SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) - Christian Coleman displayed the kind of speed that helped him clock the fastest time of the year when he led 100 metres qualifying at the U.S. national championships on Thursday as 35-year-old Justin Gatlin kept pace with the youngsters.
Coleman, who has clocked a season-best 9.82 seconds, slowed down noticeably in his heat but still ran 9.93 on a blazing afternoon where track temperatures topped 43 degrees Celsius at a meet that doubles up as world championships trials.
"Yeah, I have complete confidence in myself that I can beat anybody I get on the line with, whether it's him (Usain Bolt) or anybody else," Coleman said of his chances against the world record holder in the Jamaican's final 100 metres at the London championships in August.
Olympic silver medallist Gatlin was not far behind the 21-year-old Coleman time wise, winning his heat in 10.00 seconds as he fights back to full fitness following a string of injuries.
"It's a surreal time for me," Gatlin said of being able to compete with America's young sprinters. "I am a older guy in a year that I'm probably the most injured I have ever been."
Isiah Young won a third heat in 9.97 and Mike Rodgers was second to Gatlin, also in 10.00, but U.S. record holder Tyson Gay failed to advance, as the 34-year-old finished 15th overall in 10.17 after stumbling at the start.
The semi-finals and finals of both the men's and women's 100m are set for Friday.
Double Olympic medallist Tori Bowie continued her fine form in the women's sprint, leading qualifying in 10.90 with Morolake Akinosun second fastest in 10.98 and world indoor champion Barbara Pierre a winner of her heat in 10.99.
World 400 metres champion Allyson Felix also advanced with the seventh fastest time of 11.03. Felix is running the 100m and 200m in Sacramento as speed work for the 400m in London, where she already has a wild card as reigning champion.
Temperatures had dropped considerably by the 10,000m finals but Hassan Mead had too much heat for the rest of the field as he ended Olympic marathon bronze medallist Galen Rupp's eight-year run as the U.S. men's champion.
Mead edged Kenya-born Shadrack Kipchirchir to win in 29:01.44 as Rupp could only finish fifth, more than three seconds behind the winner.
National record holder Molly Huddle pulled away to take the women's race in 31:19.86.
The top three finishers in each event plus wild cards will earn selection to the U.S. world championships team, provided they have met the qualifying standard.
Former national 800m champion Alysia Montano, wearing a Wonder Woman T-shirt, ran the championships for the second time in four years while pregnant.
Five months with child this time, she finished last in the preliminaries in 2:21.40. Montano was eight months pregnant when she ran at the championships in 2014.
"There is something about coming out to any venue not really expecting to win but going along with the journey and seeing what comes out of it," she said. "It is the most beautiful part about me being a track and field athlete."
Editing by John O'Brien