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James and Merritt in photo finish in the Pre 400

May 31, 2014

EUGENE, Oregon (AP) — Kirani James of Grenada edged American Lashawn Merritt in a photo finish to win the men’s 400 meters Saturday at the 40th annual Prefontaine Classic.

James, the gold medalist in the 2012 London Olympics, bested his rival by leaning at the end to finish in 43.97 seconds, best in the world this season, in the third IAAF Diamond League event of the year.

“I always like leaving a race and having something that I need to work on,” Merritt said. “There’s a lot of spots in that race that I could work on. And the fact that I ran fast and I feel there’s still some things I could work on, that’s great for me.”

Justin Gatlin won the 100 meters with a wind-aided 9.76 seconds. Had it not been for the breeze, Gatlin’s time would have been the best in the world so far this season. It was the 2004 Olympic gold medalist’s third 100 title at the Prefontaine.

Tori Bowie won the star-studded 200 with a personal-best 22.18. Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix, who continues to make her return from a hamstring injury in the world championships last season, came in third at 22.44. Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce faded and finished last.

“I know where I’m at. I know what I need to work on,” Felix said. “My speed isn’t exactly there yet. Work on that and then hopefully it just keeps coming.”

Pascal Martinot-Lagarde of France won the 110 hurdles in a season-best 13.13 after reigning Olympic gold medalist and world record holder, Aries Merritt, withdrew from the meet on Saturday morning after he sustained a hamstring injury in practice.

Botswana’s Nijel Amos won the 800 in a meet record 1:43.63. The race featured world record holder and Olympic gold medalist David Rushida, who pulled out of last year’s Pre because of a knee injury that sidelined him for most of last year. Rushida finished seventh.

Leo Manzano, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist in the 1,500, won the international mile in 3:52.40, also a world best this season. Kenyan Mercy Cherono won the two-mile race in 9:13.27.

Breast-cancer survivor Novlene Willams-Mills of Jamaica won the women’s 400 in 40.41, while Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards Ross faded to sixth.

Kenyan Helen Obiri won the 1,500 in 3:57.05. Other winners included Souleiman Ayanleh of Djibouti, who won the Bowerman Mile in a meet-record. 3:47.32; Kenyan Caleb Mwangangi Ndiku, who won the 5,000 meters in 13:01.71, Russian Anna Chicherova with a leap of 6 feet, 7 inches; Renaud Lavillenie of France with a pole vault of 19-0 1/4 and American Will Claye with a triple jump of 57-11 1/4.

The Prefontaine Classic is named for the legendary Oregon runner Steve Prefontaine, who died in 1975.

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