Richards-Ross, Merritt move on easily at trials

Associated Press
Lolo Jones clears a hurdle in front of Kori Carter during a women's 100m hurdles preliminary at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials Friday, June 22, 2012, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

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Lolo Jones clears a hurdle in front of Kori Carter during a women's 100m hurdles preliminary at the U.S. …

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Sanya Richards-Ross stepped over a puddle, ran hard for a few more steps, then jogged to the finish line for an easy win.

A routine result Friday at the rain-drenched Olympic trials that left one of America's biggest track stars with nothing to complain about.

Well, almost nothing.

"Other than it messing up my hair, it's OK," she said.

Richards-Ross ran her qualifying heat in the rain-drenched 400 meters in 51.69 seconds, winning by 0.55 seconds even though she jogged to the finish.

"We all have to compete in it," said Richards-Ross, who will also try to qualify in the 200 next week. "Whatever it is, go out here and put in your best show."

A few minutes earlier, defending Olympic gold medalist LaShawn Merritt took to the rain-slickened track, sidestepped a runner who fell in the lane next to him and finished in 45.36 seconds, the best time in the men's heats.

"I saw him and I had to do a little step more toward the inside of my land, where I should've been in the first place," Merritt said.

Jeremy Wariner, the 2004 Olympic champion, also advanced to Saturday's semifinals, though his race wasn't quite such a breeze. He finished third in his heat in a time of 45.84.

"Just clearing the cobwebs out," Wariner said. "I worked my turn pretty well. I saved a lot for the homestretch."

David Neville, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, finished last in his heat and won't go to London unless he is chosen for the relay team.

The 400 runners have semifinals Saturday, with finals scheduled for Sunday.

In the women's 100 hurdles, defending Olympic champion Dawn Harper won her heat in 12.79 seconds — a victory she earned even though she didn't have the ideal, track-grabbing spikes in her shoes.

"I actually change spikes" when it rains, she said. "Usually, the pointier ones grab the track. It was on my mind out there because I had the older ones in."

Lolo Jones also qualified but not by much. She finished third in her heat for the last automatic qualifying spot after running 13.01. Her race was delayed when Shericka Ward false started.

"I felt really good, but it was a bad race," Jones said. "After the false start, I just relaxed a little bit too much."

Meet organizers scrubbed women's pole vault preliminaries, meaning all 29 athletes, including 2008 Olympic silver medalist Jenn Suhr, will move to finals Sunday.

In the decathlon, Ashton Eaton was ahead of a world-record pace for two events. His shot put throw of 46 feet, 7 3/4 inches slowed him down, but he still led two-time world champion Trey Hardee by 205 points with six events to go.

Eaton, an Oregon native, looked very much at home in the steady rain that swamped Hayward Field for the first of this 10-day event, during which up to 120 spots on the U.S. Olympic team will be awarded.

Everybody else was trying to make the best of it, knowing that under U.S. rules, the top three qualify — no excuses or second chances, even for the best of the best.

"You have to adapt to what the weather is, how the track is," Merritt said. "Know what you're doing before you get out there. You know the weather, the wind, and the track is slippery. It's all about going in with a plan and executing."

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