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A Flash of White Heat in the 200

Californian completes sprint double at U.S. championships, upstaging Felix and establishing herself as a favorite at worlds.

June 23, 2003|John Ortega | Times Staff Writer

PALO ALTO — It's becoming harder and harder to overlook Kelli White.

The 26-year-old sprinter from Union City, Calif., made that abundantly clear Sunday when she won the women's 200 meters on the final day of the U.S. track and field championships in front of 7,698 at Stanford.

White ran the fastest time in the world this year in winning the 100 in 10.93 seconds Friday, yet she wasn't the most talked-about sprinter entering the final of the 200.

That distinction belonged to 17-year-old Allyson Felix, who graduated from Los Angeles Baptist High in North Hills on Friday.

Felix had become the darling of the track world after running a world junior (age 19 and under) record 22.11 -- the year's world-best time -- in the Banamex Grand Prix meet in Mexico City on May 3 and breaking Marion Jones' national high school record two weeks before that.

White finished third in 22.33 in that race, but she got off to a great start Sunday and crossed the finish line in a career-best 22.21. Former USC standout Torri Edwards placed second in a career-best 22.45 and Felix was third in 22.59 after coming out of the blocks slowly.

With the top three finishers qualifying for the U.S. team that will compete in the world championships in Paris from Aug. 23 to 31, Felix became the first high school athlete to make a U.S. Olympic or world championship team since 1980.

Yet White took center stage on a day when Maurice Greene withdrew from the final of the men's 200 because of tendinitis in his right knee, Tom Pappas moved to eighth on the all-time world list in the decathlon and Gail Devers won her ninth national title in the women's 100 high hurdles.

"I worked really hard," White said. "So I had tears of joy instead of tears of pain like I did last year when I hurt my foot."

White won a bronze medal in the 200 at the 2001 world championships in Edmonton, but she tore tissue in her right foot in a meet in Stockholm last July.

The injury took several weeks to heal and the area around it was still painful enough in April that White contemplated calling it a season after winning the 100 in a then-career best 10.97 at the Mt. San Antonio College Relays in Walnut.

She toughed it out, however, and her national championship victories stamped her as one of the favorites for the world championships in a season that sprint queen Jones has skipped while awaiting the birth of her first child next month.

"The rest of us in the race finally got seen," White said about the absence of the double Olympic sprint champion. "We're finally getting our due."

Felix, who has signed with USC, was relieved to have won a spot on the world championship team after feeling a cramp in her left hamstring with about 50 meters left in her semifinal heat about an hour and a half before the final.

"I was a little shaky and not that confident with my leg," Felix said of her poor start in the final.

Greene, the defending Olympic and three-time world champion in the men's 100, advanced to the 200 final with a fourth-place finish in a semifinal. But he limped noticeably after crossing the finish line.

"I just didn't want to take any chances with him," said John Smith, Greene's coach. "When he runs down a straightaway, he's fine. But when he runs on a turn, he has problems."

Pappas had a meet-record 8,784 points in the decathlon to improve his best by 199 points and move to second on the all-time U.S. performer list.

Dan O'Brien, the 1996 Olympic champion, is the only American to have bettered Pappas' score. O'Brien has done that six times, including his U.S. record of 8,891 points.

Devers had been sidelined by a hamstring injury for much of the season, but the three-time world champion won the high hurdles in 12.61 after finishing third in the 100 on Friday.

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