While scores of athletes around him were recording "PRs" -- personal records -- Bernard Williams was running a "PW" -- personal worst.
Competing in the 200-meter semifinals at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, the two-time Olympic medal winner finished in 22.34 seconds yesterday.
Yes, 22.34, maybe his slowest time for half a lap since junior high school. Yes, 22.34, the precise time Allyson Felix took to win the women's national championship.
Physically, Williams, 29, may still be ready to run with the world's best. He might even be able to compete with Tyson Gay, the Arkansas graduate who won the 200 final in 19.62, breaking Michael Johnson's meet record of 19.66 set in 1996.
It's just that Williams' professional career has reached a crossroad.
"When I step away from the track, I'm not going to hang around, like a lot of people I see, feeding off other athletes. It's going to be a clean break," said Williams, who won Olympic gold in the 400-meter relay in Sydney in 2000 and silver in the 200 in Athens in 2004.
"I've nearly finished my degree in sociology at Florida. I'm 99.5 percent there. I'll have it by September. I know I can put it to use in a lot of ways.
"But I know I can still run with these guys, too. I'm sure. I'm OK."
Soon, Williams will fly off to the European summer circuit, hoping to get his career back on track.
"I just hope I can get some lanes in the big meets over there," he said. "After all that's been going on, though, you never know."
It wasn't a memorable meet for Joel Brown, either.
The 27-year-old Ohio State graduate (and current Buckeyes assistant coach) from Woodlawn High, finished sixth in the 110-meter hurdles final at the 2005 world championships in Helsinki, but there will be no worlds for him in 2007.
A 13.52 performance in the semifinals yesterday put him in fifth place and out of the eight-runner final, a race eventually won by Terrence Trammell in 13.08.
"I tore my left quad this spring in a race in Doha [Qatar]" Brown said. "I took a month off and have only been back two weeks.
"I'm 100 percent now, I just didn't make it today; 13.52 may be a good time to some people, but it's not to me."
Another former area standout, Kyle Farmer of Oakland Mills, also failed to qualify for the finals. He ran in the 100 and 200.