PALO ALTO, Calif. - James Carter and Torrance Zellner give Baltimore a 1-2 punch in today's semifinals of the 400-meter hurdles at the 127th annual USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Carter, 24, a 1996 graduate of Baltimore's Mervo and fourth-place finisher in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, advanced with ease yesterday, clocking 50.16 seconds to win his opening-round trial at Stanford University's Cobb Track.
Zellner, 32, a 1988 Woodlawn High alum, was faster than Carter at 50.12, but had to work harder for his semifinal berth. He placed fourth in his trial, but moved ahead on a time basis.
Abilene Christian grad Eric Thomas (49.48) was fastest of the 16 qualifiers for the semifinals.
Carter's greatest days in track may be just ahead and Zellner's a few years past, but they share an equal passion for their difficult specialty and ration their energy accordingly.
"I only ran as fast [as] I had to," said Carter, who now lives and trains in Hampton, Va. "You've always got to save something for tomorrow.
"Last year, I had a lot of trouble with my right Achilles [tendon]. It really got to me at the World Championships [at Edmonton, where he went out in the semifinals]. But now I'm healthy, I'm 100 percent and expect to have a great year.
"I ran a 49.88 at Athens [two weeks ago], so that's a pretty good indication."
"At my age, I'm one of the old guys running against the kids, and that's a challenge I like," said Zellner, whose career has been marked by tough luck - he failed to qualify at the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Olympic trials.
"For one reason or another, I've never been able to maximize my ability; maybe this year, finally, it will be different," said Zellner.
It's been a blazing year for Jesse O'Connell, the Georgetown sophomore from Westminster, but his season effectively ended yesterday. His subpar 1-minute, 51.46-second performance couldn't get him past the first round of the 800 meters.
First-day highlights included recent Purdue graduate Serene Ross' American-record throw of 197 feet in the (reconfigured) women's javelin, and 1996 Olympic silver medalist Lance Deal's comeback 244-foot, 5-inch victory in the hammer throw. A nine-time U.S. champion, Deal spent last year on the temporarily retired list. Savante Stringfellow won the men's long jump with a leap of 27 feet, 11 1/2 inches, the best in the world this year; Brianna Glenn won the women's long jump; Tisha Waller won her fourth national title in the women's high jump, and Teri Steer won the women's shot put.