Lagat first U.S. runner to complete 1,500-5,000 sweep
INDIANAPOLIS -- Two years after becoming an American, Bernard Lagat made history in his first U.S. track and field championships.
The two-time Olympic medalist for Kenya is the first runner to sweep the 1,500 and 5,000 meters at the U.S. meet.
Lagat, who has lived in the United States for a decade and makes his home in Tucson, Ariz., took the lead on the first lap, then outsprinted a charging Gabe Jennings over the final 50 meters to win the 1,500 on Sunday night in 3 minutes, 39.29 seconds.
Six athletes had world-leading performances on the final day of competition at the U.S. meet, which was suspended for nearly four hours because of a slow-moving afternoon thunderstorm.
Lagat's victory followed his 5,000 triumph on Friday night. The closest comparison to that double-triumph at the U.S. championships would be Alex Grant's victory in the mile and two-mile in 1903.
"It means a lot," Lagat said. "I didn't know that nobody had done it until someone was telling me that today. This is my first nationals, and I'm proud to be here. Doubling means a lot to me."
Lagat -- Olympic 1,500 silver medalist in 2004 and bronze medalist in 2000 -- already holds the American record in the event. The 31-year-old runner will be eligible to compete for the United States at next year's world championships.
"I got a really warm reception here," Lagat said. "I feel like there"s a connection with the people, that they're saying `You're a part of us' and that feeling that having everyone supporting me is great."
Lashinda Demus (400 hurdles), Dominique Arnold (110 hurdles), Walter Davis (triple jump), Wallace Spearmon (200), Khadevis Robinson (800) and Tora Harris (high jump) all had world-leading efforts Sunday.
Demus ran the fastest 400 hurdles by an American in eight years, defending her title with a 53.07-second clocking.
"I wanted to run 52.7," Demus said. "I had a little dream that that's what I ran. I think I couldn't have done that if I didn't hit the last hurdle."
Demus and 100-meter champion Justin Gatlin each won $100,000 as Visa champions, awarded through points earned at three U.S. meets and these championships.
Arnold had the world-leading performance twice, going 13.15 in the semifinals, followed by a 13.10 in the finals.
"But when you run on a fast track like this like this, this is the fastest I've run all year, and a win is a win," she said.
Seven-time U.S. champion Allen Johnson was fifth in the semis and didn't make it to the finals.
"It was a bad race, just a bad race," Johnson said. "I don't know what happened, I'll have to figure that out."
Davis, the reigning world champion, won the triple jump at 58 feet, 1¼ inches.
Spearmon became the first sprinter this year to break 20 seconds in the 200, going 19.90 seconds, 0.01 seconds off his personal best. Jordan Vaden ran a personal-best 19.98 to finish second. It was the first U.S. title for Spearmon, the silver medalist behind Justin Gatlin at the world championships last year.
"This is a great race for me," Spearmon said, "because usually when I come here I find a way to lose."
Later Sunday, Asafa Powell matched Spearmon's 19.90 in the Jamaican national championships in Kingston. Powell shares the world 100 record of 9.77 with Gatlin.
Robinson ran a personal-best 1:44.13 to win his third U.S. 800 title.
Harris, in his first outdoor competition of the year, won the high jump at 7-7¾.
Breaux Greer took one throw and won his seventh consecutive national javelin title at 280-2.
The oft-injured thrower is coming off reconstructive shoulder surgery 10 months ago, and elbow surgery earlier this year. It was his only throw in competition so far this season.
"That's the first time I've tried to do a full approach," he said. "I was going 60 percent speed, and I didn't expect it to go that far."
Greer competed in the 2004 Olympics with a torn ACL knee ligament and had the best throw, but it came in the preliminaries, so it didn't count in the finals.
Allyson Felix barely qualified for the 200 finals with a fourth-place finish in the semis, then decided to call it quits. She said that her strained left hamstring was nearly completely healed, but the lack of training time took its toll.
"I'm almost back to where I can do intense training," Felix said. "I'm just thankful to God that this isn't a crucial year."
Lauryn Williams, second in the 100 to Marion Jones on Friday night, withdrew before the semis.
In their absence, Rachelle Boone-Smith won in 22.31.
Hazel Clark won her third U.S. 800 title, holding off Alice Schmidt and crashing to the track just past the finish line.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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