The kids couldn't quite catch the old-timer in a very fast women's 400 meters at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials.

Monique Hennagan, the 28-year-old runner who overhauled her running style under a new coach, won in a personal-best 49.56 seconds on Saturday -- second-fastest in the world this year.

Nineteen-year-old Sanya Richards finished second, breaking her American junior record with a 49.89 clocking -- the first time she's broken the 50-second barrier.

Dee Dee Trotter, the 21-year-old NCAA champion from Tennessee, completed the U.S. team, coming on in the last 50 meters to finish third in a personal-best 50.28.

Hennagan said the youngsters pushed her to be better.

"In the hotel halls and stuff, they call me the 'old head.' It's kind of funny," Hennagan said. "But I think they helped to raise the standard for me. Seeing that they're running faster. They helped a lot of people in the event to drop times and run faster."

Michelle Collins, who had the best time among Americans coming into the trials, withdrew, saying she was injured. Collins also is among four athletes accused of doping violations through evidence gathered in the criminal probe of the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative.

Collins's absence did nothing to diminish the quality of the competition. Hennagan's time was the second fastest in the world this year, behind Bahamian Tonique Williams-Darling's 49.28. Richards's time was fifth-fastest in the world.

Hennagan, who earned a gold medal as part of the 2000 Olympic 1,600-meter relay team, will make her first appearance in an Olympic individual event. She credits her improvement to a move to Atlanta where she was coached by the super-enthusiastic Bahamian Pauline Davis Thompson -- the 200-meter silver medalist in Sydney.

"She's basically stripped me down and just started from scratch with me," Hennagan said. "I've gotten to the point to where I can sprint comfortably. It makes my 400-meter race a lot easier. I'm just thankful that I made the change in time to come here and represent like I'm capable of."

What's Up, Breaux?

Breaux Greer once threw a fastball 98 mph, drawing baseball scouts to ogle him while he was in high school.

Instead, Greer decided to focus on throwing a different object: the javelin. Now he is one of the best in the world and headed to his second Olympics with a shot at getting a medal. Greer won the trials Saturday on his first throw of 270 feet 4 inches despite competing with a torn ligament in his left knee.

As usual, Greer sported the signature war paint on his face and showed his trademark wacky personality during interviews after his victory.

When asked about how he got into the javelin, Greer started talking about how he used to raise pigs in Louisiana and saw someone throwing sticks outside a barn. Ha ha. Just kidding.

The real story: Greer used to play baseball but took some time off. He saw a rival classmate throwing a javelin after baseball practice one afternoon during his senior year, and decided to try it, too. Twelve years later, Greer has five U.S. titles in the event.

Despite the success, Greer always said he would return to baseball one day. But Saturday he seemed to eliminate that as an option for now.

"I think I can go back at any point and play," he said. "Not many people can say I've got a gold medal at the Olympics, but a million people can say they played baseball."

Brian Chaput of Penn finished second with a throw of 261-10 and Leigh Smith of Tennessee was third (250-7). Only Greer has the Olympic "A" standard, which is 268-4. Chaput and Smith have until Aug. 9 to get it.

"I'm going to try as many meets as I can," Chaput said. "I'm pretty confident I can get that."

For now, Greer will be the only one at the Athens Games. And he will be trying his best to get any medal he can.

"When you're at the Olympics it's just like being here, you put everything you've got on the line and go cry in your hotel room later on," said Greer, who finished 12th in Sydney in 2000.

Monique Hennagan, right, is congratulated by Dee Dee Trotter after Hennagan's win in the 400.Bryan Clay of Azusa, Calif., throws the discus during the decathlon, which did not end in time for this edition. Go to www.washingtonpost.com for complete results.