At 37, Devers says it all with double

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BOSTON - She's 37 now, ancient by big-time track and field standards. Butno one's daring to suggest that three-time Olympic gold medalist Gail Deversis slowing down. Far from it.

Thirty-four years after Chi Cheng of Taiwan won women's sprint and hurdlestitles at the USA Indoor Track and Field Championships, Devers duplicated thefeat yesterday at the Reggie Lewis Center.

After breezing through her trial heat of the 60-meter hurdles in 7.97seconds and her 60-meter dash prelim in 7.11, the Duluth, Ga.-based Deverscame back just under two hours later to take both finals, the hurdles in 7.81over Joanna Hayes' 7.91, and the dash in 7.12, just three-thousandths of asecond in front of Torri Edwards in a virtual dead heat.

"I just listen to my body, and my body said I can do this," said Devers."I'm just thankful for today and I'll run both events at the world indoorchampionships [March 12-14 in Budapest, Hungary]."

"After that, who knows? I don't even know when the Olympic trials will be,or if I'll be there."

It was a big day for Maryland athletes, too. Tiombe Hurd of Upper Marlborowon the women's triple jump, Jesse O'Connell of Westminster was third in themen's 800, and Olympian James Carter of Baltimore cruised into today's finalin the men's 400.

The top two in most events - if they meet tough qualifying standards - areeligible to represent the nation at the world indoor meet.

Hurd, the 2000 and 2001 national indoor champion, regained the women'striple jump crown she relinquished to Vanitta Kinard the previous two yearswith a last-jump performance of 45 feet, 5 inches. She rallied from thirdplace to first, then sweated it out as the others completed their jumps.

"It wasn't pretty, but it was good enough," said Hurd, a former JamesMadison University star. "In the triple jump, with its three stages, there arethree ways you can improve and three ways you can mess up. There's a lot I'vegot to work on, but this is the year to do it. I definitely want to be inAthens.

"I just hope I get to Budapest, too. They're asking for a 14-meter [45-11]qualifying distance, but maybe they'll invite some more to get a full field. Isure hope that happens."

Kinard wound up fourth at 44-7 1/2 . Carter, a fourth-place finisher in the400 hurdles final at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, went out fast, then held offJabari Pride of Wisconsin to take his 400 prelim in 47.12.

"I really don't like indoors, but running this winter's good for me becauseI missed most of last outdoor season [with injuries]," said Carter, the Mervograd who now lives and trains in Hampton, Va. "I think I can have a big year."

O'Connell, a Georgetown University senior sociology and journalism major,came up with a big lift off the final turn and claimed third in the 800 in1:49.19. It was a race won by Stanford grad Michael Stember (1:48.08) overMissouri alumnus Derrick Peterson (1:48.67).

"I've been off the last three weeks [with a right knee injury] and hadn'trun the 800 since last July, so I guess this is all right," said O'Connell,who had focused on the 1,000 meters earlier this winter. This was O'Connell'sfirst national senior medal.

"I love this sport," he said. "I'm going to stay in track as long as I can,as long as I'm competitive - 10 or 15 years, whatever it takes."

Tim Seaman of North Babylon, N.Y., won the men's 5,000-meter racewalk for aseventh straight year, clocking 19:30.59 in a performance dedicated to thememory of his late training partner, Al Heppner.

Heppner, of Columbia, Md., took his own life Feb. 18 in California, threedays after placing fifth in the Olympic trial 50-kilometer race. Like many ofthe athletes at the nationals - racewalkers as well as those in other events -Seaman wore a black ribbon in Heppner's memory.

"Al was supposed to be here with me in this race," said Seaman. "He alwayskept telling me he wanted to see me cross the finish line raising sevenfingers. Al knew everyone in this sport, and everyone loved Al. He was like mylittle brother. This one was for Al."

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