SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Bernard Williams is running for redemption. He knows his route is straight uphill.
"They kicked my [rear] in the 100; I'm not going to let that happen in the 200," the 1997 Carver graduate said after advancing to the quarterfinals of the 200-meter dash at the U.S. Olympic trials at Sacramento State last night.
Williams, a gold medalist in the 400 relay in the 2000 Sydney Games, came into the trials as the 2003 national 100-meter champion, with every expectation of sprinting to one of the three spots on the American 100-meter team bound for Athens.
But it didn't happen. The 26-year-old was an unhappy sixth-place finisher in the 100 final last Saturday, assuring himself of nothing more than a repeat spot on the 400 relay squad.
So that's why Williams, who lives and trains in Hampton, Va., stepped to the line for the 200.
Even though he'd run the half-lap race faster than any other American in the past two years (20.01 seconds) heading into the trials, winning at the Golden Gala meet in Rome a year ago, the 200 remains his least favorite sprint event.
Now Williams faces a stacked 200 field, giving him his uphill perspective.
He breezed to a 20.28 performance yesterday, but it was only good for second place in a section won by Shawn Crawford in 19.88, the fastest time in the world since 2002.
Other top 200 performers included Justin Gatlin (20.06) and Tyson Gay (20.07), indicating that something sensational may be on tap in the remaining rounds of the event, which concludes tomorrow. The best time since Michael Johnson's world-record of 19.32 at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics may be in the cards.
Unlike Williams, Ryan Olkowski admits he's at the trials for the experience. The Calvert Hall and Penn State alum is one of the brightest decathlon prospects in the nation, but knows that Beijing in 2008 and not Athens next month is his real target.
Nevertheless, Olkowski stands third overall behind heavily favored Tom Pappas, the world champion, and Hawaiian star Bryan Clay.
A former sprint and jump specialist - he's an ex-Big Ten 200-meter champion, has high jumped 7 feet, 2 inches and long jumped over 25 feet - he's making major impressions in his first full season as a 10-eventer.
He came into the trials ranked 12th in the nation and seems headed for a top-10 finish, possibly better.
Olkowski started fast with a 100-meter dash time of 10.55, second best in the 24-man field, and a 24-5 long jump, placing third. But his lack of experience showed in the shot put, where his best was just 38-6 1/4 . He surged back, though, with a 6-11 3/4 high jump victory and ended his big day with a time of 47.74 in the 400 meters.
It added up to a 4,321-point day for Olkowski. Pappas has 4,474 points, followed by Clay with 4,471.
NOTES: Marion Jones faded to last in her five-woman qualifying heat in the 200, but she still advanced to today's semifinals because six runners withdrew from the race. That meant only one of the 19 women entered was eliminated.
Jones' time of 22.93 seconds was 10th fastest. Maybe Jones knew that as she slowed down the straightaway, finishing far behind the heat's winner, Inger Miller. As has been the case throughout the trials, Jones left the track without talking to reporters. ...
Tim Broe won the men's 5,000, but still needs to reach the Olympic qualifying standard before Aug. 9 to be able to compete at the Athens Games. ... Laura Gerraughty won the women's shot put.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun