Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - May 17, 2013

Stanford's Carter among world's hurdling elite

Winning times at the Pac-12 Championships set her up for NCAA and maybe U.S. titles

by Dave Kiefer

Kori Carter rarely holds back. Certainly not in a race, and rarely with her excitement. Reserved she is not. But after the Stanford junior repeated as the Pac-12 champion in the 100-meter hurdles on Sunday at USC's Loker Stadium — winning by perhaps an inch by lunging to the finish line — she found little use for a lack of self-control, even in the face of breaking her own school record with a sizzling 12.76.

"Keep your focus," Carter said of her thoughts at the time. "You've got a long day ahead. Do not be satisfied. You can celebrate it later."

By being patient, Carter indeed had even more to celebrate. Ninety minutes after her 100 hurdles victory, Carter put together an even more stunning performance by winning the 400 hurdles in the fastest time in the world this year and doing so in meet and stadium-record time.

Carter's 54.21 was the second-fastest in-season performance in collegiate history and another massive school record. It also allowed her to become the first Stanford woman to pull off a hurdles sweep at the conference meet.

Carter's victories highlighted the efforts of the Cardinal women, who placed fifth as a team with 86.5 points. Oregon won the women's title with 139 and captured the men's crown with 149.5. The Stanford men were 10th with 43.

Her 400 hurdles victory came in another memorable duel with Arizona's Georganne Moline, the fifth-place finisher in the 2012 Olympic Games. On April 6, Carter edged Moline at the Jim Click Shootout in Tucson, with Carter running a school-record 54.71.

"I love to race," Carter said. "When I have someone of her caliber next to me, I rise to the occasion. I feel like I can find another gear."

It was nearly too fast. Carter was so amped that her step pattern was thrown off and she ran the first five hurdles with the wrong lead leg.

She knew Moline typically surges from the seventh through ninth hurdles and in her pre-race plan, Carter knew she would need to cover that move down the homestretch. But what Carter didn't anticipate was her fast early pace. She went out hard enough to take the initial lead and felt so strong that she pushed aside Moline's expected surge and pushed hard to the finish.

Moline was second in 54.54 with both recording the fastest times by Americans this year, and UCLA's Turquoise Thompson, the 2010 and 2011 champion, came in third in 55.18.

Carter became the first Cardinal to win the event since 2005. In the process, she broke Moline's year-old Pac-12 Championships record of 55.12 and the 1999 stadium mark of 56.55 set by UCLA's Joanna Hayes, the 2004 Olympic 100 hurdles gold medalist.

As well as Carter has run in the 400 hurdles in what has truly been a breakthrough season in that event, she came into the day with a dual aim.

"I like both," she said. "The focus the rest of the season will be on the 400 hurdles, but I did not want to give up the 100 hurdles title. That's my ego talking."

The race that would feel similar to the 2012 conference final when she edged teammate Katie Nelms, in a school-record 12.99 to 13.01. This time, Carter felt UCLA's Brea Buchanan in a side-by-side battle.

It came down to a lean. Carter thrust herself across the line to win by 0.01, breaking her year-old Stanford record and achieving the IAAF World Championships `A' standard (she had already achieved that standard in the 400 hurdles). It was the second-fastest time in NCAA Division I this year, third among collegians, sixth among Americans, and seventh in the world.

"I knew we would dip into the 12's," she said. "I knew it was going to be a battle." But for a long time afterward, Carter had no idea she had won. She had walked off the track and was heading back to the starting area before realizing it.

Stanford finished with three individual titles, all by the women. In addition to Carter, sophomore Brianna Bain repeated as the javelin champion on Saturday.

A few hours after the meet's conclusion, Carter finally had time to rest, though it was in the vinyl chairs in front of her gate at LAX, waiting to board the airplane that return the team back to the Bay Area.

"I'm extremely tired," she said.

But the wait allowed Carter time to finally reflect.

"This just shows that all the hard work is paying off and I'm on the right path," she said. "I'm really happy and excited for the future."

Her concentration the rest of this season will be solely on the 400 hurdles — beginning with the NCAA Regionals (May 23-25 in Austin, Texas) and continuing through the NCAA and U.S. Championships, and perhaps beyond.

Said Carter, "This lets me know that I'm ready to rock with these girls at nationals."

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