EUGENE &

Sprinters aren't supposed to take it easy &

in a race or in training.

Consider it a lesson learned for Xavier Carter.

After struggling through the early season, Carter is back.

He surged at the finish to edge Wallace Spearmon in the talent-laden 200 meters on a misty Sunday at the Prefontaine Classic track and field meet.

Carter, winner of an unprecedented 100-400 double for LSU at last year's NCAA championships, struggled early this year, his first without the discipline and regular competition of a college program.

"I wasn't really taking it seriously at the beginning," he said, "but it's a wake-up for me now."

He put it together during the last 15 meters to edge Spearmon, the reigning U.S. champion and runner-up at the 2005 world championships. With the race run into a headwind, the winning time was an unspectacular 20.23 seconds, well off Walter Dix's world-leading 19.69. Spearmon finished in 20.25.

The heralded matchup between 100 world record-holder Asafa Powell and Olympic and world 400 champion Jeremy Wariner didn't amount to much. Powell was third behind Carter and Spearmon at 20.55 and Wariner a distant sixth 20.78.

"The next 200 meters is going to be a lot different," Powell promised. "It was a little bit too cold."

He was not surprised that no one broke 20 seconds.

"It was windy," Powell said, "and it was very cold."

An enthusiastic standing room-only crowd of 13,244 watched the meet, part of the IAAF grand prix circuit.

The loudest cheer was for Maria Mutola of Mozambique, who won the Prefontaine women's 800 for the 15th straight year, with a world-leading time of 1:58.33. Mutola, who once lived in nearby Springfield, hopes to add a 16th before she retires next year.

They saw American sensation Sanya Richards' season debut in the 400 meters, winning in a relatively slow 50.74 in the last meet at Hayward Field before it undergoes major renovations for next year's Olympic Trials.

"It's amazing," she said of the crowd. "In Europe, you get this environment all the time. I'm happy that there's somewhere that we can recreate that in the states and people at home can see us compete at this level. ... I wish I could have run faster for them. The fans deserved a better performance than that."

Kenyan Daniel Komen ran the fastest mile ever in the United States, winning in 3:48.28. Kenyan-born Bernard Lagat, now running for the United States, was second in 3:50.56.

The previous fastest mile in the United States was 3:49.92 by Moroccan great Hicham El Guerrouj at Hayward Field in 2001.

Olympic gold medalist Liu Xiang ignored a crashing Dominique Arnold in the next lane to win the 110 hurdles in 13.23, well off his world record of 12.88.

The best race of the day might have been the 800, where American Nick Symmonds caught Olympic gold medalist Yuri Borzakovskiy over the final few meters to win in 1:44.54. Borzakovskiy was second at 1:44.71.

Olympic bronze medalist and reigning African champion Paul Koech of Kenya ran away from the competition to win the 3,000 steeplechase in 8:8.10, a Hayward Field record and second-fastest in the world this year. It is surpassed only by Koech's 8:01.05, set two weeks ago in Hengelo, Netherlands.

American Sheena Johnson won the women's 400 hurdles in 54.14, fastest in the world this year. Gelete Burka of Ethiopia won the women's 1,500 in 4:00.48, with Russian Yuliya Chizhenko-Fomenko at 4:02.98. They were the world's two fastest times in this young season.

With distance great Kenenisa Bekele pulling out of the event, the two-mile was won by Australian Craig Mottram in 8:03.50. He was sorry Bekele wasn't there.

"I really wanted to race him today," Mottram said. "I've been thinking about this one the last for or five weeks."

Mottram defeated Bekele in the World Cup 3,000 last year.

"He's just not ready," Mottram said, "and he's such a legend in the sport, if you're not ready you don't want to come and be beaten and waste that sort of aura that he's got. But I beat him last year. I know how to do it, and I'll beat him again."