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World best and trio of world leads at Drake Relays

DES MOINES, Iowa -- A day of rainy weather and cooler temperatures brought a world relay best and a trio of world-leading performances Friday night at Drake Relays during the first day of Beijing World Championships Preview events.
A photo finish in a special women’s shuttle hurdle relay saw two teams better the existing world best. Winning by .005 seconds, the quartet of Kristi Castlin (Douglasville, Georgia), Queen Harrison (Los Angeles, California), Dawn Harper-Nelson (Los Angeles, California) and American record holder Brianna Rollins (Los Angeles, California) trimmed .28 off the old record with a 50.50. Castlin ran a strong anchor leg, leaning for the win, as her team also set an American record. 
USATF Indoor Champion Aleec Harris (Atlanta, Georgia) continued his undefeated season with a win in the men’s 110mH. Harris finished in 13.16, the fastest time in the world in 2015, while running into a light headwind. Reigning world champion David Oliver (Kissimmee, Florida) was also faster than the previous world lead at 13.19 in second, and world record holder Aries Merritt (Bryan, Texas) took fourth at 13.37.
Bershawn “Batman” Jackson (Raleigh, N.C.) won the men’s 400-meter hurdles in 48.87 for his second victory in two weeks, proving he is still an international contender. He was the final entry into the field for the event, but performed up to the standards of his former self with a late surge that took him past the past two champions, Javier Culson and Michael Tinsley. Tinsley was second at 49.39 with Johnny Dutch crossing in 49.59 for fourth place and two-time Olympian Kerron Clement finishing in 49.59 for fifth.
The evening of elite competition featured the next chapter in the “Year of the Vault” as the duel between collegians Sandi Morris (Greenville, South Carolina), a NACAC U-23 champion from the University of Arkansas and Demi Payne (New Braunfels, Texas), the 2015 USATF Indoor Champion from Stephen F. Austin, continued. Payne cleared 4.61m/15-1.5 on her second attempt but Morris could not match that height. With the bar raised to 4.66m/15-3.5, Payne cleared and took back the outdoor collegiate best from Morris, who had jumped 4.62m/15-1.75 just two short weeks ago. Greece’s Katerina Stefanidi won the event at 4.71m/15-5.5.
In the Street Vault earlier in the week, Payne cleared 4.61m/15‐1.5 for first place.
In the women's 800 meters, Ajee Wilson (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) shot out to the early lead in a huge field of 13, maintaining her lead through the finish despite strong challenges from previous world-leader Chanelle Price and Brenda Martinez (Big Bear Lake, California). Wilson took the pack through 400m in 58.7, with Arizona State’s Shelby Houlihan (Tempe, Arizona) and Alysia Montano (Canyon City, California) close behind, and over the next 200m, Martinez started to make her move. Down the stretch, Wilson held off a final challenge to win at 2:00.03, with Martinez second at 2:00.51 and Phoebe Wright third at 2:01.65.
Defending Olympic champion Kirani James of Grenada clocked another world-leading mark in the 400, breaking Michael Johnson’s 1996 meet record with his 44.22. Tony McQuay (Gainesville, Florida) was the top American in fourth at 45.14, and 2013 world champion LaShawn Merritt (Suffolk, Virginia) was fifth at 45.27 in his season debut. 

Events continue Saturday when USATF.TV will pick up early Drake Relays coverage at 1:30 p.m. ET before NBCSN airs more of the Beijing World Championship Preview events starting at 3 p.m. ET. Fans can tune back to USATF.TV for The Cool Down at 5 p.m. ET for post-event highlights, exclusive athlete interviews and behind-the-scenes content.

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