Centreville's Rickey Harris stepped into Lane 5 for the 400-meter final yesterday afternoon at the East Coast Invitational, looked over to where his nearest -- and toughest -- competition was supposed to be in Lane 4, and was surprised to see that Georgetown-bound James Graham wasn't there.
Harris made sure that was the only surprise of his afternoon as he went on to win the the 400 with a personal-best time 47.39 seconds in the boys 17-18 age group at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda.
The All-Met matchup of Graham, the recent Northwestern graduate, and Harris was supposed to be one of the highlights of the three-day meet, which is the largest independent meet in the country. But Graham, who had the fastest qualifying time for the final in 47.63, arrived too late before the start of the race and did not have time for a proper warmup. Coach Derek Mannyshow of the Hummingbird Track Club held him out of the final, saying he didn't want to risk injury.
"I was looking for James the whole time" before the race, Harris said. "I was like, `Am I just that lucky?' "
This weekend marked the last time the meet will be held in the Washington area, as the Invitational was bought by the Durham (N.C.) Striders Track Club, according to meet director Bob Rothenberg. Next year's meet will be held on the same weekend at Duke University.
The event attracted 2,565 athletes from age groups 8 and under to 17-18, according to Rothenberg, from 24 states and Puerto Rico, Antigua, the Bahamas and Bermuda.
Harris, who strained his right hamstring during Saturday's trials, said he just switched his body weight toward his left leg yesterday. Charles Shafter of Greensboro, N.C., finished second in 48.17. Harris was disappointed, however, not to run against Graham.
"I know [Graham] would have pushed me all the way," Harris said.
Other top performances from yesterday were by Thomas Stone graduate and Virginia-bound Tim Bilmanis (Thunderbolts club), who threw the discus 176 feet 1 inch. Springbrook's Ndidi Obichere (Cougars) won the 17-18 girls 800 meters in 2 minutes 14.34 seconds. High Point senior Jeremy Grissette (Hummingbird) won the 17-18 boys 800 in 1:53.7. Keosha Sanders (Brooke Point), running for Quiet Storm, won the 100 hurdles for the girls 15-16 age group in 14.36 seconds.
All-Met Victor Thillet (Old Mill) of the New Carrollton Track Club won the 1,500 in 3:59.31 on Friday and placed second in the 5,000 (16:06.2) yesterday. All-Met Alyssa Aiken (Chantilly) won the 400 hurdles in 1:00.15 Friday. All-Met Anthony Pesce (Howard Jumpers), who graduated from Atholton, won the 17-18 pole vault at 13-6.