Johnson wins 400 in year's best time Achon's final kick steals show, mile at Mobil

February 25, 1996|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

FAIRFAX, Va. -- One is among the most recognizable athletes in the world, the other is a complete unknown. But yesterday they shared the spotlight in the Mobil Invitational track and field meet at the George Mason University Fieldhouse.

Michael Johnson, who hopes to become the first male to win both the 200 meters and 400 meters in the same Olympics, could be the biggest story in Atlanta this summer. But Julius Achon of Uganda is hoping to be a big story there himself.

Shortly before Johnson breezed past an overmatched field to his 50th straight victory in a 400 meters final, Achon put on a tremendous kick in the final 150 yards to win the men's mile. Both produced the best times in the world this year.

Running competitively for the first time since September, Johnson's time of 45.32 seconds was the fastest in the world ever on an unbanked track. Mark Everett, who finished second, was nearly two seconds behind.

"To be truthful, this is one of the few times that I've been impressed with myself," said Johnson, 28. "That's scary. That's something I don't like to do. Today is one of those days that I did something I didn't think I would do."

So did Achon. A sophomore at George Mason who won the 1994 junior world championship in the 1,500 meters, Achon set a personal best and the best time ever indoors for his country. He broke his country's outdoor record in the 1,500 meters at a meet in Louisiana last year, eclipsing the mark set by his father, Charles.

"Before today, I was not confident of winning," said Achon, 20. "I had hurt my knee and didn't work for five days. This is only the second indoor meet of my life. We do not have indoor meets at home. I'm still observing."

Achon was pretty observant yesterday. He saw that the pace wasn't that fast as the field, which included former world champion Marcus O'Sullivan, hit the final lap. With O'Sullivan fading -- he finished eighth -- Achon ran past Jason Pyrah to win in 3:57.66.

"The last 200 was a bit slow, so I took off," said the 5-foot-7, 135-pound Achon, who ran the final quarter mile in 56.5 seconds. "I was flying."

George Mason coach John Cook discovered Achon at the 1994 junior world championships in Portugal, but Achon couldn't get into school as a freshman after getting his SAT score in too late. Achon went to Southern University in New Orleans for a year before transferring here in December.

Achon wasn't the only one to enjoy a home-track advantage. Allen Johnson, whose first Northern Virginia schoolboy meet was held in the GMU Fieldhouse, won the 60-meter hurdles for the second straight year and the third time overall in 7.54 seconds.

"This is where I grew up, I love coming here," said Johnson, the reigning world indoor and outdoor champion. "I think this fieldhouse is like magic for me."

It wasn't magic for reigning 100-meters champion Donovan Bailey of Canada in yesterday's 60-meter --, but it was good enough. After signaling some trouble with a slippery block and being granted a restart, Bailey won in 6.60 seconds.

"I was really cautious coming out of the blocks," said Bailey, whose world record of 5.56 set in the 50 meters two weeks ago in Reno, Nev., is still being reviewed by USA Track and Field officials because of a possible false start. "I didn't get out the way I wanted. But at least I won."

Tony Barton didn't. The former Milford Mill star, still fighting the effects of tendinitis in his left or "take-off" knee, jumped a modest 7-3 3/4 to finish third behind Randy Jenkins. Barton

jumped 7-7 1/4 last year to win a bronze in the indoor world championships.

"I wasn't happy, I should have won," said Barton. "This is like December for me. I'm building myself back up to try and win the [Olympic] trials."

Michael Johnson is building, too. Building toward history. After he won yesterday, he took a victory lap, something he has become pretty proficient at, something he hopes to do twice in Atlanta this summer.

"I think I've got the victory lap down," he said.

Julius Achon can't say the same thing. Not yet, anyway.

NOTES: There were five meet records set yesterday, including by Gwen Torrence. The former Olympic 200-meter champion and reigning world 100-meter champion broke her meet record in the 60-meter -- with a time of 7.02 seconds. . . . Cory Smith of Calvert Hall finished second in the high school boys mile in 4:23.28.. . . . The Mount St. Mary's women's team set two school records. In the distance medley relay, Aisha Stevens, Lisa Kaiser, Heather Moul and Jess Totaro broke the school record with an ECAC-qualifying time of 11:47.22, finishing behind the host Patriots and James Madison. The 4x400 meter relay team of Kaiser, Cheryl Coleman, Moul and Stevens also qualified, finishing in a school-record 3:55.65. The ECAC championships for women and IC4A championships for men will be next weekend in Boston.

Men's results

60 -- 1, Donovan Bailey, Adidas-Canada, 6.60 seconds. 2, Randall Evans, Atlantic Coast, 6.62. 3, Kareem Streete-Thompson, Nike, 6.63.

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