Hastings wins, sets meet record

  ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Natasha Hastings’ extensive medal collection had already included golds from the Olympic Games, as well as the World, NCAA and SEC Championships.

   Oh, and a heap of golds won at the Armory, in a long list of scholastic and collegiate glories.

   And now, at last, there’s one from the USATF National Indoor Championships in that vast, golden array.

  The 24-year-old Brooklynite, out of A.P. Randolph Campus High School and the University of South Carolina, left no doubt about her intentions at Sunday’s concluding session of the annual USATF Indoor Nationals at the Albuquerque Convention Center.

   Running out of lane six, high atop the first curve on the 200-meter banked track, Hastings broke out of the blocks in blazing fashion, stayed in front around the second turn, bolted to the inside lane after going through the break line, and was simply off and away on a mission.

   She was two strides in front of her top foes – and Olympic teammates - DeeDee Trotter and Mary Wineberg after a lap and gave nothing back on lap two, powering to the line a clearcut winner in a joyful 50.83 seconds.

   This was not only the fastest women’s 400 meters in the world this year – easily besting the 51.22 by Russia’s Olesya Kranomovets-Forsheva attained two weeks ago – but a USA Indoor Nationals meet record, too, erasing the 50.86 by Debbie Dunn in Albuquerque last year.

   “This is one I really wanted,” said Hastings. “I was fourth here last year and knew I could do better. This time it was my day.”

   The official result sheets proved it wasn’t really close.  Trotter took second in 51.36, with Wineberg third (52.56) and Leslie Cole fourth (52.94.)

  Sure it was fast – but it wasn’t Hastings’ hastiest-ever, either.  She’d run a 50.80 winning the 2007 NCAA title in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

   Another thing Hastings isn’t yet is the all-time NYCite – or Brooklynite – record-holder. That disinction remains the possession of two-time Olympian Diane Dixon, with her 50.64 back in 1991.

   And Dixon’s 50.64 is topped only by Francena McCorory’s 50.54 on the all-time American women’s 400 list.  So, bottom line is that Hastings is No. 3 American all-time, while threatening to move up the charts every time she steps into the starting blocks.

  Hastings – like every winner here – earned a $2,500 paycheck for her triumph.

   But the really big bonus bucks - $25,000 of them – went to pole vaulter Jenn Suhr and sprinter Michael Rodgers, after their victories here with the best male and female performances – based on the IAAF scoring tables – in  the three-meet Visa Championship Series (comprising the Millrose Games, New Balance Boston Grand Prix and USATFs.)

  Suhr soared. To an American women’s indoor record of 15 feet, 11 ¼ inches.

But it wasn’t her best-ever – she’d cleared 16-1 3/4 outdoors at the 2008 Olympic Trials.

  Clearing an identical 14-11, but placing 2-3-4 on the misses rule, were Becky Holliday, Melinda Owen and Lacy Janson.
  Rodgers, who ran collegiately at Oklahoma Baptist, was a clearcut winner of the men’s 60-meter sprint, taking just 6.48 to win his 25 grand.  Coming in, he’d shared the world lead with Kim Collins of St. Kitts at 6.50.

  Another most impressive winner was Jill Camarena-Williams, the Stanford grad who now competes for NYAC.  Her shot put triumph at 65-2 ¼ was, all at once, a personal best, meet record, American record and world leader. More importantly, it put her right up there with the world’s best and gives credence to the idea that she has what it takes to medal at this summer’s World Championships and next year’s London Olympic Games.
  An encouraging 58-11 ¼ toss gave the silver medal to Sarah Stevens-Walker, representing Shore AC.

  Harrisburg, Pa. product Ryan Whiting again showed why he, too, is being rated a men's shot put medal threat in all the big ones on the agenda. Whiting’s big 70-0 ½ heave was yet another world leader – and he won it easily over vets Dan Taylor (66-3) and Dartmouth grad Adam Nelson (66-1 ½.)
  After Michael Courtney’s recent 400-meter win at the Armory, many were asking “who’s that guy?”

 Well, the guessing’s over now. The former San Houston (Texas) State University star is the 2011 USA indoor 400 champion – after his decisive 46.11 win over Mississippi State’s Tavaris Tate (46.53.)

  Other Sunday Nationals women’s men’s golden notables:

 Jenny Barringer, the mile winner in 4:34.96, a day after winning the 3,000 meters, who keeps proving she’s a lot more than one heck of a steeplechaser.
  Plus Hampton U. grad hurdler Kellie Wells (7.79) and Colorado State alumna long jumper Janay DeLoach (22-11 ¼), two more world year bests.

  And for the men:
 Texas Tech high hurdler Omo Osaghae (7.52), LSU grad long jumper Jeremy Hicks (25-2) and ex-Ohio State miler Jeff See (a strategic 4:04.63.)

  After Rafeeq Curry won the triple jump Saturday, Shore AC athletes continued having a big Nationals.  Shameka Marshall placed fourth in the women’s long jump (21-4 ¼), Nick Price was sixth in the men’s shot put (58-11 ½) and Johnta Griffin and Tyrone Harris 8-9 in the long jump.

  Monmouth University’s Vinnie Elardo went eighth in the men’s shot put (56-5 ¾.) NYAC’s Annick Lamar (4:51.87) and Lesley Higgins (4:55.28) and Central Park Track Club’s Catherine Beck (4:58.06) ran 8-9-11 in the women’s mile.