It's been seven years since anyone ran as fast in the 400-meter hurdles as Kerron Clement on Sunday, and the man who did, Bryan Bronson, was a month from serving a two-year drug suspension. Take out Bronson's time and it has been 12 years since anyone has been faster.
Clement, 19, posted a time of 47.24 at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, winning his first national title in stunning fashion and adding that achievement to an even more remarkable one this winter.
He surpassed Michael Johnson's indoor record in the 400 in March, running a 44.57 at the NCAA championships as a Florida freshman. Instead, though, of pursuing an event in which he would have been a favorite here, he preferred to concentrate on the hurdles, hoping to emulate former U.S. great Edwin Moses.
"As long as he tells me he's a hurdler, that's what he is," his coach, Mike Holloway, said.
On Sunday, he became the seventh-fastest in the event's history. He said he would tackle the open 200 and 400 next season.
"I went out pretty hard and I charged every hurdle from one to 10," Clement said. "It was my perfect race. It was the first time I wasn't stutter-stepping all year. I've been stutter-stepping the last three or four hurdles."
Cantwell Takes Shot Put
Christian Cantwell made some amends Sunday for his failure to make the Olympic team last year despite entering the trials as the No. 1 shot putter in the world, winning his first U.S. outdoor title with a throw of 71 feet. Two-time Olympic silver medal winner Adam Nelson finished second (70-7.25) and John Godina, the world leader in the event who recently has battled a foot injury, finished third (68-10.50).
"Obviously, this went a little better than the Olympic trials," Cantwell said. "You move on and try to keep going year to year and keep improving. . . . I'll throw a lot better as the season goes on."
Reese Hoffa, an Olympian last year, finished fifth (68-7.5), missing a spot on the U.S. team that will compete at the August world championships.
"I just felt flat," Hoffa said. "I didn't feel as aggressive as I would normally be in a competition. . . . Instead of knowing I was going to go out and kill it, I just felt like I was searching to find it and it didn't happen."
Hoffa, who said he recently has been troubled by his gall bladder, said he might schedule surgery to address the problem rather than competing this summer in Europe.
Perry Is Well-Balanced
Michelle Perry completed her transformation from Olympic heptathlete -- she finished 14th in the Games last year -- to national champion 100-meter hurdler, winning her first U.S. title in that event despite bumping reigning Olympic champion Joanna Hayes in the lane next to her. Perry's time of 12.66 seconds was good enough to top Hayes, who finished in 12.77, but it didn't match the world-leading time she posted in the semifinals. In the earlier race, she crossed the line in 12.43.
"The hurdles really took off this year, so we decided to go with it," said Perry, who is coached by Bobby Kersee in Los Angeles. "I'll probably finish the season with the heptathlon. . . . The heptathlon gives me the strength I need. I really believe I can be top in the heptathlon and 100-meter hurdles. It's just finding a balance."