LaShawn Edges Kirani at PreClassic
by Devon Jeffreys
The rematch lived up to the hype.
LaShawn pushes ahead of Kirani James (right) to finish first in the 400m at the Prefontaine Classic (Getty Images).
Facing each other for the first time in 2012, LaShawn Merritt and Kirani James went stride for stride again on Saturday in the 400 meters at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon. Last year at the World Championships in Daegu it was James by a stride at the line. This time it was LaShawn edging ahead at the finish for a time of 44.91, beating James by a fraction of a second. Afterward LaShawn said he wasn't thrilled with his time, but left pleased with the result.
"It was a great race. Hayward Field, I love the crowd here. I came out and executed," he said. "I ran my first 200 in 22 seconds, which is not what I usually run in my first 200. But I stayed within the race. I stayed within myself. It was a little chilly out. I didn't feel as loose as I have in the past. But the plan today was to come out and run a great race and win the race. That's what I did.
Watch the race below:
Winning the Prefontaine Classic was by far LaShawn's toughest task so far this year. Along with the 2011 World Champion James, he faced U.S. rival Jeremy Wariner —the 2004 Olympic Champion, two-time Olympic gold medal winning 400 hurdler Angelo Taylor and another of the world's best talents, Jamaica's Chris Brown.
In the end it was only James, who false started and was disqualified from the race but ran at the restart under protest, that posed a threat to LaShawn's season long winning streak. But after James took the lead around the final turn, LaShawn surged ahead in the final meters to take the win.
"In the past I've come down the homestretch and really beat myself," he said. "I just wanted to focus on staying relaxed and running strong. I feel like I'm in great shape, training has been going well. It was just a matter of me not beating myself."
The victory was LaShawn's fourth this year in the 400 meters. He has won his last six 400 meter runs dating back to last year and 10 straight races overall.
"It's a matter of your mind and your body connecting. I've worked on some things. I came here and I knew what that race was going to be," he said. "It's a matter of getting into a race and training to win. You train to win so when you get into a race, you want to win it."
LaShawn's next race will also come in Eugene, Oregon when he runs at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials later this month.
"It helps me prepare for a couple weeks because we're coming right back here for Olympic trials," he said of running back-to-back races at Hayward Field.
Trials begin on June 22 and run through July 1. LaShawn expects strong competition from his fellow Americans in a few weeks.
"I'm coming to run," he said. "Everybody's coming to run this year."
- LaShawn Merritt makes a statement (TeamUSA.org, June 2, 2012)
- LaShawn Merritt after 400M win (FloTrack, June 2, 2012)
- Mens 400 - Prefontaine Classic 2012 (RunnerSpace.com, June 2, 2012)
- LaShawn Merritt Part 1 1st 400 44.91 - Prefontaine Classic 2012 (RunnerSpace.com, June 2, 2012)
- LaShawn Merritt Part 2 1st 400 44.91 - Prefontaine Classic 2012 (RunnerSpace.com, June 2, 2012)