DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - Allyson Felix missed out on an individual national team spot for the first time as a professional and Sam Kendricks became the third highest pole vaulter of all-time at the U.S. national championships on Saturday.
Only French world record holder Renaud Lavillenie and former holder Sergey Bubka have ever jumped higher than the 6.06 metres Kendricks managed at an event that is doubling as the U.S. trials for the world championships.
The selection meeting also produced a surprising result in the men’s 400 metres as Fred Kerley became the all time seventh fastest in the event, clocking 43.64 seconds to upset indoor world record holder Michael Norman (43.79).
Felix, America’s most decorated female track athlete, finished sixth in 51.94 seconds in the women’s 400, missing automatic selection for September’s world championships. She could still go to Doha as a member of the 4x400 metres relay.
The 33-year-old, on the comeback trail after giving birth to her daughter in November, had made every American world and Olympic team since 2003.
“I think it would be crazy for me to say that I’m disappointed,” Felix said. “I have my health, I have my family. I couldn’t ask for more than that. And I am able to still do what I love.”
Asked if she would accept a spot on the U.S. relay team, the 11-times world champion replied:
“If I feel like I’m in you know good form to be able to help the team, yes. If I’m not, I’ll be a cheerleader.”
Shakima Wimbley won the event in 50.21 seconds ahead of Kendall Ellis (50.38) and collegian Wadeline Jonathas (50.44), who also made the U.S. team for Doha.
World champion Kendricks cleared the winning height on his second attempt to break the U.S. record and show he was ready for another world title run.
He was mobbed by his competitors after he landed in the pole vault pit.
“As I was falling I was thinking, ‘They’re going to come tackle me,’” said Kendricks “They were lined up on the edge of the runway, clapping for me. We’re a pretty tight-knit group all around the world in the pole vault.”
The Americans will send four vaulters to Doha since Kendricks is the world champion.
Cole Walsh (5.76), KC Lightfoot (5.76) and Zach Bradford (5.71) also earned berths.
Kerley, the 2017 U.S. champion, came on strong over the last 40 metres for the victory over Norman, who has been considered the favourite for world championship gold in the event.
“In track and field, you’ve just got to understand, anything can happen at any given point in track and field, today was my day,” Kerley said.
Meanwhile, Rai Benjamin celebrated his 22nd birthday by winning the men’s 400 metres hurdles by 10 metres in a quick 47.23 seconds.
Only Norway’s Karsten Warholm and Benjamin have run faster this year
Runner-up T.J. Holmes was more than a second behind Benjamin in 48.58 with Amere Lattin taking third in 48.66.
The United States will have another strong world team in the women’s 100 metres hurdles as world record holder Keni Harrison (12.44), Nia Ali (12.55) and Olympic champion Brianna McNeal (12.61) all qualified.
Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad eased past top U.S. rival Sydney McLaughlin to claim their 400 metres hurdles semi-final in 54.22 seconds. The teenage McLaughlin, the year’s fastest, was 0.02 seconds adrift.
In 200 metres qualifying, speedy Noah Lyles and U.S. 100 metres champion Christian Coleman eased through their heats.
Lyles, the year’s fastest at 19.50 seconds, won his race in 20.65.
His hair now speckled in silver as a tribute to Goku, the main protagonist of the Dragon Ball manga series, the 22-year-old drew more questions about his new look than his racing.
“It was pretty easy,” Lyles said of his first race of the championships.
“We knew it was going to be a lot of wind so we wanted to focus on that first 100 ... and the conserve as much energy as possible.”
Coleman finished second in his heat in 20.70, running a solid curve before easing up.
“I knew I had to get out on top of the field,” said the 23-year-old world championship silver medallist.
Collegian Keitavious Walter had the fastest time, 20.59, with Lyles third best in the warm-up for Sunday’s final two rounds.
Editing by Nick Mulvenney