Wallace Spearmon, Jr. Breaks Johnson's Drake mark
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Wallace Spearmon, Jr. had tried more than once to break the 200-meter Drake Relays record set 15 years ago by Michael Johnson, partly because Johnson was an idol to Spearmon growing up.
That Spearmon was able to do it in such chilly conditions bodes well for the rest of his outdoor season.
Spearmon finished in 20.02 seconds, beating the mark Johnson set in 1997 by three-hundredths of a second to highlight Saturday's frigid final session of the 103rd annual Drake Relays.
"I started looking at the clock a little early," Spearmon said. "To be mentioned in the same sentence as (Johnson) is a great honor. I've been trying and trying and trying to finally accomplish my goal, so I'm happy."
U.S. pole vault star Jenn Suhr also set a meet mark with a winning effort of 15 feet, 3 inches on her first try, as did high jumper Chaunte Lowe at 6-6. Those record-breaking performances came despite temperatures in the low 50s and steady wind that likely forced hometown star Lolo Jones to scratch from the 100-meter hurdles.
Jones said Friday that she was concerned about running in less than ideal conditions. Jones, who grew up in Des Moines and won the event from 2005-08, wasn't made available to reporters Saturday.
Native Iowan Jenny Simpson, the reigning world champion in the 1,500, chose to race and won in 4:12.95. But it was a bit closer than many expected given that Simpson is a favorite to win the gold at the London Games.
"I did not realize how close the field was getting. You have to remember when you take the lead. You have to press every 400 meters, because you have a target on your back," Simpson said.
Suhr was only supposed to take part in a special exhibition for the Drake Relays held in a nearby mall on Wednesday, then head home. But Suhr had so much fun jumping indoors that she decided to stick around and jump Saturday — even though conditions were less than ideal for her first outdoor attempts of the season.
"It's hard to pass up a pole vault opportunity here in Des Moines. The crowd was so great when I was at the mall and I was pumped up and I thought technically I was on and I figured where else to open up my outdoor season than here."
Suhr, the four-time U.S. Outdoor champion and the Olympic silver medalist in 2008, missed on three attempts at 15-9 after setting the meet mark.
"It was a lot to get used to, especially in warm-ups with the wind all over the place. As the meet went on it steadied out, so I was able to get some good looks to go back and train from," Suhr said.
Lowe topped the meet record she set in 2010 but fell short of the 6-8¾ stadium mark she had in winning the U.S. Outdoor title a few months later in Des Moines.
Jones is typically the biggest draw for the Relays, having grown up just down the road from Drake Stadium. So the crowd was tepid at best for the women's 100 hurdles, won by up-and-coming American Kristi Castlin in 12.76.
"It wasn't different. Actually I felt a lot of love in my victory lap," Castlin said. "Lolo is one of the greatest hurdlers to ever do it, but again with me being young — I'm really trying to break through and be one of those top athletes in the world. I know I can be."
Two-time Olympic silver medalist Terrance Trammell just wanted to get a race under his belt as he prepares for the Olympic Trials. He did just that, finishing third in the 110 hurdles at 13.36 as American Ryan Wilson won in 13:20.
"I felt plenty of mistakes in my race, but that's ok. It's still really early, and with the mistakes that I've made I still wasn't far off of where I wanted to be time-wise," Trammell said.
The elements weighed heavily on all the athletes over the final two days of the meet. Some chose to pull out to avoid risking injury as they prepare of the Olympic Trials.
Spearmon saw it as a chance for a crucial early test in challenging circumstances.
"I can look back at this race and say at the end of the day, whatever the elements and whatever was going on with the weather, I shouldn't run any slower than 20 (seconds). That should be my cut-off point, so that's a positive thing from this race," Spearmon said.
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