Merritt, Richards cruise

WSU’s Anderson makes hurdles final

EUGENE, Ore. – If only they were all this easy.

LaShawn Merritt and Sanya Richards made their 400-meter races look like strolls around the track Saturday, each cruising to titles at the U.S. championships.

With no Jeremy Wariner in the field, Merritt was missing his only real rival and quickly pulled away from the field. The Olympic gold medalist, who beat Wariner in Beijing, won in 44.50 seconds, tying his world-best time for 2009.

The real competition was for second, as Gil Roberts held off Kerron Clement. Olympic bronze medalist David Neville finished fifth.

This was Richards’ fifth national championship and second in a row.

But as has happened at times in her career, she’s struggled when she gets on the biggest of stages. Last year, she finished third in Beijing after entering the event as the runner to beat.

She’s hoping to reverse that trend at the world championships in Berlin in August.

Richards, wearing hot pink shoes and matching top, only got stronger as the race went along. She finished in 50.05. Debbie Dunn took second and Jessica Beard was third.

Also at the meet, Washington State junior-to-be Jeshua Anderson ran the second-fastest time in the men’s 400 hurdles semifinals, clocking 48.89. Bershawn Jackson, running in the same heat, clocked 48.80.

Anderson will compete in today’s final. The top three finishers advance to Berlin.

WSU alum and 2008 Olympian Diana Pickler, competing for Asics, is in second place after the first day of the heptathlon, with 3,768 points. Hyleas Fountain leads with 4,038 points.

Allyson Felix had a much better showing in her best event, turning in the top time in the 200 prelims.

Felix had a start in the finals of the 100 the night before she labeled “atrocious.”

This time, her burst from the block was less important but still much cleaner. The two-time Olympic silver medalist in the 200 breezed past the field, hardly even challenged.

It was made easier that Carmelita Jeter didn’t line up the day after hurting herself winning the 100.

“Felt good today,” Felix said. “I have to work on the curve. It was a little windy, but it was OK.”

Shawn Crawford had the top time in the prelims of the men’s 200, crossing the line in 20.19. Crawford finished fourth in Beijing, only to move up to the silver medal when Netherlands Antilles sprinter Churandy Martina and Wallace Spearmon were disqualified for running outside their lanes.

He’s since given the medal back to Martina, lifting a weight off his shoulders.

Wariner, meanwhile, stepped away from his signature event to run in the 200.

Wariner, who’s already qualified for the world championships in the 400 – thanks to his victory at worlds in 2007, back when he was on top of the rivalry with Merritt – finished second in his heat in 20.77.

“I finished pretty good, I just have to get out a little better,” said Wariner, who was running his first race in nearly a month. “I’m a little rusty.”

Two-time Olympic bronze medalist Walter Dix pulled out of the 200 field a day after injuring his right hamstring while running in the semifinals of the 100.

Lashinda Demus (400 hurdles), Shannon Rowbury (1,500) and Josh McAdams (steeplechase) also won titles.

Dawn Harper and Lolo Jones advanced to the semifinals of the 100 hurdles, setting up a possible rematch from the Beijing Games.

Jones entered that summer night’s race in the Bird’s Nest as the fastest hurdler in the world, and blazed out to a big lead.

Then Jones caught the ninth of 10 hurdles and couldn’t recover as Harper, then a relative unknown, sped past her for the gold.

Jones is trying to forget the memory of Beijing and concentrate on this season.

But she’s been hampered by a torn hamstring, logging a lot of laps in the pool to keep her fitness up as she recovers.

Damu Cherry had the fastest time, finishing in a wind-aided 12.49. It’s the fastest time in the world this season in any condition.

Dwight Phillips drew the biggest ovation of the night from the Hayward Field crowd when he leapt 28 feet, 1 1/2 inches in the long jump on his second attempt.

Earlier this month at the Prefontaine Classic, Phillips jumped 28-8 1/4 , marking the longest jump in the world since 1991.

It was a nice return to form for the 2004 Olympic gold medalist who endured an injury-riddled 2008 and missed the trip to Beijing.

Canadian Championships: University of Idaho assistant coach Angela Whyte finished third in the women’s 100 hurdles (13.05) at the meet in Toronto.

Whyte, a two-time Olympian, has placed in the top three at the event for nine consecutive years.

Idaho senior Christie Gordon, a six-time all-Western Athletic Conference performer, placed sixth in the same event in 13.99.

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