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Perry Jumps at the Chance to Excel

April 06, 2003|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

Michelle Perry would like to make her mark on the international track and field scene in the heptathlon. In the inaugural Rafer Johnson-Jackie Joyner-Kersee Invitational on Saturday, the former UCLA star showed she has one of the seven events down.

With Joyner-Kersee looking on, Perry recorded the second-fastest 100-meter hurdles time in the world this season, 13.15 seconds, in front of an appreciative crowd at Drake Stadium.

The two-day meet featured many current and former collegiate competitors along with some world-class performers, including John Godina, who won the shotput with a throw of 65 feet 4 1/4inches.

But Perry's time in the hurdles made the crowd take notice. A second-place finisher in the heptathlon at the 2001 NCAA meet, she took charge at about 50 meters and easily beat out Felicia Stone and Eunice Barber, who ran 13.25 and 13.31, respectively.

"I really wanted to go under 13 seconds, but it was a little tough with the crosswind," said Perry, who trains with Barber. "I've been working with Eunice and she's helped me a lot with my weaker events like the shotput. It was a real good field and that just helps the competitive aspect of the race."

UCLA senior Tiffany Burgess also turned a couple of heads by posting a time of 2:04.54 to dominate a small field in the 800 meters. It is the fastest time by an American this year in the early stages of the outdoor season.

"This will be tremendous for my confidence in that I can do this in my first outdoor race," Burgess said. "I wanted to go 2:07 or less. Now this season, I want to be able to make good decisions with people around me."

Felix Sanchez, world champion in the 400-meter hurdles, finished a close second to former UCLA runner Jess Strutzel in the 800 as he continues preparation to defend his title this summer in Paris. Sanchez, an NCAA champion at USC, said he is looking forward to running in the Pan American Games in the Dominican Republic in August.

"I can't wait to run in front of my people who have supported me," said Sanchez, who holds dual citizenship. "I've never run there and I want the people to see me as something tangible other than what they read in the newspaper."

Former USC star Jerome Davis, an NCAA champion in the 400 in 1998, was named male athlete of the meet after winning the 200 and 400 races. Davis won the 400 over a field depleted by the absence of Tyree Washington. The U.S. and world indoor champion was among several entrants who either did not appear or chose not to race.

"I haven't raced here since I was a junior [at USC] and so I was very happy to win both races," Davis said. "I've been running against Tyree since high school and I was hoping he'd be here. I know I'll see him in the future."

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