Olympics

Wariner hangs on to advance to 400 final

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP)

Jeremy Wariner churned down the track and, believing he was in the clear, coasted toward the finish line.

He was simply trying to conserve energy. He nearly went home early.

A tactical error almost cost Wariner in the semifinals in the 400 meters at the U.S. Olympic trials Saturday. After a casual stroll down the backstretch, Wariner had to hustle to the line to earn the fourth and final spot in his heat.

''But I made it to the next round,'' he said.

He held off a hard-charging Torrin Lawrence, who nearly caught him with a late burst.

Up until that little lapse of judgment, it had been a solid race for Wariner. And despite slowing down, he still turned in a solid time of 45.27 seconds.

Even then, he still was well behind top rival LaShawn Merritt, who easily posted the top mark in the semifinals at 44.78.

Wariner knows it's going to take another gear to make this squad.

''I'm where I want to be at,'' said Wariner, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist. ''I'll show you all.''

The final is Sunday.

Wariner insists he's returning to the Wariner of old, the one who dominated the rivalry with Merritt and captured the 2004 Olympic gold medal.

Lately, he's been hampered by injuries. He sat out the end of last season as he recovered from a case of turf toe. While on the shelf, he also had an injured knee repaired.

Now, Wariner is steadily working his way back.

''I got out well,'' he said. ''My first 200 was perfect and I worked the turn real well. But I kind of eased up down the home stretch and it cost me toward the end.''

Merritt said he knows all about the fine line between trying to save strength and finishing strong.

''You have to go from the gun to the finish line,'' he said. ''I've lost thousands of dollars in prize money by a tenth of a second.

''You don't know where everybody is. People have late surges and everything. You've got to run all the way to the finish line, unless you're clearly in the lead.''

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TEARY EXIT: For hurdler Joanna Hayes, the tears fell because this was it - the last race of her career.

For shot putter Adam Nelson, the emotions were more over the notion he's not really sure what his next step will be.

Nelson broke down in the arms of his wife after failing to qualify for the final. Soon to be 37, this just might be the last trials for the two-time Olympic silver medalist.

''But I never say never,'' he said. ''I'm doing what I love right now. It doesn't get old.''

Like Nelson, Hayes was downtrodden after not advancing. Her performance she could live with. That her comeback at 35 fell short, well, that hurt. Bad.

''I love this sport. I love being out there,'' said Hayes, who won Olympic gold in 2004. ''I do know that if I could've focused on training all year and not had a million other things, I think I could've been right there with them.''

That was hardly an option. Hayes has a young daughter to care for and with no sponsors backing her, she had to work different jobs to help support the family.

''Without those other things, I'm not me and not at this stage of my life,'' she said. ''I have my daughter and I can't even put into words how important she is. I just wanted to do something to make her proud.''

Nelson never felt comfortable in the shot put ring. Maybe it was the groin he tweaked three weeks ago, or perhaps it was the heavy rain that was falling, but he fouled on his first two attempts before recording a throw of 60 feet, 7 1/4 inches.

His last throw at a major meet?

''As long as I continue to have that passion, I'll probably do it in one form or another,'' Nelson said. ''I have to go back home and regroup.''

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FLOWER POWER: On a drizzly day, 800 runner Alysia Montano wore a big, bright yellow plastic flower in her hair.

To bring a little sunshine to this dreary day?

''Yeah, that,'' she said, laughing.

Montano easily won her heat and now will spend a leisurely day playing video games and maybe taking in a movie before trying to earn a spot to the Olympics in the final on Monday.

''Just relax,'' she said. ''Stay out of the whole track world.''

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LOLO'S TRIUMPH: Lolo Jones awoke Saturday morning afraid that the London Olympics would elude her.

Jones hadn't fared well in the rain during the heats in the 100 hurdles. That put her on edge going into the final.

''I've been fighting this whole season ... filled with doubt and fear this whole season,'' she said. ''I woke up this morning and I didn't think I was making the Olympic team.''

But Jones used a late lean to take third place in the event, finishing behind Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells for a spot in London.

Jones, who had back surgery to fix a tethered spinal cord last August, fell to her knees on the track with a broad smile on her face when the results were announced.

At the Beijing Olympics, Harper ran right by the favorite Jones when she tripped on the ninth hurdle.

''I'm just thrilled, thrilled, to have another shot,'' Jones said.

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AROUND THE OVAL: Sanya Richards-Ross advanced to the 400 final Sunday with a rather easy run in the semis. ... Walter Dix said a nagging left hamstring felt just fine as he advanced in the first round of the 100. ''Everything is holding up pretty good,'' he said. ... The trials were delayed nearly 30 minutes because of a heavy downpour.

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AP Sports Writer Anne M. Peterson contributed to this report.

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