Rollins sets mark; Gay wins 200 heat
DES MOINES, Iowa -- Just 21 years old, Brianna Rollins is already running faster than some of the best hurdlers in history.
She broke an American record in the 100-meter hurdles at the U.S. track championships on a sweltering Saturday, one of several big performances by less-than-familiar names.
Rollins, a standout at Clemson before turning pro this month, finished in 12.26 seconds to break the mark of Gail Devers in 2000. It is also the fastest time in a 100 hurdles race in 21 years.
Only two hurdlers have ever run faster (a third had a matching time).
"I don't think about records," said Rollins, who set a collegiate mark on her way to an NCAA crown two weeks ago. "I came out here and did what I have to do."
Not to be outdone, 17-year-old Mary Cain finished second in the 1,500 meters to earn a spot at the world championships in Moscow in August. She took second when she was edged at the line by training partner Treniere Moser.
Cain is the first high-schooler to make the world team since Allyson Felix nearly a decade ago. Cain could hardly contain her enthusiasm after a nearly flawless race.
This after being petrified at the prospect of running against an elite field with so much at stake.
"I called my mom the other day crying and was like, `I'm just a little kid. I'm so scared," Cain said, holding a stuffed yellow duck for comfort. "She's like, `Mary I know you. If I could take you away right now, I would. But you would be kicking yourself for the rest of your life if you weren't in that final.' I let the nerves take over me for a minute. Then, I pushed them out.
"Getting to wear a Team USA uniform is amazing. I really wanted to get a uniform."
Olympic champion Sanya Richards-Ross was slowed by a surgically repaired right big toe and didn't qualify for worlds. She finished sixth in the final.
"Gave it my best," said Richards-Ross, who wore sneakers instead of spikes to protect her toe. "I really wanted to make the team. Its funny, you'd think after being in the sport for 11 years you'd get tired of it, but it's so exhilarating."
There were plenty of big names that shined, though, as LaShawn Merritt captured the 400 crown, and Olympic champion Ashton Eaton took the decathlon title.
"It was an OK two days," Eaton said. "It's very difficult to compete in the heat."
Yet in the heat, there were three American records. Michelle Carter set a mark in the shot put with a throw of 66 feet, 5 inches on her way to the title.
Later, Amanda Bingson broke the U.S. mark in the hammer throw with her toss of 248-5.
On a busy day at nationals, other winners included Nicole Bush (3,000 steeplechase), Brigetta Barrett (high jump), Janay DeLoach Soukup (long jump), Matthew Centrowitz (1,500), Maria Michta (20,000 race walk), Michael Tinsley (400 hurdles) and Natasha Hastings (400).
One thing is for sure, the world team will definitely have a different look.
"In the U.S., someone is always up and coming," said Merritt, who won gold at the 2008 Beijing Games. "These championships were very important to get a feel about the rounds, so when we get to Moscow it won't be new to anyone on the team."
Rollins is certainly rolling. This mark was quite a surprise to her, especially because her top time entering the season was 12.70.
"I just came out here and tried to focus on my own lane," said Rollins, who bettered Devers' mark of 12.33 at the 2000 Olympic Trials.
A world away, Rollins grabbed the attention of reigning Olympic champion Sally Pearson of Australia, who posted on her Twitter account: "Looks like I am bringing my A++ game to worlds this year with Brianna Rollins just running 12.26."
Although Rollins earned a spot on the team, Des Moines native and crowd favorite Lolo Jones didn't as she wound up fifth. Jones didn't say much -- or anything, really -- after the race, but later tweeted from her account: "It's the Hardest team in the world to make but the three that are going absolutely deserve to go. May they sweep it at World championships."
Over the past month, Cain has been training in Park City, Utah, with members of the Nike Oregon Project, which also includes Moser, Galen Rupp and London Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah.
"I turned around and she was second and I was like, `Oh my gosh, we did it," said Moser, who has taken Cain under her wing as they train under Alberto Salazar. "It didn't matter who won; our goal was one-two."
Any thought of just letting the teenager win?
"There was no holding back," Moser said.
It's been quite a season for Cain, who has set more than a dozen high school and American junior records.
Tyson Gay and Felix looked solid in their opening rounds of the 200.
Gay tossed and turned all night, replaying his electric win in the 100 meters. Now, the race is completely out of his mind, and he is ready to start all over again.
Gay showed no signs of fatigue as he comfortably advanced out of his opening heat. He was in control the whole way as he won his heat in 20.14 seconds, the third-fastest overall time on a hot afternoon.
His surgically repaired hip was feeling good, too. Sure, it was a little sore after holding off Justin Gatlin for the 100 title the night before, but not enough to keep him out of the 200 competition.
"I'm healthy, that's the key," Gay said. "I'm not trying to be Superman, if my body is really fatigued."
Gatlin skipped the 200 because of a tweaked right hamstring, an injury he hid throughout the 100 rounds. Gatlin said in a text that running "9.8 on a bum (hamstring) twice is my limit of luck."
In the opening round of the women's race, Felix, the Olympic champion, definitely was hard to miss in her bright pink calf sleeves. She stood out for her performance, too, taking almost a leisurely stroll as she finished in 22.44.
"It was good," said Felix, who sat out of the 100 to concentrate on her signature event, the 200. "Just wanted to get out there, control the race."