Kerley, Jefferson emerge as U.S. best 100m hopes, McLaughlin unstoppable on hurdles

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June 27 (Reuters) - Olympic silver medallist Fred Kerley and Melissa Jefferson lead the United States' hopes in the 100 metres when the world championships kick off next month, with superstar record-holder Sydney McLaughlin unstoppable in the 400 metres hurdles.

Kerley won the U.S. championship final in a dominant 9.77 seconds, after setting a world-leading time of 9.76 in the semi-final stage in Eugene, Oregon, and said he was targeting eight-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt's record of 9.58.

He can expect a challenge from compatriot and reigning title-holder Christian Coleman, who returned to action in January from an 18-month suspension for breaching anti-doping whereabouts rules and produced a solid 10.87 in the semi-final.

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The top three finishers in Eugene, who met certain qualifying standards, and reigning global title-holders advanced to the first world championships to be held in the United States at the same track, starting on July 15.

Kerley also qualified for the 200 metres.

Jefferson, who stunned the women's final in a scorching, wind-aided 10.69, faces the threat of twice double Olympic sprint champion Elaine Thompson-Herah and reigning world champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, both of Jamaica. read more

"I'm ready for any challenge and anything that may come my way," she said.

Tokyo relay silver medallist Aleia Hobbs, who went into the race the favourite, finished second.

In the 200 metres, world title-holder Noah Lyles showed no interest in yielding his throne to teen sensation Erriyon Knighton in the final, while collegiate champion Abby Steiner briefly seized the world lead in 21.77 before Shericka Jackson bested the mark at Jamaica's trials. read more

'GREAT INDICATOR'

McLaughlin made the extraordinary seem mundane - again - when she broke her own world record in the 400 metres hurdles world record with 51.41 in the final Saturday, despite having little threat in the field to push her to the finish.

Her chief rival, current world title-holder Dalilah Muhammad, appears to be the only one who could mount a challenge next month but was absent from the national championships. read more

"This is just a great indicator of where we are and hopefully (we're) going to go home and work on some things," she said.

On the men's side, world and Olympic silver medallist Rai Benjamin set up another potential showdown with Norwegian world record-holder Karsten Warholm, producing a world-leading 47.04, even after COVID-19 and tendonitis kept him off the track since May. read more

Devon Allen, who produced the all-time third-fastest 110-metres hurdles performance in New York earlier this month, struggled far more on Sunday, clinching his spot at worlds by just three thousandths of a second in 13.09, enough to set up a showdown with reigning champion Grant Holloway. read more

In the women's 100 metres hurdles, world record-holder Kendra Harrison won in a world-leading 12.34 seconds.

Olympic champion Athing Mu once again proved worth the hype, as the 20-year-old survived a challenge from twice world bronze medallist Ajee Wilson to win the 800 metres.

"I'm just going to take it day by day, race by race, I'm going to put in some work these next couple of weeks," she said. "I'm ready to fight, I'm ready to run fast and I'm ready to be a world champion."

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Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York Editing by Christian Radnedge

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