Inika McPherson said she had an out of skin experience Sunday afternoon, and her free spirit, showmanship and broad grins captured the theme of the final, festive day of the USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships.
Johnny Dutch blitzed through the 400 hurdles, a one-lap gut check with considerable obstacles that mirrored his life and tasted victory after six earlier frustrating national-title efforts. He then reflected on how the pressure of the sport nearly engulfed him, leaving him to wonder if waiting tables wouldnt be more rewarding.
The sixth national championship meet in Sacramento since 1968 also featured women returning triumphantly from maternity leave to make a mark, such as Galt resident and Sacramento State assistant coach Stephanie Brown-Trafton in the discus, where she placed a satisfying fourth. Hot by any measure at 95 degrees in the Hornet Stadium seats and even hotter on the track at around 120, the day was capped by a precocious Oregon Ducks two-sport star from Phoenix in Devon Allen, who bested a star-studded field in the 110 hurdles and insisted it wasnt really that warm.
All told, the first USA title meet in Sacramento since the 2004 Olympic Trials was a rousing success as athletes raved about the conditions, facilities and fans. The Day 5 announced crowd was 9,601, encouraging considering there were no Olympic team rosters in the balance and no World Championships to bear down on. The total announced crowd of 38,283, starting with the 5,500 that soaked in the Capitol Shot on the west lawn of the State Capitol on Wednesday, far exceeded goals set by USA Track & Field, the sports governing body that assured the Sacramento Sports Commission such totals would go a long way in securing a return in 2017.
Great meet, great venue, great support, great time, said McPherson, a bundle of energy at 5-foot-5, whose winning high jump at a lifetime-best and Hornet Stadium-record 6-63/4 made her the ninth American to clear 6-6. Also the USA Indoor champion, McPherson bested a field that included three-time Olympian Chaunte Lowe and Word Championships silver medalist Brigetta Barrett. McPherson gestured to the crowd before jumps and waved and blew kisses after clinching her title. She calls herself, The Queen of the High Jump, and bears tattoos of a hummingbird on her neck, full lips on her cheek and a tiny heart on her lower lip.
Dutch won his first hurdles title in 48.93 seconds after twice placing second. He offered condolences to Bershawn Jackson, the 2008 Olympic medalist who crashed over the first hurdle and had to be helped off the track. In victory, Dutch dropped to his knees, then hustled over to the crowd to offer appreciation _ he was greeted with sweaty applause.
I was on the verge of giving up track, Dutch said. Injuries, personal things, near misses, I was ready to stop. Ill be a waiter. Glad I didnt.
Fresh off his NCAA-winning hurdle effort on his home turf in Eugene, Allen stunned the field here, too. The 19-year-old sophomore-to-be, who caught two touchdown passed in the Ducks spring game and still isnt sure what his best sport is, leaned into the tape to win in 13.155 seconds. He edged defending USA champion Ryan Wilson in a photo finish with Wilson clocking a 13.160. Allens time was rounded up to 13.16, matching his NCAA title-win time two weeks earlier as he became the first NCAA/USA championship double winner in the race since 1979. David Oliver, the 2013 World Champion, was third in 13.23.
Ronnie Ash clocked a world-leading 12.99 in an early afternoon semifinal, the first sub-13-second effort since 2012, but he went down in the finals and failed to finish the race.
Other highlights included:
• Jeneba Tarmoh won the womens 200 meters in 22.06, edging defending champion Kimberlyn Duncan (22.10).
• Curtis Mitchell won the mens 200 in 20.13, nipping two-time Olympian Wallace Spearmon (20.19).
• Jenny Simpson took the womens 1,500 in 4 minutes, 4.96 seconds, topping Mary Cain, who graduated from high school in New York just over a week ago.
• Jeff Henderson won the long jump at 27-111/2, the best mark by an American man this year and a Hornet Stadium record.
• Sam Kendricks won the mens pole vault at 18-101/4 after taking the NCAA title to become the first to accomplish such vault double since 1996.
• Duane Solomon won the mens 800 in a Hornet Stadium-record 1:44.30.
• Ajee Wilson won the womens 800 in a Hornet Stadium-record 1:58.70.
• Evan Jager won his second title in the mens 3,000-meter steeplechase in 8:18.83.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.