- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 22, 2003

Rain has become the ultimate four-letter word in the Washington area.

It seems the weather gods mistakenly thought we live in the state of Washington, not in Washington, D.C.

It is getting much easier to predict the weather around here. I believe the major weather gurus have been correct an astonishing 99 percent of the time in the past few months.

Running in the rain is not particularly entertaining, but it does beat running in conditions like 100 degrees and 90 percent humidity.

No doubt it has been challenging for runners in the past nine months. First the sniper attacks in October kept many runners off the roads, then the snowy winter kept some runners off the roads and now the rains are washing even more runners off the roads.

The National Weather Service has just declared that we are entering the rainy season now. What the heck does it call the last few months?

Greatest show in America —The USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Palo Alto, Calif., came at the perfect time this year to get some media attention. Basketball and hockey have ended, football has not yet begun ramping up and baseball is in the ho-hum part of its season.

The incentive for the top U.S. athletes to compete at nationals this year is to qualify for the World Championships in Paris from Aug.22-31. Just about all our top athletes except pregnant Marion Jones are participating at Stanford University.

You can log on to the Internet today and follow the men’s and women’s 800 and 200 (watch for wunderkind Allyson Felix), as well as the men’s and women’s triple jump, women’s high jump and men’s pole vault. Go to http://usatf.org/events/2003/USAOutdoorTFChampionships/schedule.asp

It will be interesting to see how Reston’s Alan Webb fares in the men’s 1,500 meters, scheduled for 5:20 p.m. EDT. Webb barely made it to the finals as the 12th and final qualifier, finishing eighth in the second heat.

Fortunately for Webb, he was in the faster heat. The top four placers in each heat advanced, plus the top four times of the remaining field. Webb’s 3:48.25 was faster than all finishers in the first heat.

The spectacle at this year’s nationals has been Tim Montgomery. The 100-meter world record-holder is an easy target on many levels, from his rivalry with former world record holder Maurice Greene to his former affiliation with banned coach Charlie Francis to his relationship with girlfriend Jones, who is expecting the couple’s second child next month.

Montgomery has done a tremendous amount of stumbling since setting the world record in Paris on Sept.14, 2002. But his latest stumble — out of the blocks in Friday’s 100-meter finals at nationals — nearly cost him a trip to the World Championships.

It’s mind-boggling that Montgomery — who admits he is hurting without a coach at this time — experimented with his start in such an important race. Three steps out of the blocks, the 28-year-old lost his balance.

“I was trying to extend my stride, but I couldn’t hold it,” Montgomery told Reuters. “So I went down, touched the track with my hand, came up and looked up and said, ‘Aw, man, this race is over.’”

He proceeded to run what may have been the fastest 80 meters in history, catching all but winner Bernard Williams in 10.15, far off his 9.78 WR.

Montgomery said he decided to change his stride after he noticed in the first round that it appeared choppy at the start, a decision that a coach may not have made going into a championship final.

“I didn’t stay down long enough [when driving out of the blocks], so I said I was going to lengthen my stride,” Montgomery said. “I lengthened it and I couldn’t hold it, and that’s what happened. Today my race needed a lot of help.”

Has he lost his focus?

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