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TRACK AND FIELD

Johnson Is Oldie but a Goodie

June 25, 2005|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

Allen Johnson is a four-time world champion and 1996 Olympic gold medalist in the 110-meter hurdles, but he had to dig deep to win his seventh U.S. championship Friday night at the Home Depot Center in Carson.

Johnson overcame personal-best efforts by Dominique Arnold and Terrence Trammell to win the event with a world-best time of 12.99 seconds. Arnold finished second at 13.01, followed by Trammell's 13.02.

"What I've done in the past, is the past," the 34-year old Johnson said. "My competitors don't care about anything like that."

Which certainly was the case Friday when from lane two, Johnson needed a late surge over the final hurdle to win. Arnold, who has established personal bests in his last two meets, along with Trammell, a two-time Olympic silver medalist, each seemed to have a chance to win down the stretch, but Johnson reached the tape first.

"I was kind of away from the action," Johnson said about his inside lane. "I could see someone on my right get out and I knew that it was Dominique and Terrence. I just kept running.

"Toward the middle of the race, I was getting a little bit nervous and then coming off the last hurdle, I didn't really know whether I won or not."

Arnold and Trammell knew where Johnson was and they desperately tried to overtake him.

"He's the greatest hurdler of all-time," Arnold said about Johnson, who recorded his 10th non-wind aided race under 13 seconds in his career.

Johnson has plenty of motivation to win his fifth world title at the championships in Helsinki later this summer. "That's what I've been training for," he said.

Although he's the reigning world champion, Johnson has had two consecutive disappointing finishes in the Olympics after winning his gold medal nine years ago. Last year in Athens, Johnson fell over a hurdle early in the final and did not complete the race. In 2000 in Sydney, he finished fourth running on a sore hamstring.

Then there's the growing rivalry with Chinese 2004 Olympic champion Liu Xiang, who shares the world record with Great Britain's Colin Jackson at 12.91. Johnson defeated Liu at the Reebok Grand Prix in New York earlier this month but false started in a race against him at the Nike Prefontaine Classic in May.

"He's good," Johnson said about Xiang. "No one has ever run faster than him in a race and I think that speaks for itself."

But Johnson said that his toughest competition will come from his American teammates.

"We definitely tried to send a message to the rest of the world that these are the type of times they are going to have to deal with all summer," Johnson said.

"I've been watching Allen for years and he's just a great athlete," Arnold said. "You're talking about someone who long jumps 26 feet and high jumps seven feet. He's such a great technician and he stays healthy, which is the biggest thing about him."

*

Decathlete Bryan Clay, an Olympic silver medalist last year, won his second consecutive national championship with an impressive two-day effort. He finished with 8,506 points. Paul Terek finished second with 7,976.

"My score wasn't really anything special," said Clay, who scored 8,820 at last year's Olympic Trials. "It was difficult dealing with the wind. We ran into it in the 100 and the hurdles and although it wasn't blowing directly at us in the long jump, the wind was swirling."

With Tom Pappas, the 2003 World Champion sidelined because of injury, Clay said that he just tried to stay focused.

"I'm looking ahead for the Worlds because if I'm on top of my game, I'm going to be tough to beat."

*

James Parker of the Air Force won the hammer competition with a toss of 243 feet, 3 inches.... Grace Upshaw won the women's long jump with a leap of 21-11 3/4 and Kristin Heaston won the women's shotput with a toss of 61-3.... Breaux Greer won his sixth national championship in the javelin with a throw of 259-10.... Katie McGregor won the women's 10,000 in 31:33.82.

*

An official assigned to the discus competition sustained minor injuries when she was hit by a discus during the women's event on Thursday, one day after another official, Paul Suzuki of West Los Angeles, died of head injuries after being struck by a shotput.

Jan Burch of the Michigan track officials' association was struck on the leg, about thigh-high, several observers said. Medical personnel immediately tended to her and she was able to return to her post.

"The discus hit the ground and popped to the side," said Rich Perelman, the meet director.

"They went right to her and put a little ice on it and she walked fine. She was back out there in about 10 minutes."

Times staff writer Helene Elliott contributed to this report.

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