Devers still having fun – still winning
SACRAMENTO – Even at age 37, Gail Devers still has fun running on a track.
On Sunday, Devers continued her amazing career run on the biggest of American track and field stages when she won the women’s 100-meter hurdles on the final day of the U.S. Olympic Trials before a crowd of 24,323 at Sacramento State University’s Hornet Stadium.
For Devers, who has joined Willye White as the only five-time U.S. women’s track and field Olympians, this was her 10th U.S. title and fourth at the Trials. She joins Madeleine Manning (800 meters) and Maren Seidler (shot put) with the most Trials wins in a single event.
So, what’s her secret?
“The key to my longevity is still having fun,” she said. “Going out on my own and coaching myself has been my biggest challenge. Now, when I go to the track, there is no one with me. It’s just me and my seven-pound Pomeranian, who is my training partner.”
Devers won Olympic gold medals in the 100 meters in 1992 and ’96, but will try for her first Olympic medal in the hurdles next month in Athens.
Meanwhile, she took a well-deserved moment to celebrate Sunday after winning by the narrowest of margins. Devers was clocked at 12.547 seconds to edge Joanna Hayes at 12.549.
“I’m very thankful for the victory, which the announcer informed me this is the 10th in this race,” Devers said. “I’m ecstatic. We Bruins (UCLA graduate), we did it again.”
Hayes appeared to have an edge in the race with two hurdles to go, but Devers burst over the final flight and won at the wire. Melissa Morrison, a bronze medalist at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, was third in 12.61, just a fraction ahead of Danielle Carruthers (12.62).
Any doubts about Alan Webb being the man to beat in the men’s 1,500 were dispelled within a matter of seconds when he made a decisive move at the start of the third lap and broke away en route to an impressive victory.
Webb raised his hands overhead as he crossed the finish line in a time of 3 minutes, 36.13 seconds. It wasn’t his fastest time, yet there was no doubt about the outcome after his decisive move at the 750-meter mark. That’s exactly what he wanted after settling for second-place behind Michael Stember in the semifinals.
“Basically, I had almost the same strategy in my semifinal. I made a move halfway through, but it was more of a gradual move and Michael came with me,” Webb said. “At that point, it was a wakeup call that, hey, everyone here is serious. So this time it was more of a serious move.”
Make that serious move with an exclamation point. Webb was alone in the lead as he passed the 800-meter mark in 1:57.27 and ran the next 400 meters in 55.21 seconds and held a lead of at least 20 meters by that time.
In another of the day’s highlights, Stacy Dragila successfully defended her women’s pole vault title with a 15-7 clearance. Her mark broke the meet and stadium records and she had good jumps on her second and third attempts at a world record 16-0 3/4.
Dragila, 33, who hails from nearby Auburn, Calif., clinched first-place with her first-try clearance at 14-11. Jillian Schwartz and Kellie Suttle followed at 14-11 to earn Olympic berths.
Becky Holliday, a former standout at Reed High and NCAA champion for the University of Oregon, went out at the opening height of 13-9 1/4.
Shawn Crawford came on strong down the homestretch and held on to win the men’s 200 in 19.99, just ahead of Justin Gatlin, who was second in 20.01.
In other featured events, Allyson Felix won the women’s 200 (22.28) and Terrence Trammell won the men’s 110 high hurdles (13.09). Allen Johnson, who won gold in the highs at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, placed third to earn an Olympic berth. Trammell earned an Olympic silver medal in the 110 highs four years ago in Sydney.
Sacramento product Jamie Nieto won the men’s high jump (7-7 3/4) and Carrie Tollefson won the women’s 1,500 (4:08.32) in a race that saw the top four finishers separated by less than four-tenths of a second.
And 27-year-old Jared Rome, who formerly competed for Boise State, won the discus when he unleashed a throw of 215-9 in the sixth and final round.
Earlier in the morning, Teresa Vaill won the women’s 20K race walk (12.4 miles) in a time of 1 hour, 35 minutes and 57 seconds on a course laid out on the Sacramento State campus. Joanne Dow was second in 1:38:42 to qualify for her first Olympics at age 40.