LaShawn Merritt and Tori Bowie both set the bar high for the 2016 outdoor track and field season at the Chris Brown Bahamas Invitational on Saturday.
Both runners were dominant, turning in world-leading times as they together swept the men’s and women’s 200m titles in the season-opening event.
A crop of the world’s top athletes descended upon Nassau over the weekend, and LaShawn emerged as one of the event’s top performers, notching a personal best time of 19.78 seconds in the 200m. The 400-meter specialist got off to a strong start from the fourth lane and led Canadian Aaron Brown and American Mike Rodgers by a step coming around the turn. He then kicked it into another gear down the straightaway and cruised to a comfortable win.
“It didn’t feel that hard. I focused on executing the race,” LaShawn said after the win. “When you execute, things tend to come a lot smoother. I never panicked at any part of the race. I’ve been working on some things, I’ve been training hard—and you see what hard work and dedication gets you.”
Not surprisingly, after posting a world-lead time, LaShawn was asked about any potential plans to run the 200m-400m double going forward. He said as of right now that isn’t in the cards, and that his current work is all going toward his goal of breaking the 400-meter world record.
“I would have to be really, really dominant in the quarter to try that double. There are three or four 200m specialists who can just run that. I’m working on something for this 400,” he explained. “I really want to run a fast time in this 400. I’ve been working on some speed and it shows. I have to dip down into the 43-lows. I’ve been running 43-highs for like 10 years now. It’s time to really get focused, buckle down and try to leave a legacy in this sport.”
Running a distance up from her signature event, Tori put together similarly powerful performance, clocking a 22.26 in her 200. The 100-meter bronze medalist at last year’s World Championships dominated the first 40 meters and built a big cushion before the homestretch. From there, she powered her way to a finish just shy of her personal best in the event, 22.18 seconds, set in Eugene, Ore. in 2014.
Tori’s outstanding time easily topped the previous 2016 world lead, 22.53 seconds, set by Australia’s Ella Nelson in February.
Icon’s other participant at the Chris Brown Invite, Ajoke Odomosu placed third in the 400m hurdles and was one of just three runners in the event to go under 1:00. Her time of 59.80 placed her just behind runner-up Ese Okoro of Great Britain and winner, Yanique Haye-Smith of Turks & Caicos.
The Icon crew heads back to the states, where the first relay event awaits next week, the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, April 27-30.
LaShawn and Ajoke will both be participating in that event as well, and will be joined at Drake by Will Claye, who will be competing against a stacked field in the Triple Jump, which promises to be a Rio Olympics preview.
For a full Drake Relays schedule, visit the event site at GoDrakeBulldogs.com.