|Allyson Felix (L) and Quanera Hayes (R) compete in the women's 400-meter at the 2015 USATF Outdoor Championships at Hayward Field on June 26, 2015 in Eugene, Ore.
EUGENE, Ore. – Allyson Felix’s “Great 400-meter Experiment of 2015” almost fizzled.
She was in fourth place on the final straightaway Saturday at the USATF Outdoor Championships. Then the Olympic 200-meter champion’s blazing speed kicked in and she methodically picked off the runners ahead of her, catching Natasha Hastings at the tape.
“Did I scare you?” Felix said she asked her coach, Bobby Kersee. She laughed. “But glad to get it done.”
Felix, who also won the 400 outdoor national title in 2011, posted a winning time of 50.19 seconds, with Hastings at 50.25 and Phyllis Francis the surprising third-place finisher in 50.67.
Francena McCorory, who had the two fastest times in the world this season and was the favorite coming out of the semifinals, fell across the finish line in fourth place at 50.88.
“Today just wasn’t my day,” McCorory said graciously. “I’m happy for the ladies who got it.”
The women’s 400-meter field in the United States is so deep that the reigning Olympic champion, Sanya Richards-Ross, and the reigning Olympic bronze medalist, DeeDee Trotter, didn’t even make the final.
However, McCorory could still be at the starting line in Beijing in August at the world championships depending on a decision Felix has to make.
Based on her Diamond League title last season, Felix has a bye into the world championships in the 200.
She doubled in 2011 at the world championships in Daegu, South Korea, winning the silver medal in the 400 and the bronze in the 200. At that meet, there were two rest days between the end of the 400 and the beginning of the 200.
Felix was disappointed to discover that the Beijing schedule puts the 400 final about an hour before the 200 semifinal. Her camp considers that double out of the question.
In Daegu, Felix won four medals, tying Carl Lewis for most U.S. medals at the world championships with 10. She was primed to add to her total in 2013, but tore a hamstring in the 200-meter final.
Felix could finally surpass Lewis in Beijing. But in which event?
“I feel like I still haven’t reached my potential there (in the 400),” said Felix, who will also probably run at least one of the relays. “I’ll say that. I still feel like I could challenge myself more there.”
Then she broke into a smile. “But I still love the 200 and it’s difficult to be out of it — even tomorrow — watching.”
She said the decision is ultimately up to Kersee, who is thinking ahead to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. “He wanted to really see how I handled this here, with rounds and everything,” said Felix, adding that she hoped to arrive at a decision quickly so as not to leave McCorory hanging.
When she crossed the line Saturday, Felix said she didn’t know she had won. “I just knew I wanted to dig deep and leave it all the track,” she said. “Just buckled down and went for it.”
Hastings, who was well ahead of the rest of the field entering the straightaway, said she didn’t feel Felix beside her until the tape.
“By the time I realized she was ahead of me I realized I was on the team, so it was OK,” said Hastings, who won the U.S. title in 2013. “One of the things that I always say about Team USA is ‘Our blessing is our curse.’ We’re so incredibly deep that it’s anybody’s race any given day.”
Hastings calls the 400 “The true test of will, speed and endurance all together in one.”
Karen Rosen is an Atlanta-based sportswriter who has covered 14 Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since 2009.