Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery withdrew from the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Friday, but their former coach Trevor Graham, who has been as controversial as he's been successful, showed he isn't going anywhere.
Graham's current athletes -- two established stars, one stunning newcomer -- dominated Saturday's 100-meter finals.
Justin Gatlin, the reigning Olympic champion in the 100, won a wind-slowed race in 10.08 seconds. Shawn Crawford, the Olympic 200 champion and Gatlin's training partner at Graham's Sprint Capitol USA group, finished second in 10.17 seconds, holding off Leonard Scott (10.18) as Maurice Greene, a three-time U.S. champion in the event, fell to the track at about 60 meters with an apparent left hamstring pull. Greene left the Home Depot Center in tears.
Lisa Barber, who joined Graham's training team in November, won the women's 100 in 11.10, topping 2004 Olympian Muna Lee (11.28) and 2004 Olympic silver medal winner Lauryn Williams (11.29).
The performance by Gatlin and Crawford, who finished 2-3 in the event last year behind Greene, surprised no one, but Barber's rise to the top this season could not have been predicted.
Barber, who finished sixth in the 400 at last year's Olympic Trials, hadn't competed in the 100 meters prior to this season since 2002, when she was a senior at South Carolina. She never has won a major title of any kind at any distance since high school -- not even a conference championship in college.
Barber said she left longtime coach Curtis Frye last fall to pursue her dream of competing in the 100 and 200 -- two events, she said, at which she excelled in high school before succumbing to injuries.
"Trevor Graham, he's done a lot," Barber said. "He teaches a lot of technique and form and we do a lot of strength work. The first day I showed up at practice, I said, 'I can see why the two fastest men in the world are here.'
"Coach Frye is a great coach and always will be, but I just wanted to focus more on the sprints, and I know Trevor Graham is also a great coach."
Graham, perhaps best known for having turned in the syringe that led to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative scandal, seems to be becoming an expert at transformations: At last year's championships, another Graham pupil, 400 specialist LaTasha Colander, earned a surprising victory in the 100 in only her second season competing in the event.
Graham also is known for his connection to drug allegations, though he has denied having any ties to athletes' drug use. He coached a number of athletes who have tested positive as well as three of the four athletes who originally faced possible lifetime bans for alleged doping violations in connection to the BALCO scandal -- Montgomery, Michelle Collins and Alvin Harrison. (Collins and Harrison accepted lesser bans; Montgomery is fighting charges against him in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.)
"That was a concern," Barber said when asked about Graham's reputation. But "I can't control what happened in the past and neither can he.
"Being with Sprint Capitol, I never got anything . . . [like] drugs. It's not like that."
Graham declined a request for an interview. He said last week he had decided not to speak with reporters this season.
Barber, who competed with her twin sister, Miki, in college, ran four other 100s this season, posting a season best of 11.05 in early June in New York.
"I'm getting stronger, and my form is a lot better," Barber said. "It wasn't like an easy skip. There were days I was laid out at practice."
Said Gatlin about Barber: "She's a hard worker in practice. She's out there before everyone else and she's the last one to leave. . . . I think she just needed the right training and right conditioning and she's getting it now, obviously."
Though Gatlin was favored entering this race, he was distracted by having been disqualified for a false start from Friday's first round, only to be reinstated after an appeal. He said he slept fewer than four hours Friday night, turning the day's events over in his head and fielding phone calls from family and friends.
The entire Sprint Capitol group endured a shakeup this spring when members found themselves without a training home in early February after Graham was kicked off of the North Carolina State track in Raleigh for not formalizing arrangements with the university.
Graham and the group's 10 athletes struggled to put together sufficient workouts, training on a grassy field in a city park until arrangements were made in mid-April that allowed them to train at North Carolina Central University in Durham.
"It was hard, but we got through it," Barber said. "It was a difficult time."
Times, though, went from difficult to fast -- particularly in the 400 finals Saturday. The men's final saw four men go under 45 seconds and ensured the United States will send three medal contenders to the August world championships in Helsinki.
Reigning Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner finished in 44.20 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year, striding away from second-place finisher Dominique Arnold in the homestretch. Arnold, who missed out on making the Olympic team by one-hundredth of a second last year, crossed the line in 44.62. Andrew Rock, 23, a 2004 Olympian, finished third in 44.70, edging youngster LaShawn Merritt by three-hundredths of a second for the last Olympic team spot.
"I got out real bad, I stumbled out of the blocks; after I stumbled I stood straight up," Wariner said. "I just kicked at the end, the last 100, the last 125 [meters]. . . . I couldn't ask for anything else except for a better start."
In winning her second U.S. outdoor title in the 400, Sanya Richards, 20, posted the fastest time in the world this season (49.28), the third-fastest in American history and a personal best. Richards, who is coached by Clyde Hart in Austin, led a blazing race in which the top three all finished under 50 seconds for the first time in U.S. championship history. Dee Dee Trotter, 22, notched a 49.88 and Monique Henderson, 22, finished in 49.96.
"I knew if I won, I would run a fast time, so I was just excited when I saw the time," Richards said. "I think it was a great race. For three women under 50, what more could we ask for? . . . I never thought I'd run this fast this early. It looks good for Helsinki."