- The Washington Times - Monday, July 24, 2000

SACRAMENTO, Calif. No scriptwriter in the world could have written this final act any more dramatically.

The long-awaited duel between Maurice Greene and Michael Johnson took a painful twist yesterday at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, as both pulled up lame during the 200-meter final and failed to qualify for the event at the Olympics in Sydney.

Both Greene and Johnson wanted very badly to win the 200 meters before a record sun-baked crowd of 24,072 in the final event of this eight-day extravaganza. Greene already clinched a spot in the 100, Johnson in the 400.

"It's disappointing but you can't have everything," said Johnson, moments after a severe cramp in his left leg forced him out of the race midway around the curve. "I'm going to represent my country in the 400."

Johnson pulled up as if he had been shot. Greene tore past him on the inside, heading for an apparent victory.

Then just before the straightaway, with 110 meters remaining, Greene slowed from a blazing sprint to a trot. John Capel stole the thunder, winning in a remarkable 19.85, the sixth fastest American time ever and the ninth fastest time in history.

Johnson didn't seem too concerned with the cramp.

"I don't believe it's a terrible pull," Johnson said. "It was very painful when it happened. One of the most severe cramps I've ever experienced. I didn't have any problems in the semifinals. I felt cramps in both hip areas [doing the two practice starts] but I thought they'd go away. It was the most bizarre race I've ever been in."

The extent of Greene's injury was not immediately known, although it appeared to be in the right leg.

The two met in the first heat of the semifinals, where Greene, emulating Kermit the Frog in green spikes and a green bodysuit, tore off from the start and drew alongside Johnson well before the corner ended.

It looked as though Greene would deal Johnson a huge loss as he pulled away, until Johnson flew by Greene with 75 meters left.

Then out of nowhere, from the outside, charged Capel. He upstaged the Greene-Johnson show with the win, just a preview of things to come a couple of hours later.

In the women's 200, Marion Jones met the expectations with her triumph over Inger Miller. Jones ran 21.94 and appeared to be headed for an easy victory, but with 50 meters left, Miller was closing fast. She ran out of track, finishing in 22.09. Nanceen Perry was third in 22.38.

In their first meeting of the day in the semifinals, Jones blew by Miller on the inside before they came out of the curve.

She quickly pulled away from Miller and coasted down the straightaway to a time of 22.08. Miller was far back in second in 22.40.

The men's and women's 800 meters had considerable interest in the Washington area.

In the women's race, Meredith Rainey-Valmon of Silver Spring was out-leaned at the tape for a trip to Sydney.

Rainey-Valmon was struggling to hang on to third place down the stretch but Joetta Clark-Diggs caught Rainey-Valmon with 30 meters to go. Rainey-Valmon surged ahead for a second until Clark-Diggs dug down for one last push at the tape.

Officials reviewed the photo finish for two minutes. Clark-Diggs ran 1:59.49 for the last spot on the team while Rainey-Valmon ran 1:59.50, out of the money.

With that, she announced her retirement.

"Am I devastated? No, it's disappointing, but not unbelievable," said Rainey-Valmon, 31. "My goal was to come out and run as hard as I could. I got distracted. I was watching the screen in the last 50 meters instead of putting my head down and improving my form."

"You saw me run in my last race ever," said Rainey-Valmon, who has a 3-year-old son Travis and plans to work hard with the 2012 Coalition to bring the Olympics to the Baltimore/Washington region. "I made that decision in January. With my lifestyle now as a mom, I just cannot train the way I need to be tops in the world."

The race ended as a family affair, as Clark-Diggs' baby sister, Hazel Clark, won in 1:58.97 and her sister-in-law, Jearl Miles-Clark, was second in 1:59.12.

Rich Kenah of Reston felt much the same as Rainey-Valmon did when he was edged out of a spot on the 1996 Olympic team.

"When I came across the line back then, I said that was it," Kenah recalled.

Yesterday, Kenah sprinted from fifth into second over the last 250 meters to grab second place in the 800 meters in 1:46.05. Training partner and Arlington resident Bryan Woodward clung to the third spot in 1:46.09.

"I realized in watching the races here this week that the person who really makes the move near the end makes it into the top three," said Kenah, whose wife Cheri did not qualify in the 5,000 meters earlier in the week.

"At this level, you can't make but one move, if you want it to be effective."

First it was Woodward who moved off the last turn, then Kenah, as Mark Everett raced alone to his third Olympic team. Kenah caught Woodward with about 10 meters to go.

After the race, while Kenah rejoiced with Cheri, Woodward sat overwhelmed by emotion and the 100-degree heat.

"It was from the effort, the mental exhaustion," Woodward said. "This just came all year long. You think about this every day and the next thing I know, I'm on the line trying to make it happen. It's so surreal. Finally, I'm glad it was over. I'm glad I made the team."

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