Devers, Dragila win at U.S. Olympic trials

Posted: Monday, July 19, 2004

SACRAMENTO, Calif. Going to the Olympics is nothing new for Gail Devers. Winning a hurdles medal at the Athens Games would be.

The 37-year-old Devers became just the third U.S. track and field athlete joining Carl Lewis and Willye White to make her fifth Olympic team, winning the 100-meter hurdles by less than the length of her trademark fingernails.

''I've been there, done that before, but each time is like a new experience for me,'' said Devers, who has been at every Summer Olympics since 1988. ''I try to look at it as though it's my first time.''

Devers, who won her 10th national title Sunday, edged Joanna Hayes in a photo finish. Devers, who joked to the crowd that ''it feels like 50 years'' that she's been competing, was timed in 12.547 seconds and Hayes in 12.549.

Devers, a three-time world champion, will be trying again to win her first Olympic hurdles medal despite being the world's best in that event for most of the past decade. She has won two Olympic golds in the 100 meters, but been shut out in the hurdles.

''It's not about winning, as everybody keeps saying, that elusive medal, it's not about that,'' Devers said. ''All I need to do is get out there and have fun for once. Every other time I had goals, I had things and pressure on myself and I'm not going to put that on myself this time.''

Veterans Devers and Stacy Dragila were the stars on the last day of a U.S. Olympic track and field trials that had mostly been a showcase for teenagers, collegians and other first-time Olympians.

Dragila, 33, the defending Olympic champion, won the women's pole vault but failed in three attempts to break the world record. She missed at 16 feet, 1/2-inch, which would have topped Svetlana Feofanova's mark of 16 feet set earlier this month.

There were still plenty of triumphs Sunday for the younger generation.

Allyson Felix, 18, won the women's 200 meters and Muna Lee, 22, was second. Shawn Crawford, 26, won the men's 200 and Justin Gatlin, 22, was second. Crawford and Gatlin also will run the 100 at the Athens Games.

Alan Webb, 21, won the men's 1,500 and will try to end a 36-year U.S. Olympic medal drought in that event. Webb pulled away from the field Sunday to win by more than two seconds, but his time of 3 minutes, 36.13 seconds was just the 86th fastest in the world this year.

''Why can't U.S. milers do better on the international scene?'' Webb asked. ''The answer is for Alan Webb to go out, run and try to beat as many guys as I can not just in the U.S., but in the rest of the world.''

The last American to win an Olympic medal in the 1,500 was Jim Ryun, who earned silver at the 1968 Mexico City Games.

In other events Sunday, Terrence Trammell won the men's 110 hurdles, Jamie Nieto won the men's high jump, Jarred Rome won the men's discus and 41-year-old Teresa Vaill won the women's 20-kilometer walk.

Carrie Tollefson won the women's 1,500 but still needs to reach the Olympic qualifying standard to make it to Athens.

Torri Edwards, who faces a two-year ban if found guilty of using a banned stimulant, took the third spot in the women's 200. She also qualified for the Athens Games by placing second in the 100.

Her doping case goes before an arbitration panel Monday, and she almost certainly would be thrown off the U.S. team if she is found guilty. That would open a spot in both sprints.

LaShaunte'a Moore would take the third place in the 200 and Devers, the fourth-place finisher in the 100, would be entitled to a spot in the 100. But if Devers decides to focus on the hurdles, that place would go to fifth-place finisher Marion Jones.

Jones, who won gold in the 100 and 200 at the 2000 Sydney Games, as of now will not have a chance to defend either title in Athens. She pulled out of the 200 semifinals on Saturday, citing fatigue.

Devers said Sunday she was not ready to decide whether she'd take the third spot in the 100 if Edwards is found guilty of doping.

''There's no decision to be made at this point. I'm going to go home and pray on it,'' she said. ''If a decision is to be made, I'm going to let God make that decision for me.''

Other than Edwards, the Olympic trials weeded out all the athletes who came into the event with pending drug cases.

None of the BALCO four, who face lifetime bans if found guilty of using steroids allegedly supplied by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, will be competing in Athens.

Tim Montgomery, Chryste Gaines and Alvin Harrison all failed to qualify for the Olympics in their sprint events. Michelle Collins dropped out of the women's 400 claiming a hamstring injury.

Also, Regina Jacobs retired rather than seek her 13th national title in the women's 1,500, then accepted a four-year suspension for using the steroid THG. Calvin Harrison, the twin brother of Alvin, failed to qualify in the 400. He faces a two-year ban for two minor drug positives.

Sprinter Mickey Grimes, who had a positive result for a steroid in an out-of-competition test this year and faces a lifetime ban because it would be his second violation, failed to qualify in the 100 or 200.

And hurdler Larry Wade, who tested positive for a steroid in an out-of-competition sampling this year, dropped out claiming a broken arm.



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