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Illinois Hurdlers, Hamilton Set Pace

April 27, 2002

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ Suzy Favor Hamilton and Illinois’ hurdlers got the victories they wanted in the soggy, wind-blown Drake Relays.

Though she had hoped to go much faster, Hamilton still ran the fastest outdoor time in the world this year in the 3,000 meters Saturday, winning easily in 8 minutes, 56.03 seconds.

She did that after the Illinois team of Camee Williams, Perdita Felicien and twins Jenny and Susanna Kallur dominated the women’s hurdles.

First, that foursome won the shuttle hurdle relay for the second straight year. An hour later, after they had ducked inside to escape the 45-degree chill, Felicien led an Illinois sweep of the top four places in the 100-meter hurdles. Susanna Kallur was second, followed by Williams and Jenny Kallur.

``I think we knew we could do it,″ said Felicien, who anchored the relay victory and won the open race in 13.34 seconds. ``Go Illinois. I mean, we do this in practice every single day.″

The lousy weather held down times and distances and prompted several athletes and relay teams to scratch. Gusty wind accompanied the rain that fell most of the day and the meet was suspended for 45 minutes because of lightning, the first interruption in memory.

The men’s 400 hurdles, which Joey Woody won for the third time, had only four runners. The pole vault had a world-class field that included American record holder Jeff Hartwig and 2000 Olympic gold medalist Nick Hysong, but only two of the 12 jumpers cleared a height.

So many teams pulled out of the women’s shuttle hurdle relay that two of the four heats were canceled. Even Illinois thought about scratching, but Williams, the group’s only senior, persuaded her teammates to run.

After all, three of the Illinois runners were on the cover of the meet’s program and all four were featured on posters.

``I think we felt we at least owed them to run to show them why we were on the cover of everything,″ Williams said. ``That totally blew our minds to see us everywhere. We’ll never have that again. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing.″

Illinois won the relay in 53.95, well short of the meet record of 52.85 they set in warm, sunny conditions last year but still more than 3 1/2 seconds faster than second-place Oklahoma.

Hamilton, continuing her comeback after her collapse in the 1,500 at the Sydney Olympics, ran the 3,000 for only the second time in 11 years and was well under the previous world best of 9:13.51. She had hoped to run about 10 seconds faster.

``I’m surprised I went under nine because the whole day my legs never really warmed up, so they kind of felt tight throughout the whole race,″ Hamilton said. ``If the weather was nice, I really felt I could have gone under 8:45, which is what I was looking to do today.″

Hamilton wanted to run a 3,000 as part of her endurance training. She’ll go back to focusing on the 1,500 this summer.

``I really want to be peaking more in July and August, so this is a good stepping stone,″ she said. ``It’s a confidence builder and a good feeling knowing the race came easy.″

Derek Miles, who trains with Hartwig in Jonesboro, Ark., cleared 18-1 to win the pole vault. Hartwig was the only other jumper to get over the bar, clearing 17-9. The rain held off during the event but not the wind.

``It was killing everybody,″ Hartwig said. ``Those poles are kind of like a mast on a sailboat and even though there’s no sail attached to them, the wind still catches them and they’re light enough that the wind can actually turn your body and change your posture.

``Just to plant the pole and make it into the pit, it was like we should get credit for something like that.″

The weather didn’t bother Southern Methodist’s Libor Charfreitag, who made just one attempt in the hammer throw and set a meet record of 238-9.

``That was my worst throw of the season,″ he said. ``I’m surprised it broke the record.″

Kip Lagat held off a late charge by Bryan Berryhill to win the mile in 4:02.11.

Lagat, who has the two fastest mile times in the world this year, had been coasting until Berryhill kicked with about 200 yards to go. Berryhill was about to draw even about 50 yards from the finish before Lagat came e up with a final burst to win it.

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