Khallifa Rosser of Cal State Los Angeles opened some eyes at the Mt. San Antonio College relays in April when he beat a 400-meter hurdles field that included 2012 Olympic silver medalist Michael Tinsley. Rosser, who won the NCAA Division II title in May, proved Thursday those performances weren’t flukes.
Rosser, of Fontana, ran a 49.89 in his first round at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials, the third-fastest time. He wasn’t far off the 49.56 run by Johnny Dutch — who owns the two fastest times in the world this year — and the 49.62 run by Byron Robinson of Texas. Not bad for a kid from a school that’s not a track factory.
“I take great pride in running for Cal State L.A. It’s a great organization and has great coaches,” Rosser said. “I take great pride in representing them here at the trials.”
After posting that impressive time in April, his season took a deliberate course. “Mentally more than physically,” he said, praising Coach Orentheus Hutcherson for continually reminding him to run a clean race “and be mentally strong and not necessarily worried about the other competitors.” That worked Thursday, and he hopes to repeat that in Friday’s semifinals.
“It feels good. I’m very thankful,” he said. “It feels real good to come out and compete with the best in the world.”
Phenom Keni Harrison was 15 years old when Dawn Harper Nelson won Olympic gold in the 100-meter hurdles in 2008, making for an intriguing matchup when they were in the same first-round trials heat Thursday. Harrison, who set the American record last month, won in 12.57 seconds. Harper (12.85) also advanced to Friday’s semifinals. World indoor silver medalist Brianna Rollins led qualifiers at 12.56.
Harper Nelson, who also won silver at London in 2012, doesn’t feel like a relic at 32. “If I know where I am, I don’t have to feel old,” she said.
Former USC standout Dalilah Muhammad had the top first-round time in women’s 400-meter hurdles, 55.33. Recent USC graduate and Pacific-12 champion Jaide Stepter advanced with a 55.64…. Christian Taylor, the Olympic and world triple jump champion, reached Saturday’s final with a leap of 16.87 meters (55 feet, 41/4 inches). Matthew O’Neal was the top qualifier at 16.97 (55-81/4). … Emma Coburn won the women’s 3000-meter steeplechase in 9:17.48. She will be joined in Rio by Courtney Frerichs and Colleen Quigley.
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