HELSINKI, Finland (AP) – All 5 feet, 2 inches of her soaking wet, Lauryn Williams stood before the Finnish crowd with an American flag draped around her shoulder and didn’t even notice the rain.

The 21-year-old dynamo used a good start and strong finish to edge a standout field and win the 100 meters at the world track and field championships Monday night, building her reputation as a runner at her best on the biggest stage.

Williams, the silver medalist at the Athens Olympics, won in 10.93 seconds, two-hundredths of a second ahead of Veronica Campbell of Jamaica. Christine Arron of France was third at 10.98. For all her accomplishments, it was Arron’s first medal at a worlds or Olympics.

“I have a new saying,” Williams said as she literally hopped up to reporters after the race. “Silver is good, but gold is great.”

With the victory, U.S. sprinters won both 100s in Helsinki. Justin Gatlin won the men’s race Sunday night. The last American duo to sweep the 100 was Maurice Greene and Marion Jones in 1999 in Seville, Spain.

Williams’ triumph brought the curtain down on a night where Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele, already considered the best distance runner in the world at 23, sprinted away from the competition over the final 400 meters to repeat as 10,000-meter champion. American Chaunte Howard, the 21-year-old 2004 NCAA champion for Georgia Tech, won the silver in the high jump in a spirited duel with Sweden’s Kajsa Bergqvist.

One year after ripping an Achilles’ tendon, Bergqvist won at 6 feet, 71/2 inches. Howard matched her personal best of 6-6 3/4.

Williams had struggled in her first full season as a professional, winning only one race, in June at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore. She barely made the U.S. team with a third-place finish at the national championships.

But Williams grew stronger through the three preliminary rounds in Helsinki and ran her best race of the season.

“The bigger the situation, she definitely is one who can turn it on when it counts,” her coach Amy Deem said.

Williams joked about her height, or lack of it, saying “I’m drinking milk so maybe I’ll be 5-3 by next year.”

Deem said Williams was having a hard time learning how to show up in some European locale and run just one race. But there is plenty of time for that adjustment.

“I’m just getting started,” Williams said. “I’m only 21.”

A steady rain fell all day, but stopped for most of the evening competition. It started again, though, just before the sprinters stepped into the blocks for the women’s 100. Williams burst out with a better-than-usual start, seemed to lose a bit of ground, but stayed with the leaders to lean across the line just ahead of Campbell. She wasn’t sure she had won, so she waited to see the results on the big TV screen before beginning her celebration.

“Definitely that was one of those indescribable moments,” Williams said.

Bekele, the reigning Olympic and world champion, stayed with the lead pack, then turned it on the final lap, outrunning fellow Ethiopian Sileshi Sihine. Bekele won in 27:08.33, 48 seconds shy of the world record. Moses Mosop of Kenya won the bronze.

With its sweep in the women’s 10,000, Ethiopia collected two golds, two silvers and bronze in the two longest races on the track.

Bekele emphatically said he would not run in the 5,000, citing the death of his fiancee, Alem Techale, of an apparent heart attack during a routine training run in January.

“I am very tired,” he said. “This year has been very difficult for me after I lose my fiancee. I am not preparing very well. I have sadness in my heart.”

Bergqvist finally clinched victory with the best jump in the world this year. Howard matched her personal best, and pointed for better things to come.

“I really don’t know what the limit is to my future because I’m 21,” she said. “There’s a lot of years left.”

Twenty-year-old American Sanya Richards won her 400 semifinal heat in 50.05 to set up her showdown with Tonique Williams-Darling of the Bahamas in Wednesday’s final. Williams-Darling was the fastest qualifier at 49.69.

“I’m not shocked she ran that fast,” Richards said. “But it’s going to be a tough one for her, because I plan on bringing it.”

Another U.S. youngster, 22-year-old Alan Webb, finished second in his 1,500 semifinal heat. No U.S. runner has won a medal in the men’s 1,500 at the worlds since 1987.

Docus Inzikuru became the first athlete from Uganda to win a medal at the worlds, with a victory in the inaugural women’s steeplechase.

Defending champion Ivan Tikhon of Belarus was one attempt away from elimination, but followed with a championship record of 275-2 to win the hammer throw.

AP-ES-08-08-05 1755EDT


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