Former Leto High and University of South Florida track star Damu Cherry made it clear she is the one to beat in the women's 100 hurdles at the USA Track & Field Outdoor Nationals, when she posted the season's fastest time in the world under any conditions during her opening-round race Saturday in Eugune, Ore.
Cherry, fourth at the 2008 Beijing Games, took her first-round heat in a wind-aided time of 12.49 seconds. That was .15 ahead of 2005 world champion Michelle Perry running in the same heat, and nearly a tenth of a second ahead of the No. 2 qualifier, three-time NCAA champion Tiffany Ofili of Michigan.
"I've been having good workouts, so I knew I was ready to run," Cherry said. "I was really happy to handle the wind. ... I'm just taking it one round at a time and having fun."
The semifinals and finals for the women's 100 hurdles are today. The first three finishers in each event make the Team USA roster for the IAAF World Championships, Aug. 15-23 in Berlin, Germany. The top six in the 100- and 400-meter dashes also will make the world team as part of the U.S. relay pool.
Less than an hour after Cherry's race, Freedom High product Calvin Smith stamped his ticket to Berlin as part of a relay squad when he took sixth in the men's 400 finals in 45.56. Smith, however, said he is unsure if he will sign up for the U.S. squad. The deadline to declare his intention is today.
"My coach Mike Holloway doesn't want me to go if I'm not going to run in Berlin," Smith said. "I'm not sure right now what I'll do. I need to talk to my dad former track Olympian Calvin Smith and the U.S. coach before I decide."
Smith, a University of Florida junior, made the 2008 Olympic team as an alternate in the 4x400 relay and did not run during the Games.
In Saturday's final, Smith ran in Lane 8 - unable to see his competition until the final turn - despite posting the fourth-fastest time of the semifinals.