- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 1, 2003

Allyson Felix will be feeling the weight of the world on her back today as she sets into her blocks at the Home Depot Invitational in Los Angeles.

Not only is she a 17-year-old senior breaking into the ranks of the elite women in track, the Los Angeles Baptist High School student will perform before a large crowd of family and friends.

Felix already has been compared with sprint queen Marion Jones. Last month Felix broke Jones’ U.S. junior record in the 200 meters with a time of 22.51 seconds at the Mt. SAC Relays in California. That after placing second in the USA Indoor nationals in March with a 23.14 junior record time.

It would be fair to call Felix our American sprint princess.

Then she shocked the international track community with a world junior record 22.11 seconds in Mexico City on May3, currently this year’s world-leading 200-meter time by a big two tenths of a second.

To put this in perspective, only 26 other women have run faster than 22.11 over 200 meters.

“At the beginning of the year, my goal was always to break Marion Jones’ [U.S. junior] record,” Felix said during a teleconference with reporters last week. “After that, I readjusted my goals. Now I’m focused on making the World Championships team.”

Next up after Home Depot are the state high school championships next week. Then Felix, who took up serious running only as a freshman, will seek to place in the top three at the USA nationals and qualify for the Worlds.

The beauty of Felix’s situation is that she is just 17. Her two sprint heroes — all-time list leaders Florence Griffith-Joyner and Jones — were 28 and just shy of 23, respectively, when they ran their personal best times of 21.34 and 21.62.

“I definitely followed her career,” Felix said of Jones, who is a month or so away from giving birth. “She is someone I look up to. I understand where people are coming from when they make the comparison, and I take that as a compliment, to be mentioned in the same sentence as Marion. But I also want to be something different. I’m my own person.”

Felix plans to attend the University of Southern California in the fall, and she said she is focusing on the 2004 Olympic Games in Greece. She also said she would not rule out turning professional. A hint to Nike?

Either way, she’ll be exciting to watch. With Jones back on track next year, we could see some dynamite races.

Busted gals — Last week was a tough one for a few African women and their drug tests. EPO must have been in the air in Lausanne, Switzerland, during the Cross Country World Championships in March. Moroccan Asmae Leghzaoui and Kenyan Pamela Chepchumba were suspended from competition after failing separate drug tests after the race.

Erythropoietin or Epogen (EPO), a blood booster, was the culprit.

Leghzaoui was 12th in the short-course race and Chepchumba sixth in the women’s 8K event.

Then South African phenom Elana Meyer, the 1992 Olympic silver medalist in 10,000 meters, failed a second drug test for excessive caffeine. Caffeine is classified as a stimulant, according to the International Association of Athletics Federation.

Coffee was suspected, but with Meyer’s tiny body, it probably doesn’t take much of it to affect her caffeine levels.

Hot one — Online registration for the Annapolis Ten Miler will open today. Sign up early — this late August scorcher fills up fast.

There will be no hard copy registration forms, according to race officials, so it’s online or on the sidelines.

Could be fun — The 2003 Toms River 200-Miler is scheduled Friday and Saturday. This fun overnight relay along the C&O; Canal towpath begins in Cumberland, Md., and ends in Bethesda. Twenty runners comprise each team (including support crew and bike escorts), with each person running a minimum of 10 miles (though not necessarily all at once). Contact Cori Asaka at [email protected] or go to www.TomsRun.org.

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