T & F: Wariner looks to stay on top in 400 Take a look at the list of the world’s all-time best 400-meter times, and you’ll have to scroll down to No. 72 before you find the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Gary Kikaya’s 2006 time.
Photo Courtesy: www.iaaf.org/Errol Anderson, The Sporting Image - Jeremy Wariner running at the Michael Johnson Classic in Waco.
Take a look at the list of the world’s all-time best 400-meter times, and you’ll have to scroll down to No. 72 before you find the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Gary Kikaya’s 2006 time of 44.10 seconds — the first non-American result the men’s list.
It’s a level of dominance unmatched in any individual event, men’s or women’s, in the track-and-field record book. And of the 12 Americans who have contributed to that list, none have been more dominant than Michael Johnson. With 25 of the 72 fastest times recorded, including the fastest one, Johnson is the undisputed king of the quarter mile.
That position, it appears, is not safe.
To be sure, Johnson’s likely heir apparent was identified years ago when fellow Baylor alum Jeremy Wariner won the gold medal at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games and followed that up with the IAAF World Championships gold medals in 2005 and 2007.
But Wariner stepped back after that. Following a coaching change, the Texan sprinter took silver medals at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and the 2009 Worlds, and for those two years fell to No. 2 in the event, behind fellow American LaShawn Merritt. Merritt won the gold medal in the 400 in Beijing. He was suspended following a positive drug test but will be eligible to compete July 27, 2011, in time to run at the World Championships in South Korea.
For Wariner, those two years of being No. 2 was two years too many.
Wariner rejoined his old coach in 2009, regained his No. 1 ranking in 2010 and has reignited his quest to eventually supplant Johnson as the best quarter-miler ever.
That progress has continued. One week after a frustrating season-opening 400 against heavy wind at his home track in Waco, Texas, Wariner blew away the field Saturday at the Drake Relays in Iowa, clocking the fastest U.S. outdoor time of the year so far at 45.19 seconds.
“Every year I want to go out and be the No. 1 quarter-miler in the world, set the world record and this season is the World Championships,” said Wariner, who ran three of the four fastest times last season, including the fastest one, despite having an abbreviated racing schedule.
He’s picked up right where he left off so far this season.
After off-season surgery to repair torn meniscus in his right knee, Wariner came into 2011 rested and healthy. He promptly recorded his best season-opening 200 since 2006.
“I think Jeremy’s training is going as good this year as in any year in the past,” his longtime coach Clyde Hart said. “He’s not way ahead, he’s not behind; I think he is just where he wants to be.”
The athlete is even more optimistic.
“I’m probably about two weeks ahead of schedule training-wise from where I was two years ago,” he said of the last World Championships season. “We are