American Richards sets season's best in 400 at Gaz de France

Updated: July 6, 2007, 6:07 PM ET
Associated Press

SAINT-DENIS, France -- Sanya Richards set a season's best time of 49.52 seconds in the women's 400 meters, and Alan Webb ran the fastest 1,500 meters of 2007 at the Gaz de France meet on Friday.

In the pole vault, Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia failed on three attempts to add a centimeter to her world record 16 feet-5 1/4 inches, but still reached a season's-best 16-1 1/4.

Richards eclipsed DeeDee Trotter's 49.64 at the U.S. track and field championships on June 23.

In that race, Richards had finished fourth, failing to make the U.S. 400-meter team for the Aug. 25-Sept 2 world championships in Osaka, Japan. The loss broke a string of 18 consecutive outdoor victories in the 400 for Richards since her runner-up finish at the 2005 world championships.

On Friday, Novlene Willians of Jamaica was second in 50.29 seconds, with Natasha Hastings of the United States third in 50.45 at the Stade de France.

Richards is setting her 400 sights now on the Golden League's $1 million dollar jackpot. Athletes must win all six meets to acquire at least a share. The Gaz de France was the second meet.

"I'm happy again. I'm still focused on the 400," she said. "My main goal is to win the Golden League. I wasn't concerned about my time. I just wanted to win. I felt good."

Webb smashed his personal best by nearly two seconds to win the 1,500 in 3:30.54. The American surged past Mehdi Baala of France in the last 40 meters. Baala finished in 3:31.01, also faster than the previous season's best of 3:31.05 which he had set on June 28.

Tarek Boukensa of Algeria was third in 3:32.77.

In the women's 100, Torri Edwards let an American sweep of the top four places. She was quickest out of the blocks and won in 11.17. Me'lisa Barber was second in 11.19, ahead of Lauryn Williams on 11.25.

"It's my very first race over here, so I didn't expect to be too sharp," Edwards said. "I felt pretty relaxed and I thought I had the race or so until Barber coming up next to me. So I just pushed a little bit more at the end."

Derrick Atkins of the Bahamas won the men's 100 in 10.00 seconds and declared himself "a contender for Osaka." Mark Jelks was second in 10.09, beating fellow American Shawn Crawford, third in 10.13. The race was weakened by the injury withdrawal of world record holder Asafa Powell.

Lashawn Merritt of the United States won the men's 400 in 44.62.

"In Osaka, I'll have it all together," he said.

In other action, James Carter led an American top-two sweep in the men's 400 hurdles, winning in 48.61 seconds ahead of Angelo Taylor in 48.73. Alwyn Myburgh of South Africa was third in 49.40.

"I'm not worried about time right now, winning is good enough," Carter said. "I'm right where I want to be. I'm going to run faster in every race."

Olympic champion and world record holder Liu Xiang from China was beaten by Dayron Robles of Cuba in the men's 110-meters hurdles.

Robles won the 110 hurdles in 13.13, beating Anwar Moore of the United States in a photo finish. Liu was third in 13.15, way off his world record of 12.88 and his seasonal best of 12.92.

Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia cruised to an easy win in the 5,000 meters .

The 2005 world champion in both the 5,000 and 10,000 won in 15 minutes, 21.84 seconds, nearly a minute off her best.

Florence Kiplagat of Kenya was second in 15:23.85, with Meselech Melkamu of Ethiopia third in 15:24.19. Ethiopian world record holder Meseret Defar, who set the mark of 14:16.63 in the opening Golden League meet in Oslo on June 15, did not race.

Dibaba, who is recovering from a leg injury, was disappointed with her time but still hopes to defend her titles at Osaka.

"I'm starting to rediscover my form, but I am still not at my best," she said.

The Gaz de France is the second of six Golden League meets in Europe in 2007.

Michelle Perry of the United States held off Susanna Kallur of Sweden to win the women's 100-meters hurdles.

Perry clocked 12.56 in the women's 100 hurdles, followed by Kallur in 12.68. Lolo Jones of the United States was third in 12.71. Ginnie Powell of the United States fell heavily after clipping the seventh hurdle and took several minutes to get up.

Yevgeniya Isakova of Russia ran her time of the season, winning the 400-meter hurdles in 54.56, ahead of Jana Pittman Rawlinson of Australia in 54.93. Jamaica's Melaine Walker was third in 55.32.

With a powerful finishing kick, Yelena Soboleva shook off Geleta Burka of Ethiopia to win the women's 1,500 meters. The Russian clocked 3:59.91 to Burka's 4:00.68. Iryna Lishchynska of Ukraine was third in 4:02.17.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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