Carter goes back by finishing in front

Baltimorean will return to Olympics after win in 400-meter hurdles

July 12, 2004|By Elliott Denman | Elliott Denman,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Baltimore's James Carter booked his ticket to the Athens Games with a stirring, come-from-behind triumph yesterday at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials.

Carter, a 1996 Mervo graduate who trains in Hampton, Va., rallied over the final two three-foot barriers to win the men's 400-meter hurdles final in 47.68 seconds, fastest time in the world this year, at the Alex G. Spanos Sports Complex.

"I've been thinking about this race for the last four years, and it couldn't have worked out any better," he said.

Another Marylander, Tiombe Hurd of Upper Marlboro, won the women's triple jump with an American record of 47 feet, 5 inches.

Carter got off to a solid start in the 400 hurdles final, only to see Louisiana State's Bennie Brazell catch him over the fifth hurdle, with 2000 Olympic champion Angelo Taylor and world junior champion Bershawn Jackson right up there, too.

At the seventh hurdle, it seemed like anyone's race. Soon, though, the veteran Carter dug down deep. He surged ahead over the ninth hurdle, added to the lead over the 10th, and won going away.

In 2000, he had edged onto the team with a third-place finish in the trials, paving the way for a fourth-place finish in the Sydney Games.

Taylor (48.03) battled for second place, and Brazell (48.05) took third with the fastest race of his life. Jackson (48.11) settled for fourth.

"The 2003 season was a horrible season for me altogether," Carter said. "But now, being a two-time Olympian, that means so much."

Baltimore sprinter Bernard Williams, a graduate of Carver High, however, was unable to share in the elation.

He will join Carter and Hurd in Athens - but not in the role he expected. Williams, the 2003 national champion in the 100-meter dash and a 2000 Olympic gold medalist in the 400 relay, had his heart set on running the individual 100 in Greece.

But it wasn't to be. A sixth-place finish in a sizzling men's 100 final put him out of the Athens 100, but still solidly in position to claim another gold as a member of the 4x100 relay team. And he's still entered in the 200-meter dash at the trials.

The featured 100 final went to Maurice Greene in 9.91 seconds, the best time ever recorded in the U.S. trials, with Justin Gatlin (9.92) and Shawn Crawford (9.93) close behind. Also under 10 seconds - in the fastest non-wind-aided 100 final in trials history - was Coby Miller at 9.99, tracked closely by John Capel (10.02) and Williams (10.04.)

With three world championship and two Olympic 100-meter golds to his credit and a record 47 sub-10-second clockings, Greene now has the opportunity to be the most-medaled big-meet 100 man in track history.

A 10.13 seventh-place finish apparently left the embattled world-record holder Tim Montgomery (who ran 9.78 in 2001) out of the Olympic picture.

Given the drug cloud hovering over Montgomery, U.S. Olympic Committee officials may have been spared another headache.

The 100 semifinals were sizzlers, too - Greene won the first one in 10.05 into a 2.0 meter-per-second headwind, but Crawford (9.93), Gatlin (9.96), Leonard Scott (10.01) and Williams (10.04) came back minutes later to run even faster, with the assist of an 0.8 aiding wind.

Williams was a model of consistency - but he couldn't run faster than 10.04 again in the final.

Hurd finished third at the trials four years ago, but didn't go to Sydney because she failed to reach the Olympic standard distance.

"I certainly wasn't going to let that happen again," said Hurd, drying the tears of relief streaming down her cheeks.

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