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Francena McCorory Takes Bite Out Of Big Apple With World-Leading Time

By Lynn Rutherford | June 13, 2015, 11:35 p.m. (ET)

Francena McCorory (center) leads the field on her way to winning the women's 400-meter final during at the USATF Outdoor Championships at Hornet Stadium on June 28, 2014 in Sacramento, Calif.

Francena McCorory wins the women's 400-meter during the IAAF Continental Cup at the Stade de Marrakech on September 13, 2014 in Marrakech, Morocco.

NEW YORK -- Francena McCorory has a message for Sanya Richards-Ross and Allyson Felix: catch me if you can.

The 26-year-old Virginia native continued her early-season dominance in the 400-meter at the 2015 adidas Grand Prix on New York City’s Randall’s Island on Saturday, posting a world-leading and meet-record time of 49.86 seconds. It was her third straight IAAF Diamond League victory.

“I was praying to go under 50 today, because I was kind of stuck at 50,” McCorory said. “Running 49.86 is just awesome. I still can’t believe it.”

After running behind teammate Natasha Hastings through the first part of the race, McCorory took the lead after the second bend, holding off challenges from Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas and Stephenie Ann McPherson of Jamaica. Hastings placed fourth.

“I knew the field was going to be tough, and I just wanted to work on the things my coach (Maurice Pierce) told me to work on,” McCorory said. “We’ve been working on my start, continuing to ingrain the race pattern in my head, so I’ll have it by the end of the summer. It’s going great.”

The runner is full of confidence for the 2015 USATF Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Oregon, in two weeks, where she may square off against Richards-Ross and Felix for top honors in the U.S. and a coveted spot at the 2015 IAAF World Championships on Aug. 22-30 in Beijing.

“I think we all know each other’s talent level,” she said. “I do think it will be interesting at the U.S. trials. It’s definitely like the world championships, minus a few people. It can be a blessing and a curse. … I feel like I’ve matured in my race. I feel very confident any time I step on the track, no matter who my competition is.”

After Eugene, McCorory hopes to challenge for the ultimate prize: world gold.

“I want to keep dropping my time and definitely medal at the world championships,” she said. “I’ve been to the last two and I haven’t gotten a medal in the individual yet, so that’s my main goal this year.”

Usain Bolt of Jamaica acknowledges the fans after winning the 200-meter final during the Adidas Grand Prix at Icahn Stadium on Randalls Island on June 13, 2015 in New York City.

McCorory’s race was just one of many highlights from U.S. track and field athletes at the adidas Grand Prix, where a near-capacity crowd gathered at Icahn Stadium. Many came to see the world’s fastest man, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, who won the men’s 200-meter in 20.29 seconds, just barely holding off Anguilla’s Zharnel Hughes. The two sprinters train together at the IAAF High Performance Training Center in Jamaica. Saturday’s 200-meter was not part of the season-long Diamond Race.

Bolt, who had pledged to run under 20 seconds, was disappointed in his performance, which was done in a -2.8m/s headwind.

“It wasn’t a good race for me. I don’t know what happened,” he said. “I didn’t run a good bend. I have to go back and analyze this race.”

There was no disappointment for Tori Bowie. Last year, the 24-year-old Mississippian captured the women's 100-meter title here; on Saturday, she crushed the field in the 200-meter, clocking a season’s best of 22.23 seconds, despite a headwind of -2.8m/s.

In one of the day’s most exciting finishes, Ben True made a bit of history, outkicking New Zealand’s Nick Willis to win the men’s 5,000-meter in 13:29.48. He is the first U.S. runner ever to claim victory in a 5,000-meter Diamond League race.

Headwinds were a factor in the men’s 110-meter hurdles, where U.S. teammates David Oliver, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, and Jason Richardson, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, finished one-two. Oliver’s winning time of 13.19 seconds was a bit off his season’s best of 13.14 seconds.

David Oliver wins the men's 110-meter hurdles during the adidas Grand Prix at Icahn Stadium on Randalls Island on June 13, 2015 in New York City.

“This win means a lot — I’ve been here four times and never won here,” Oliver, 33, said.

“There were stiff headwinds, so I knew the time was not going to be anything to write home about. I was glad I was able to win and I was happy Jason had a good performance, too. It’s like a win-win for me.”

This was the third victory of the season and the second Grand Prix title for Oliver, who sits atop the Diamond Race standings with nine points. Although he has a bye to the world championships, he plans to compete in Eugene.

“It’s important to get a good rhythm that carries you into the (world championships),” Oliver said. “I do have a bye, but I still want to go to the U.S. championships and compete to the very best of my ability and try to win there. I will run all the rounds, all-out every time.”

Oliver failed to make the 2012 Olympic team, finishing fifth at Olympic trials that year, but is looking to make a big comeback in Rio.

Team USA also grabbed the top two spots in men’s shot put. Joe Kovacs needed just two throws, hitting 21.67 meters on his second try to take the win. Jordan Clarke gained a season’s best 21.34 meters on his fifth throw to finish second. 

“I was happy with the consistency of my throws today,” Kovacs, 25, said. “I definitely wanted a bigger throw towards the end, but I’m happy with the series.”

Kovacs is looking ahead to Eugene and the fight to make the powerhouse U.S. shot put team.

“This is definitely a big boost of confidence,” he said. “We’re always regarded as the toughest team to make, and it’s going to be a shootout, which it should be. If you make the U.S. team, you should be confident and good to go in Beijing.”

The day wasn’t without controversy, and it came in the men’s 100-meter. Tyson Gay won with a time of 10.12 seconds, edging Keston Bledman of Trinidad and Tobago by a hundredth of a second. Bledman had been disqualified after a false start, but ran under protest.

Although pleased with the result, the American record holder admitted the false start contributed to his slow reaction out of the blocks. 

“Any time you get a victory you build your confidence, but my start wasn’t great,” Gay, 32, said. “My coach John (Smith) can’t run the race for me, and I feel bad, knowing I did it better in practice and ran like poop in the meet. I’m still working on it.”

Lynn Rutherford is a sportswriter based out of New York. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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