Friday was a disappointing day for late scratches at the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, leaving fans wondering where some of the headliner talent went.
Allyson Felix, one of the most decorated sprinters in history, surprisingly withdrew from the 100-meter dash. She did watch the semifinals and finals from the Hornet Stadium stands, smiling as she took pictures and signed autographs.
Felix, best known for the 200 but still one of the world’s best in the 100 when in top form, ran a qualifying 100 for “speed work” as she continues to round into shape following a hamstring injury in the 2013 World Championships. A winner of four Olympic gold medals and a record eight World Championship golds, Felix initially entered this meet in the 400, then switched at the 11th hour to the 100. Felix had the second-slowest qualifying time of 11.53 on Thursday. Felix won her first national title here in the 2004 Olympic Trials in the 200, and she had her aunt from Elk Grove and scores of cousins in attendance this week.
A few fans paraded around with large cut-out images of Felix in the stands, including Ralph DeLoach, the former Sacramento High and Cal football star and a longtime area probation officer. DeLoach found Felix, all grins, but had to scramble to find a pen first. He was successful, even if her title attempt here was not.
Later, 400-meter favorite LaShawn Merritt was a late withdrawal, prompting more groans as his lane 6 was left vacant. He didn’t show. Because this isn’t a U.S. team-qualifying year might have played a role in Merritt’s move, though he was not available to discuss it.
Still, the man who has recorded six of the fastest 400 times in the world this year and who cruised in winning his qualifying heat Thursday in 45.19 talked of uncorking a strong finish. Merritt, who has a lifetime best of 43.74 said Thursday afternoon he was ready to win his fourth U.S. Outdoor title and getting an indirect piece of Michael Johnson. Not his world-record 400 time of 43.18 set in 1999, but making a run at Johnson’s meet record of 43.44 from 1996, or the Hornet Stadium mark of 43.68 Johnson set at the 2000 Olympic Trials.
“I think about Johnson’s records,” Merritt said Thursday. “I’ve watched his races, looked at them, the splits. In perfect conditions, in a great race, you never know.”
On Friday, fans knew a different outcome: no show.
Fast 400 – Sanya Richards-Ross, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist in the 400 and the American record-holder at 48.70 in 2006, impressed in her qualifying heat, clocking the best time of the day at 50.03. Francena McCorory was second at 50.05 and Natahsa Hastings third (50.68), making for a fun finale today. Richards-Ross won the NCAA Outdoor title in the 400 in 2003 here while competing for the University of Texas.
High hopes – Susan Jackson isn’t necessarily on her home turf for the high jump, with the finals Sunday at Hornet Stadium, but close enough. The Napa High graduate won state community college high jump championships for Sacramento City College in 2009 and 2010 and was the 2012 NCAA Division II National Outdoor champion for Western State College in Colorado. Jackson was sixth in the USA Outdoor Championships last year. The favorite is five-time USA Outdoor champion Chaunte Lowe, a former high school sprinter in high school who went on to win Olympic Trials in 2008 and 2012.
Ouch finish – Defending USA outdoor 400 hurdles champion Michael Tinsley had a frustrating day. The 2012 Olympic Trials winner hit the seventh hurdle, hurting himself, and labored the rest of the way. He pulled his top over his face in anguish after finishing last in 52.56. Johnny Dutch had the top qualifying time of 49.99.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.