SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Aries Merritt will be making a return to the world championships. This time, with a working kidney.
The world-record holder Merritt finished second behind Aleec Harris in the 110-meter hurdles at the U.S. track and field championships Sunday. His place — as long as it was top three — didn’t really matter. He just wanted a spot.
Merritt won bronze at the 2015 world championships in Beijing with his kidneys barely functioning because of a genetic disorder. He received the transplant from his sister less than a week later. Now healthy, he’s ready to see what he can do with worlds being held at the venue where he won an Olympic gold medal during the 2012 London Games.
“I always felt once I was healthy, all it would take is for me to put in the work,” Merritt explained. “That’s something I’ve been lacking. I haven’t been able to put in the work in two years.”
Harris proved uncatchable as he finished in 13.24 seconds. Merritt was 0.07 seconds behind, and former University of Oregon football player Devon Allen took third.
“I talked with (Merritt) when we first got here and asked him how he felt, and he said he felt really good,” Harris said. “It was great to hear that.”
The 31-year-old Merritt knew he would be able to make a strong return to the hurdles — even if others didn’t buy in.
“I was told, ‘You’ll never come back to the sport with the medications you have to take that are life long,’” said Merritt, whose mom and sister were in the stands. “It was something that went in one ear and out there other.
“No matter what someone may tell you, whether it’s a doctor or not, you can’t give up hope. You always have to stay positive and look at the brighter picture.”
The highlights from the last day of nationals:
DID YOU SEE THAT
One of the biggest crowd eruptions was on Ryan Crouser’s final heave in the shot put, when he surpassed Joe Kovacs. Crouser had a mark of 74 feet, 3 3/4 inches (22.65 meters) to hold off Kovacs, who already had an automatic bye into worlds as the defending world champion.
“It’s a confidence boost, showing I can come through on the last throw,” Crouser said.
Olympic 400 hurdles gold medalist Dalilah Muhammad won the event at nationals in a fast race that saw the top three all go under 53 seconds.
“That’s so amazing,” Muhammad said.
CAUGHT AT THE LINE
Just like in the 100, Christian Coleman took the early lead in the 200. And just like in the 100, he was caught at the last moment. Coleman was out-leaned at the finish by Ameer Webb, who finished in 20.09 seconds to win by 0.01. Elijah Hall-Thompson, who’s coached at the University of Houston by Carl Lewis, was third.
“Racing at this high level you can never think you have it,” Coleman said. “He got me today.”
FROM THE OUTSIDE
Oregon standout Deajah Stevens won the 200 from the outside lane, edging Kimberlyn Duncan and Tori Bowie.
“The 200 is my baby. I love this race,” Stevens said. “It felt to go out there and execute the way I know I could.”
THE COLLEGE TRY
Kendell Williams of the University of Georgia captured the heptathlon title and Florida’s Eric Futch won the men’s 400 hurdles.
They both won at NCAA championships earlier this month. Williams’ brother, Devon, earned a spot in the decathlon earlier at nationals.
“It seems like everyone I grew up with 12 years ago on this circuit is no longer competing,” said pole vaulter Jenn Suhr, who won a gold medal at the London Games. Suhr finished second to Sandi Morris on Sunday.
FACTS & FIGURES
17-year-old Sydney McLaughlin set a world under-20 record in the 400 hurdles with a time of 53.82 . … Evan Jager (steeplechase), Ajee Wilson (800), Jarrion Lawson (long jump), Emmanuel Corvera (men’s race walk), Maria Michta-Coffey (women’s race walk), Bryan McBride (high jump), Donavan Brazier (800) also won. … Teenager Noah Lyles was one of the favorites in the 200, but didn’t race in the semifinals because of a strained right hamstring. LaShawn Merritt didn’t start, either. In the women’s 200, Allyson Felix didn’t race the final. Felix and Merritt already have automatic entries into worlds in the 400. … Clayton Murphy was dealing with hamstring issues and didn’t race in the 800 final.
World championships in London from Aug. 4-13.