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Newz Forum: OLYMPICS: College freshman schools world champ in 400

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posted on Feb, 12 2005 @ 10:26 AM
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- East Carolina freshman La Shawn Merritt ran the fastest 400 meters in the world this year, beating the reigning world champion at that distance at the Tyson Invitational on Friday night.

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Veronica Campbell ran the fastest 60 of the year and set a meet record at 7.09 seconds, and Kenya's Bernard Lagat ran the third-fastest mile ever, shaving three seconds off his Millrose Games time last week.

Savante Stringfellow, last year's world indoor champion in the long jump, finished second to U.S. compatriot Miguel Pate on Friday night.

Merritt won the 400 in 44.93 seconds, more than a second quicker than the 45.94 he ran a week earlier that had been 2005's best. Bershawn Jackson, the 2003 U.S. indoor champion, was second. Reigning world indoor champion Alleyne Francique was fourth.

"It was a pretty tough field, a lot of Olympians," said the 18-year-old Merritt. "I was the only guy from college, but I wasn't going to back down from them."

East Carolina coach Bill Carson said he and Merritt worked out on the University of Arkansas track to figure out where the freshman would run best, and then Merritt followed the plan perfectly.

"I had never run on this track before, so I didn't know what to expect," Merritt said. "I knew coming in that I could run 45 (seconds), and I knew this was the fastest track in the country. When I came in (the final turn), I knew no one was around, and I just wanted to finish strong."

Lagat ran a mile in 3:49.89, 1½ seconds slower than the world record after being on pace to beat the mark through the first three-quarters of a mile. The world indoor champion in the 3,000 easily defeated a field that included countryman Paul Korir, the world champion at 1,500.

"The pace was fast, and I wanted the guys to get out fast and that happened," said Lagat, who had said before the race that he was running so well he would attempt to set a world record at Fayetteville. He ran a mile in 3:52.87 last week in a win at Madison Square Garden and 3:53.61 while finishing second at Boston two weeks ago.

"I thought I would come here and attempt to break the record and, why not, after what I had done in Boston and New York," said Lagat, 30. "I might as well try while I'm feeling good, because I can't go at this pace forever."

Campbell, from the University of Arkansas, won gold in Athens in the 200 and the 400 relay, and won a bronze in the 100. She defeated LSU's Muna Lee, who had finished seventh at the Olympics in the 200 meters. Her 7.09 edged the meet record of 7.1 seconds set last year by Gail Devers.

Canada's Perdita Felicien also returned to the track Friday for the first time since falling in the 100 finals at the Athens Olympics, and finished fourth behind former college rival Danielle Carruthers in the 60 hurdles.

Only three-hundredths of a second separated the top three finishers in the event, and Felicien wasn't one of them. The world champion hurdler from Pickering, Ontario, suffered a deep bruise on her left heel during her fall at Athens. Felicien left the track immediately after the race.

"[Felicien's] used to winning. Of course she's disappointed," said Carruthers, who ran for Indiana while Felicien ran for Illinois. Carruthers finished in 7.98 seconds, Michelle Freeman finished in 7.99 and Melissa Morrison-Howard, a two-time Olympic bronze medalist, finished in 8.01.

"I'm still learning how to execute my race properly," Carruthers said. "Every race is close and I think I'm getting better every week."

Stringfellow's best long jump, 8.14 meters was 0.02 short of Pate's 8.16. Last year's Olympic silver medalist, John Moffitt, jumped 8.11.

"I was a lot more winded than usual with only six jumpers," Stringfellow said. "Our turns came around very quickly. All in all, I have no complaints."

In the college division of the meet, which continues Saturday, Arkansas' distance medley relay team finished in 9:29.25, the fourth-fastest time ever in the event.




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