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TRACK AND FIELD

Webb Is the Best in the 1,500

June 26, 2005|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

For the second year in a row, Alan Webb proved that he's the best 1,500-meter runner in America by outlasting training partner Chris Lukezic to win the event Saturday afternoon in the U.S. championships at the Home Depot Center in Carson.

Webb's time of 3 minutes 41.97 seconds was nearly nine seconds slower than his personal best, but it was good enough to win a tactical race that featured a sluggish start and a surging finish.

"It was rough at the beginning, but I just wanted to stay focused and not panic," said Webb, who last year ran a career-best 3:32.73. "My composure was pretty good and I was ready for the move during the last 300, 400 meters. The pace was slower, slower than I would have liked."

Webb's tactical improvement this year is one reason he's expected to do better at the world championships in Helsinki, Finland, this summer than he did at last year's Olympics. In Athens, Webb finished ninth in the first round with a time of 3:41.25 and did not advance.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday June 28, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 41 words Type of Material: Correction
Track and field -- An article in Sunday's Sports section about the U.S. track and field championships said Lashinda Demus, who won the women's 400-meter hurdles, was a former standout at Long Beach Poly High. She attended Long Beach Wilson High.

Webb, who has run for Nike since he left Michigan after his freshman season in 2002, said training with Lukezic is one reason he's more prepared for international competition.

"Just having someone at the track helps a lot," said Webb, the national high school record holder for the indoor and outdoor mile and the 1,500.

"I wasn't surprised that [Lukezic] was right there. I know how strong of a runner he is."

Lukezic, who competed for Georgetown this season, finished in 3:42.06, followed by Rob Myers in 3:42.27. UCLA's Jon Rankin finished sixth in 3:43.41.

"When everybody made their move, I just countered it and countered it," Webb said. "I just tried to stay relaxed over the last 100, and with 30 meters to go, I looked over and saw Chris and felt a lot better."

*

In the women's 1,500, Treniere Clement made a late push to run down Nike teammate Jennifer Toomey to win her first national title in 4:06.73. Clement, who ran near the front of the pack for most of the race, faded to third place with 150 meters left before shifting to another gear.

"I have been working on my finish all year; my speed is strong," said Clement, whose best time before this season was 4:11.11.

"I knew that would pull me through."

Neither Clement, who ran a personal best Saturday, nor Toomey has reached the qualifying time to compete at the world championships in August. Toomey said it would have been difficult to achieve the time Saturday.

"It's hard to get a time at a championship race, because everyone's looking at everyone else," Toomey said.

*

After battling injuries over the last year, Stacy Dragila won her ninth U.S. pole vault championship with a vault of 14 feet 7 1/4 inches to surpass Tracy O'Hara's vault of 14-5 1/4 . Dragila, a two-time world champion and 2000 Olympic gold medalist, had been struggling with injuries to her Achilles' tendons and said she was happy to just be able to compete.

"This was truly my third competition this outdoor season ... and my rhythm was not there warming up," said Dragila, who did not advance to last year's Olympic finals because of Achilles' problems. "Obviously, I'm very happy that I won because I thought Tracy would win because she's been jumping tremendously of late."

Dragila's injuries may be a blessing at the world championships because "I'm fresh and that's a good thing because I've never gone into the worlds like that in the past," said Dragila, who has 17 national titles, including indoors.

*

Former Long Beach Poly High standout Lashinda Demus continued her steady improvement in the women's 400 hurdles with an impressive victory over a strong field that included four-time national champion Sandra Glover.

Demus finished in 53.25 thanks to a late kick to beat Shauna Smith, who finished second in 54.21, and Glover, who finished third in 54.62.

"I got out fast for the first few hurdles and maintained my speed and rhythm," said Demus, who finished fifth in the Athens Games.

"I kind of messed up on the last hurdle. but I felt strong coming down the stretch."

*

Erin Gilreath of the New York Athletic Club set an American record in the women's hammer with a throw of 242-4 on the final toss of the competition. She held the previous record of 236-7, set in 2004.

Bethany Hart was second at 226-10 and Amber Campbell was third at 226-2.

*

In other finals, Daniel Lincoln of Nike beat Anthony Famiglietti of Adidas in the steeplechase with a time of 8:17.27. Famiglietti finished in 8:20.49.

Walter Jones of Nike leaped 56-3 1/4 on his fourth try to win the long jump.

*

The finals of the men's 400-meter hurdles will be today, and based on Saturday's semifinals, the competition will be heated.

Ken Ferguson won his race in 48.65, and James Carter won the other semifinal in 48.80, but they had to work for their victories.

"I felt I couldn't let them scare me out of my race," said Ferguson, a former national high school champion who beat NCAA champion Kerron Clement of Florida to advance. "So I was kind of the rabbit. Coming home, I knew it would be a battle with Kerron, but I know I'm in shape to beat anyone coming down the stretch.

"This is my first year running with the seniors and it's a whole new experience running with professionals."

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