EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — There’s another American sprinter making a big comeback this year.
Gabby Thomas held off Sha’Carri Richardson with the best time in the world in 2023 to win the women’s 200 metres at the U.S. track and field championships on Sunday night.
Thomas caught up to Richardson rounding the curve and powered to the finish in 21.60 seconds to beat the mark of 21.71 set earlier by Shericka Jackson at the Jamaica trials in Kingston.
The 26-year-old Thomas struggled last season as she dealt with a hamstring injury. She skipped the 100 earlier this weekend to conserve her energy for the 200, in which she returned to top form.
“This one is really sweet,” said Thomas, who graduated from Harvard in neurobiology before going to Texas to work on a master’s degree. “Coming from the injury is just so emotionally and mentally gruelling, you just don’t know what to expect. You’re kind of off your game a little bit. Your confidence is a little shot. So for me to come back and train really hard, work hard all season to be at this really competitive meet is amazing.”
Richardson, too, is on the comeback trail and accomplished what she needed to at nationals — qualify in both sprint events for worlds next month in Budapest, Hungary. The 23-year-old Richardson won the 100 on Friday. Two years ago, Richardson had her national title in the 100 stripped after she tested positive for marijuana.
It was quite a fast weekend for Thomas, Richardson and, down the road a bit, Shericka Jackson, who turned in a sizzling 100 time of 10.65 seconds at the Jamaican championships.
In the men’s 200, 19-year-old Erriyon Knighton held off Kenny Bednarek for the win in a time of 19.72 seconds. Courtney Lindsey grabbed third.
“The main goal is to just go in there and execute,” Knighton said. “I executed and I came out with a win.”
Bednarek and Knighton won the silver and bronze medals, respectively, at worlds last summer in Eugene, Oregon. The gold medalist in the event, Noah Lyles, has an automatic berth to worlds in the 200 and sat out the race. He’s also qualified in the 100.
Fred Kerley suffered his first defeat of the season, finishing fourth. Kerley is the reigning world champion in the 100 and has a spot at worlds in that event.
Shamier Little used a fast start to hold off 2016 Rio Olympics champion Dalilah Muhammad in the women’s 400 hurdles. Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone skipped the event to concentrate on the open 400, which she won Saturday night. McLaughlin-Levrone is automatically qualified for the 400 hurdles after her record-setting win last summer at worlds.
Little even had enough energy to perform a victory dance after the race.
The men’s 400 hurdles saw American record holder Rai Benjamin cruise to a convincing win, setting up another showdown with his rival Karsten Warholm. Benjamin finished runner-up to the Norwegian at the Tokyo Games in 2021 in which Warholm shattered the world record. Last summer at worlds, Benjamin was runner-up to Alison Dos Santos of Brazil.
No surprise, Ryan Crouser won the shot put. A little bit of a surprise — no world record. It seems like every time Crouser steps into the circle, he breaks a record. Crouser’s current world record of 23.56 (77 feet, 3 3/4 inches) was set in May and is pending ratification.
In other finals Sunday:
— Olympic and world pole vault champion Katie Moon won the event over Sandi Morris.
— Nia Akins outkicked Raevyn Rogers down the stretch to take first in the women’s 800. Athing Mu, the reigning 800 world champion, skipped the event to focus on the 1,500, where she finished second.
— There was plenty of contact in a physical men’s 800 race won by Bryce Hoppel, who surged to the win.
— Reigning world hammer throw champion Brooke Andersen took first at nationals, with DeAnna Price, the 2019 world champion, finishing second to earn a spot.
— Olympic discus champion Valarie Allman won.
— Tara Davis-Woodhall beat defending national champion Quanesha Burks in the long jump.
— JuVaughn Harrison won the high jump.
— Setting the pace, Abdihamid Nur fended off Paul Chelimo to win the men’s 5,000.
— Elise Cranny took the women’s 5,000 title after winning the 10,000 on Thursday.
The U.S. championships closed with Daniel Roberts edging Cordell Tinch in the 110-metres hurdles. Two-time reigning world champion Grant Holloway made it to the final but sat out. Holloway has an automatic spot at worlds in the event.