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Montgomery Is Out of Step With the Times

World-record holder stumbles at the start of men's 100 and finishes second, .04 behind Williams, at the U.S. championships.

June 21, 2003|Alan Abrahamson | Times Staff Writer

PALO ALTO — He stumbled. He wobbled. Then he closed, but not fast enough, and world-record holder Tim Montgomery went down to defeat Friday in the 100 meters at the U.S. outdoor track and field championships, losing at the tape to Bernard Williams, his pal and fellow gold medalist in the relays at the Sydney Olympics.

Williams finished in 10.11 seconds. Montgomery was timed in 10.15. Third place went to Jon Drummond, in 10.18. Each earned a place on the U.S. team at the world championships in August in Paris.

Montgomery, who set the world record of 9.78 last September in Paris, stumbled on his third step out of the blocks. He had to put his right hand to the track to steady himself. Then he turned on the gas.

But Williams was too far ahead. "I was kind of hungry," Williams said. Montgomery said he was "very pleased" simply to have made the world team: "This was a trial -- you run, you test, you fix it later on. Today my race needed a lot of fixing."

The men's 100 capped the second day's action at the four-day U.S. outdoor championships before a crowd announced at 6,057, a day that also saw Kelli White win the women's 100, in 10.93, and Marla Runyan win her third straight U.S. title in the women's 5000, in 15:16.18. Tim Broe won the men's 5,000 in 13:35.23, running the last lap in 57.5 seconds.

In other events, UCLA product Shelia Burrell, the two-time U.S. women's heptathlon champ, made it three, finishing with 6,159 points. Kristin Heaston won the women's shot put (60-1 3/4), and Erica Wheeler won the women's javelin, throwing 186-6.

In the men's field events, Jamie Nieto won the high jump (7-6 1/2), James Parker the hammer throw (239-7) and Dwight Phillips the long jump (27-0 1/2).

The focus of the day, however, and the pressure, was plainly on Montgomery. His 9.78 broke the mark of 9.79 set in 1999 by Maurice Greene, the 100 gold medalist in Sydney.

Shortly after setting the world mark, Montgomery and coach Trevor Graham parted ways.

Since then, Montgomery has been training by himself in North Carolina, without a coach.

Last winter, Montgomery and Marion Jones -- his partner, mother-to-be of his baby and five-time Olympic medalist -- caused a furor when it was revealed they'd consulted with Charlie Francis, the coach who admitted supplying steroids to Canadian Ben Johnson before the 1988 Seoul Games.

Montgomery and Jones now acknowledge the PR damage. But each says no regrets, and Montgomery has vowed this season to put the technical tips he'd learned from Francis to the test.

On Thursday, Montgomery posted the fastest time here in four heats, 10.04.

His longtime rival, Greene, who ran 9.94 earlier this month, remained unimpressed. Greene is not running the 100 here, only the 200 -- as the defending world champion in the 100, Greene has an automatic entry to this year's world championships -- and he said after Montgomery's 10.04, "You got a one-point wind," meaning one meter per second, halfway to the legal limit, "and you can't break 10?"

In the semifinals, Montgomery ran fastest in his heat, 10.27. But three of the four qualifiers in the other heat were faster, led by Williams, 10.16.

"I don't think he's in the same condition that he was in last year," Greene said of Montgomery after the semifinal. "It looked like it was a very hard race for him. Because it seemed like to me that he was pushing it all the way through, and when you're ready you wouldn't have to push it all the way through -- when you're ready to drop a time."

An hour and a half later, in the final, Greene put himself directly at the finish line, just inside Lane One, to watch. Montgomery said he didn't notice.

Jones, Montgomery said, would probably be "pleased for me being on the [world] team, probably disappointed I didn't execute the way I wanted to execute. But, you know, God has a plan, and every day comes a time, and today just wasn't my time."

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