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Clement Finds Winning Gait

Hurdler wins his first U.S. title in the 400 meters after taking the stutter out of his step.

June 27, 2005|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

Kerron Clement holds the world indoor record at 400 meters, and it's that speed that has traditionally tripped him up in his specialty event, the 400-meter hurdles.

On Sunday at the U.S. track and field championships at Home Depot Center, Clement finally was able to control his quickness enough to clear all 10 hurdles without stutter-stepping, and the result was the fastest time recorded since 1998 and the seventh fastest ever.

Clement won in 47.24 seconds to defeat Bershawn Jackson and two-time U.S. champion James Carter for his first national championship.

"This was my first race ever that I did not chop my steps," said Clement, 20, a two-time NCAA 400-meter hurdles champion who won the world junior title in the event last year. "I came here this morning and I was really focused.... I charged every hurdle today, and that's what I have to do to win every race."

Running from Lane 7, Clement, who ran 44.57 in the 400 meters to win the NCAA indoor championship this year, set the tone with an aggressive first 200 meters. With Carter three lanes inside of him and Jackson running in Lane 1, Clement forced a strong field to chase him.

"I felt good from the start," Clement said. "I went out pretty hard, and my steps really came together. I knew if I did that, I would be able to lower my" personal record, "which I did."

Although he failed to win, Jackson was happy to earn a spot on the U.S. world championship team, because of his challenge in competing from the inside lane.

"It's really hard to get it done out of Lane 1," said Jackson, 22, whose time was 47.80. "I had to run hard because I didn't have any other choice."

For Carter, who won the national title last year and in 2002, Sunday's race was a disappointment but also an inspiration for August's world championships in Helsinki, Finland.

"I had some technical problems," said Carter, who finished third in 48.03, well off his personal best of 47.57. "I was over-striding heading into the sixth hurdle, and that threw me off over the final 200 meters of the race."

Carter, 27, who finished fourth at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, is hoping that Sunday's result is a good omen for him at Helsinki.

"Despite my breakdowns, I felt that I was in pretty good position down the stretch," he said. "I'm still looking to get a world championship gold medal, and I still have a chance to get that done. Helsinki is going to be anyone's race."

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