DES MOINES, Iowa: Allyson Felix downplayed any hint of disappointment.
This performance wasn’t about the now, but a year from now for the Tokyo Games.
In that respect, the six-time Olympic gold medalist feels on the right track. Maybe even ahead of schedule in her return to racing eight months after having a baby.
Felix finished sixth in the 400-meter final at the U.S. championships Saturday and missed out on qualifying in an individual event for worlds for the first time as a professional.
“I knew that it was a less-than-ideal situation for me,” Felix said. “But being in this environment and being back in the final, it kind of gets the juices flowing. It’s going to be a lot easier going into next year and getting a full year of training.”
Felix fell behind early in the race and couldn’t make up ground. Shakima Wimbley won in 50.21 seconds, with Kendall Ellis taking second and Wadeline Jonathas third. Felix finished in 51.94.
After it was over, Felix went over to the stands and picked up her daughter, Camryn. Only 32 weeks into her pregnancy, Felix gave birth to Camryn on Nov. 28 in an emergency Cesarean section after tests showed the baby’s heart rate had dropped to dangerous levels.
Gradually, she’s worked her way back. The 33-year-old Felix can still make the U.S. relay team for the world championships in Doha this fall. She’s made every world outdoor team, beginning in 2003.
“This gave me a taste. I know it’s there,” said Felix, who will be attempting to make her fifth Olympic team next summer. “The fire is there. I’ll be back next year.”
Fred Kerley upset Michael Norman for the men’s 400 title. Paralympian Blake Leeper was fifth and has a chance to make the relay squad. Leeper was born with both legs missing below the knee. He said the IAAF hasn’t recognized his times for much of the season though, maintaining the height he is at with his blades disqualifies him against able-bodied runners. Leeper said he’s been running at the height the IAAF currently has issues with for years.
“When people say I have the advantage with the blades ... I tell people to walk a mile in my legs,” said Leeper, who has a legal team working on his behalf and hopes it’s sorted out by Doha and especially by Tokyo. “I’m making the best out of my situation.”
Pole vaulter Sam Kendricks set the American record by clearing 19 feet, 10 1/2 inches (6.06 meters). As a reward, Kendricks had his fellow competitors jump on top of him on the mat.
“As I was falling I was thinking, ‘They’re going to come tackle me,’” said Kendricks , a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army’s transportation corps who had an automatic bye into worlds courtesy of being the defending champion. “They were lined up on the edge of the runway, clapping for me. We’re a pretty tight-knit group all around the world in the pole vault.”
Rai Benjamin gave himself a pretty nice 22nd birthday present Saturday — a 400 hurdles crown.
“I’m just happy to make that team,” Benjamin said.
Things to know on Day 3:
Keni Harrison (100 hurdles), Shelby Houlihan (1,500 meters), Hillary Bor (steeplechase), Vashti Cunningham (high jump), Brittney Reese (long jump) and Michael Shuey (javelin) earned titles.
There was a lightning delay early in the day and then plenty of heat. It certainly didn’t bother Cunningham.
“Luckily, I live in Vegas,” said Cunningham, the daughter of longtime NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham.
DeAnna Price won the hammer by breaking her own American record with a throw of 256 feet, 8 inches (78.24 meters). She set the previous mark a year ago at Drake Stadium. She’s been hampered by nagging ailments.
“My physical therapist was holding me together with duct tape and wires,” she said.
Noah Lyles sprayed his hair silver for the first round of the 200. He’s hoping it all translates into gold at worlds by season’s end.
First things first, making the squad. He won his heat in a time of 20.65 seconds. The 22-year-old has a world-leading time of 19.50 this season, but he doesn’t anticipate going that fast at this meet.
“If I get out of the semis and I’m feeling good, hey, let’s go all out,” Lyles said. “There’s no harm in that.”
A day after winning the 100, Christian Coleman advanced to the semifinals.
“A little sore,” Coleman said. “Once I warmed up and got worked on and everything, felt pretty decent.”
RULES ARE RULES
Kori Carter jogged a first-round heat of the 200 and finished more than 5 seconds behind the top time. That was her plan.
Carter already has a bye into worlds in the 400 hurdles as the defending champion. Per the regulations, she needed to compete in something at nationals to secure her position.
The night before, Christian Taylor did a similar thing in the triple jump. The defending world champion flew in from Austria just to run through the sand pit. Then, it was back to Austria for more training.
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