation can only have one "B" qualifier in the final team of three.  That means either 1) Aguayo improves to the "A" by August 13 making Brooks the only "B" team member, 2) Brooks improves to the "A" by August 13 locking in his place on the team or 3) Famiglietti, who already has the "A" standard, is promoted to the team if neither Aguayo nor Brooks improve to the "A" standard.

Next year's national meet will be the U.S. Olympic Team Trials held in Eugene, Ore., at the University of Oregon's Hayward Field.  As in this meet, the top-3 from each event will be provisionally named to the U.S. Olympic Team for Beijing.

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