June 25, 2017 / 4:05 AM / 2 months ago

Athletics - Kerley, Kendricks, Harrison set pace at U.S. championships

SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) - Fred Kerley ran the second fastest 400 metres of the year and Sam Kendricks soared to the outdoor season's first six metre pole vault at the United States' national championships on Saturday.

Keni Harrison, the world record holder in the women's 100 metres hurdles, also joined the parade of Americans heading to August's world championships in London with her first national title, winning in 12.60 seconds.

Kerley needed a little pressure from runner-up Gil Roberts to win the 400 in 44.03 seconds.

The time, which trails only his season-leading 43.70, gave the 22-year-old the five fastest 400 metres for 2017 and sets up a mouthwatering showdown with South African world record holder Wayde van Niekerk at London.

Kendricks, the Olympic bronze medallist, took much pleasure from topping the six-metre barrier for the first time.

"It's a career point," the American said. "Every great jumper in history had at least one six metres jump.

"To be a part of that club, to be an elite top 20 in the history in the event is really cool to me."

Harrison, recovering from a broken hand, already had a wild card berth to London as the 2016 Diamond League champion.

But she wanted the title and a chance to run.

"I am not race sharp yet ... since I sat out a month," she said.

Nia Ali (12.68), Christina Manning (12.70) and Dawn Harper (12.78) will run with her in London, where Harrison set the world record of 12.20 last July.

Jasmin Stowers, who posted 2017's leading time of 12.47 seconds, finished last in the final. The Americans also will be missing Brianna Rollins, who is serving a doping suspension, and Olympic bronze medallist Kristi Castlin, who finished sixth.

Quanera Hayes added another season leader, winning the women's 400 in 49.72.

Robby Andrews edged Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz in the men's 1,500 in 3:43.29 and Rio bronze medallist Jenny Simpson was first in the women's race in 4:06.33.

Meanwhile, the Americans will have another strong women's long jump team with Olympic champions Tianna Bartoletta (7.05 metres) and silver medallist Brittney Reese (6.98m).

The short sprinters will have their chance for titles on Sunday and Christian Coleman bounced back from an upset loss in the 100 metres to win his 200 metres qualifying heat in 20.34 seconds.

Isiah Young led qualifiers in 20.29.

Favoured Noah Lyles took his heat in 20.54 and Tyson Gay also advanced.

Justin Gatlin, winner of the 100, skipped the race.

Diamond League champion LaShawn Merritt, needing to compete to grab a wild card spot in the 400, did run but said he would concentrate on the 400 in the world championships.

Collegians Deajah Stevens (22.55) and Ariana Washington (22.57) led women's 200 metres qualifying with top pick Tori Bowie winning her heat in 22.69, third fastest.

Editing by Ian Ransom

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