FAIRFAX, Va. -- Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?
Certainly not the 2,500 enthusiastic fans who attended the D.C. Invitational track meet yesterday at George Mason University Field House.
Johnny Gray, almost fabled as a front-runner in a career that goes back two decades, found himself last in an 800-meter field of seven with one lap to go.
"At that point and being at the back almost throughout, I was thinking, `It's over,' " said Gray, 39. "But I've been around long enough to know you never just cruise in."
So when the field bunched up and everyone moved out for a sprint to the wire coming off the last turn, Gray slipped through on the inside and won in 1 minute, 49.38 seconds. The next four finishers also broke 1: 50.
In the women's 800, another veteran, Regina Jacobs, set aside her usual events -- the mile and 3,000 meters -- to win in 2: 01.43.
"I tell the younger athletes that the way I've been able to stay at or near the top so long is because I like variety," she said. "I set a lot of goals and I look forward to every year and having fun.
"This year, an Olympic year, for instance, I'm gearing toward the 1,500 meters and am hopeful of medaling. But also, I'm going to double at the [Olympic trials] and I'm not sure if the second race will be the 800 or the 3,000. That'll make it exciting. I enjoyed beating the 800 girls at their race."
It also turned out to be a big day for area athletes on the first of five Golden Spike Tour stops. Suzianne Reid, ex-Eleanor Roosevelt High standout, captured the 400 in 52.58, and Olympic gold medalist Allen Johnson (Lake Braddock, Va.) won the 60-meter high hurdles, in which six competitors finished between 7.59 and 7.94.
"I think Allen and myself have had the most photo finishes in the history of this sport," runner-up Mark Crear said.
Accompanying the pro meet, which jammed its 12-event program into an hour of live television on NBC, were high school, collegiate, masters and youth competitions.
Maryland high school athletes showing well were Lee McDuff of River Hill, fifth in the girls mile (5: 17.8); Western High's 4-by-200-meter relay team, third in 1: 45.9; Evan Prucha of River Hill, third in the high jump (5-10); and David Hinton of Queen Anne's High on the Eastern Shore, who won the pole vault by 2 feet with a 14-foot effort and was third in the high jump at 6-2.
Top finishers among the masters competing were Jim Clelland of Catonsville, second in the over-40 mile (4: 36.4); Tony Basile of Columbia, fifth in the mile (4: 42.5); and Eleanor Simonsick of Baltimore, seventh in the combined 50-plus men, 40-plus women mile in 5: 38.7.