SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Baltimoreans Torrance Zellner and James Carter made it through the preliminaries of the 400 intermediate hurdles at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials last night. They'll run in the same semifinal today, and attempt to get in tomorrow's eight-man final.
Zellner, a 30-year-old veteran who attended high school at Woodlawn High, was third in his heat, in 49.50 seconds. Mervo grad Carter, 22, was second in his preliminary, in 49.77. These are the third U.S. trials for Zellner, the first for Carter.
"It's a bigger crowd than I'm used to, but I'm always running against these guys," Carter said. "My steps were off a little bit, and I have to make some adjustments."
Carter raced twice in Europe last month, while Zellner had not competed since May because of injuries.
"There was a little rust built up on the edges, but nothing I can't shake loose," Zellner said. "That was a shaky race for me; I was just feeling my way through. It's been a long time since I raced, but I feel fine."
His time would have been fast enough to win three of the other four heats. Heat winners received preferential lane assignments in the semis, and Zellner didn't fare well in the blind draw for the other positions, as he drew tight Lane 1.
The crowd at Cal State Sacramento's Hornet Stadium was treated to a curious sight, as Johnny Gray trotted the last 200 meters of the men's 800 preliminaries, then moved faster on what amounted to a farewell lap for the four-time Olympian and U.S. record holder.
"This is my last hurrah," said Gray, a 40-year-old who literally has gray in his beard. "I'm glad to say I spent two decades as a drug-free athlete. I ran against some legends, guys younger than me, and they retired long ago. I ducked no one."
Tonight's program features a pair of interesting 5,000-meter finals.
Regina Jacobs, the 1,500 winner on Sunday, will step up, while Deena Drossin, the 10,000 winner, will step down. Despite injuries that have slowed their training, the most dangerous customers in the men's race are Bob Kennedy and Adam Goucher, the American record holder and reigning national champion, respectively.
Tonight's other finals are in the men's hammer throw and women's shot put. American record holder Lance Deal led last night's qualifying in the hammer, with an effort of 245 feet, 11 inches.
Bethesda's Pascal Dobert overtook Mark Croghan in the last 50 meters of the 3,000 steeplechase and won in 8:15.77. ... Columbia's Matt Holthaus was fifth in his section of the 800, in 1:48.55. ... The Clark clan looked strong in the preliminaries of the women's 800. Sisters Hazel Clark and Joetta Clark-Diggs won heats, as Hazel held off sister-in-law Jearl Miles-Clark in hers.