The question is: who will have the right mix of foot speed, technique and composure to win at the AT&T USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Indianapolis?
Michelle Perry is the defending world champion, but last year at this meet she was upended by rising star Ginnie Powell. Another newbie, Lolo Jones, has entered the scene, and familiar faces like Jenny Adams and, possibly, Joanna Hayes could make for a tight photo-finish. Earlier this year, at the adidas Track Classic, Perry, Powell and Jones went 1-2-3 and finished within 4 hundredths of a second of each other, while Powell won the Reebok Grand Prix (12.45PR and world leader) and Perry came back to win the Nike Prefontaine Classic over Powell (12.51).
A UCLA graduate, Perry was on the 2004 Olympic Team as a heptathlete. Just one year later, she was the world's dominant 100-meter hurdler and the world champion in the event. With the world title, a personal best of 12.43 and countless, major victories to her credit, Perry might be the woman to beat.
Don't tell that to Powell and Jones, though. A two-time NCAA champion, Powell in 2006 broke Devers' collegiate record in the hurdles (12.48) before going on to win the U.S. title in the event. With a tall, powerful build, she is an intimidating presence in the hurdles, and if she holds her momentum in the final third of the race she is tough to beat.
Jones found collegiate success in the hurdles and on powerhouse LSU's NCAA-champion relay teams. She stamped her mark on the professional ranks at the 2007 AT&T USA Indoor Track & Field Championships in Boston, where she beat a tough field to win her first national title and run the world's fastest time of the year. She was fifth at the 2006 AT&T USA Outdoor Championships in a personal-best time of 12.56.
And you can never forget about Hayes and Adams. The Olympic champion and Olympic record holder, Hayes has struggled with injuries since 2004. Adams has competed on two World Championship Teams and is almost always in the top 5 at U.S. championship events, including placing fourth in 2006.
World record: 12.21, Yordanka Donkova, Bulgaria, 1988
American record: 12.33, Gail Devers, 2000
Meet record: 12.33, Gail Devers, 2000
Time schedule: 1st round 4:45 p.m. Friday; semifinals 1:40 p.m. Saturday; final 2:52 Saturday
DID YOU KNOW? ...
* The women's hurdles were first held in the Olympic Games in 1932, as the 80-meter hurdles. The 100-meter hurdles were first held in the Olympics in 1972.
* Athletes must negotiate 10 hurdles, set 33 inches high, during the race. They take 3 strides between hurdles.
* Powell is a Buddhist, and says she chants as a ritual before every race.
* Jones should be a poster child for the United Nations. She is of French, African-American, Native American and Norwegian descent.
* Perry is a 2004 Olympian in the heptathlon.
* Adams was the 2001 USA indoor and outdoor long jump champion and also won the 2000 NCAA title in that event.
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photo Getty Images