Carter on verge of 1st Games

Personal best lifts him to final of 400 hurdles

Olympic trials

July 22, 2000|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - When the men in the second semifinal of the 400-meter intermediate hurdles at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials were introduced last night, the newcomer in Lane 6 was described as being unattached.

If James Carter can post another personal best and finish among the top three in today's nationally televised final, he'll have representatives of shoe companies knocking on his hotel door and a precious membership on the U.S. Olympic team that will go to Sydney, Australia, in September.

A native of Baltimore who's four years out of Mervo High, Carter improved his best by nearly two-tenths of a second with a clocking of 48.87. He was the runner-up in the second semifinal. The top four in each semi advanced to today's final, and Torrance Zellner's hard-luck career turned more so as he finished fifth in the same race as Carter.

Angelo Taylor, Joey Woody, Eric Thomas and Carter were separated by less than three-tenths of a second over their two semis. Calvin Davis, a 1996 Olympian, also advanced to the eight-man final.

"Whatever it takes to get in the top three, I'm ready to do it," Carter said. "I lived to fight another day. Today was probably the strongest first 200 I've ever run. It had to be, because it was the most important race of my life. Today had to get me into the final."

Carter ran strong through that first 200, went back to the field on the second turn and lost the lead to Woody, but held his form to the finish. The field will have less than 15 hours to recover as today's final will be held at 11:50 a.m. local time. Carter warmed down, took two minutes to make a call home to his mother on a cell phone, then returned to his hotel.

"I'm going to get something to eat, take a nice cold bath to shock my legs and call my mom again," Carter said.

Carter, who trains in Hampton, Va., has competed for Maryland Elite. He paid his own way here with a substantial portion of his first professional earnings, however, and decided to list his affiliation as unattached. The 22-year-old is looking for a spot on his first national team.

Zellner, who went to Woodlawn High and lives in Marietta, Ga., represented the United States at the world championships last year and was fifth at the Olympic trials in 1996. He a drew tight Lane 1 last night, and his time of 49.12 would have been good enough for fourth in the other semifinal.

"Sometimes, you get the breaks; sometimes you don't," Zellner said. "If I was in the first semifinal, I clearly would have made the final. I missed some training time with injuries. I'm still going to try to be the best in the world this year, but it's hard not to be mad right now. I've worked hard for four years."

Lance Deal, the silver medallist in the hammer throw in 1996, qualified for his fourth Olympics in the first of last night's five finals. Deal threw 258 feet, 9 inches, more than 18 feet further than Kevin McMahon, but 12 feet short of the American record he set four years ago.

In the men's 5,000, Adam Goucher, coming back from an injury-forced layoff, won in 13:27.06. Bob Kennedy, the American record holder, wasn't as fortunate in his return from an injury, as he was sixth and failed to qualify for his third Olympic team.

Eight days of competition at Cal State Sacramento's Hornet Stadium will conclude in a flurry of 10 finals tomorrow, and the prime-time closer on NBC is the men's 200, one of the most anticipated clashes in the history of the sport.

World-record holder Michael Johnson and reigning world champion Maurice Greene have been exchanging barbs and hyping the anticipated clash for months. Neither has raced since last weekend, when Greene ruled the 100 and Johnson the 400, but they will finally let their feet do the talking again today, in the first round of the 200.

The men's 200 entrants also include Bernard Williams, a Florida junior by way of Baltimore's Carver High. Seventh in the 100 final last Saturday, Williams has another chance to impress Olympic coaches John Chaplin and John Moon, who will announce the roster additions for the 400-meter relay early next week. They can take as many as eight runners to Sydney for each relay.

The women's pole vault is the first final tomorrow, and it had no mishap like the one that occurred on the men's side, where favorite Jeff Hartwig no-heighted in the qualifying round. Stacy Dragila, who raised her world record to 15-1 3/4 in May, popped over 13-2 1/4 , the height needed to get into the final, on her first attempt in yesterday's qualifying. I was right on, and those things aren't affecting me."

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