Mike Rodgers found the one thing he cannot beat or even compete with.
A piece of wood, or a 2-by-4 one might pull out of a hardware store. In a race in New Mexico last year, Rodgers stumbled over such an obstacle, suffering a fractured ankle and two torn ligaments.
Oh, but to be young and hungry, and the science of quick recovery. Rigorous rehabilitation reaped sweet results Friday night at Sacramento State in the 100-meter dash at the USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships.
Forever a crowd-pleasing event, Rodgers won his second outdoor title since 2009 in clocking a 10.09-second effort, all the more impressive given he bore into a headwind of 1.7 meters per second.
This was his night, his race, as Rodgers clocked a wind-aided 9.80 in the semifinals, creating a buildup buzz for the announced crowd of 8,131.
“I feel great,” a visibly pleased Rodgers said. “I wanted the stadium record (of 9.91 by Maurice Greene in the 2004 Olympic Trials), but considering the wind, I’m very happy. I’m healthy, in the best shape of my life. I really feel like sky’s the limit.”
All this from a four-time, small-school NAIA champion from Oklahoma Baptist who nearly quit the sport a few years ago and didn’t get to sleep until 3:30 the night before as he studied film on competitors and endured a semifinal that included three restarts.
Hometown favorite Diondre Batson has long embraced the same motto of “the sky’s the limit.” The Laguna Creek High School and American River College product now at Alabama pulled up with a hamstring injury in the 100 final, the same problem that dogged him throughout the spring. He gutted it out to the end, placing last in 11.87 seconds, and his pained expressions spoke volumes. Ryan Bailey was second in 10.23 and Sean McLean third in 10.26.
The women’s 100 lost some star power when Allyson Felix was a late scratch in a semifinal, though Tianna Bartoletta dazzled in winning comfortably in 11.15 to win her first USA outdoor championship. Also a superb long jumper, Bartoletta sized up what the sport means to her, the ups and downs, the stops and starts, the victories and near misses, saying, “I believe track and field is a metaphor for life.”
Barbara Pierre, the leader early, was second in 11.27 and Lekeisha Lawson third in 11.30.
Lawson said with a smile, “It takes 10 months to prepare for 11 seconds, and it sounds absurd, but it’s fun.”
Other Day 3 highlights:
• Will Claye won the triple jump in a lifetime best of 58 feet, 3 inches, the best mark in the world this season, seventh all-time on the USA list and an inch off the stadium record behind Melvin Lister in the 2004 Olympic Trials. The gregarious Claye saved his best leap for the stands, bounding into the front row to hug family and friends.
All of 23, Claye beat friend and rival Christian Taylor, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist in London whose best Friday was 57-0. Claye took silver in those Games. Claye also targets the long jump title here, looking to pad his pedigree. He became the first man since 1936 to win Olympic medals in the triple and long jump in the same Games, taking bronze in the long.
“I came out, gave it my best, came out with a PR, and got it,” said Claye, who dreams of clearing 60 feet in the triple jump.
• Trey Hardee won the decathlon with 8,599 points in posting remarkable efforts across the board. The 6-foot-5 2009 USA champion and 2012 Olympic silver medalist had the fastest decathlon 100 in 10.38, the best 400 in 48.02, the best 110 hurdles in 13.69, the best discus toss at 166 feet, 2 inches and the best pole vault at 16-43/4.
The NCAA outdoor champion in 2005 for Texas and a two-time world outdoor gold medalist, Hardee in 2008 had feelers to try out from the New York Jets.
• Fresh off his freshman season at Alabama, Hayden Reed became the week’s first collegiate champion, taking the discus at 204 feet. He fouled on his first, fifth and sixth attempts. Earlier this month in Eugene, Reed won the NCAA outdoor championship on his final attempt, going 205-10.
• Three-time USA outdoor champion Queen Harrison had the fastest 100-meter hurdle time of 12.56 seconds, a seasonal best. Lolo Jones, a three-time indoor champion, had the second-best time of 12.62, and two-time outdoor champion Dawn Harper the third at 12.63, making for what should be a sizzling final today.
• Molly Huddle charged late just before the finish to nip Shannon Rowbury in winning her second USA 5,000-meter championship in 15 minutes, 1.56 seconds. Rowbury clocked a 15:01.71.
• Ageless wonder Bernard Lagat won the 5,000 with a kick down the stretch in 13:31.41, beating Andrew Bumbalough (13:32.01).
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.