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Gay beats Gatlin to win 100 at nationals

Saturday - 6/22/2013, 11:54am  ET

Tyson Gay, center, leads Justin Gatllin, left, and Charles Silmon during the senior men's 100-meter dash final at the U.S. Championships athletics meet, Friday, June 21, 2013, in Des Moines, Iowa. Gay won the race in 9.75 seconds. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

PAT GRAHAM
AP Sports Writer

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- So sore for so long, Tyson Gay is sometimes leery of digging deep and testing out that surgically repaired hip.

In a race between a fellow thirty-something, he really had no choice.

Down early against Justin Gatlin after a slow start, Gay had ground to make up. So, he cranked it up a level.

The hip responded just fine. And with it any doubts about Gay's health instantly vanished as he roared back to beat Gatlin to capture the 100 meters on Friday night at the U.S. championships.

Gay finished in a time of 9.75 seconds, the fastest in the world this season. Gatlin, wearing a support bandage on his tweaked right hamstring, wound up in second. Charles Silmon took third as he held off Michael Rodgers by two-thousandths of a second for the last spot on the team headed to Moscow for the world championships in August.

"That," Gay said, his grin growing wider, "went good."

Indeed.

Even more, he was walking around without a grimace of pain following the race, something that hasn't been the case in recent years. He's been dealing with nagging groin and hamstring issues, along with that troublesome hip.

Finally, the 30-year-old is healthy. Finally, he's training without discomfort trailing him around the track.

"Tyson can be great if he's healthy," former Olympic champion Maurice Greene said.

In the women's 100, Oregon star and NCAA champion English Gardner, who just recently turned pro, captured the title, breezing past the field even on a balky ankle. Octavious Freeman was second and Alexandria Anderson took third to earn spots to worlds.

"I really came out and performed well," Gardner said. "It's going to be a long haul, me and this ankle. It's a very emotional battle."

Gay knows all about that. His hip was so tender last summer that he trained on grass leading up to the Olympic trials to save wear and tear.

At the trials, he gritted his teeth through the pain and made the team for the London Games.

Then came heartbreak, edged out by Gatlin in the Olympic final for the bronze medal. Instant tears after the race as Gay finished off the podium.

Gay wasn't ready to call the race Friday a statement, but it did show him this: He's on the right path.

"I want to run faster," Gay said. "But it felt good to get the win."

Gay entered the race with the fastest time in the world. But Gatlin had the more impressive win, recently beating Usain Bolt. Gatlin led early, only to be caught by Gay.

"He didn't show anything different than what I've seen of Tyson before," said the 31-year-old Gatlin, who tweaked his hamstring at a recent meet but hid the injury until Friday. "A healthy Justin and a prime Justin will be able to (race) all the way to the line."

The times were definitely faster on Friday after USA Track and Field elected to change the direction for all sprint events so they wouldn't be running into a strong gust, like they were the night before.

Instead of bursting from the blocks in the north end of the stadium and finishing in the south, it was reversed, with a cushioned mat against a wall at the end to help stop the runners, should they need it.

"It was a little bit scary," Gay said. "Indoors you run into a mat. You're running a lot faster outdoors, running into a mat."

A little disorienting running the opposite direction?

"Not really," Gay said. "It was just the whole mat thing in your mind."

Other winners on Friday were A.G. Kruger (hammer throw), Brad Walker (pole vault), Lance Brooks (discus) and Sharon Day (heptathlon). It was a quite a two-day stretch for Day as she as she finished with a personal-best score of 6,550 points.

Lolo Jones got the crowd revved up early in the evening by running a fast time in the first round of the 100 hurdles, finishing in 12.50 seconds. A native of Des Moines, she grew up attending meets in this stadium and pumped her fist in exhilaration after crossing the line.

"Competitors are like, 'Could you please tell them to be quiet? I'm trying to focus,'" Jones said. "But it really fuels me.

"I'm peaking at the right time."

So is NCAA hurdle champion Brianna Rollins, who had the fastest time in the heats (a wind-aided 12.33) in her first race as a professional after a standout career at Clemson.

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