EUGENE, Ore. —Kellie Wells' long, tough road back has reached a golden milestone.
The 2006 Hampton University graduate is America's new women's 100-meter hurdles champion and bound for the IAAF World Championships of Track and Field starting late August in Daegu, Korea.
It took Wells just 12.50 seconds to take the gold medal at the USA Championships on Sunday at historic Hayward Field and put all her past tribulations behind her.
She fought off old rivals Danielle Carruthers (second in 12.59) and Dawn Harper (third in 12.65) to claim her first American title and a trip to her first Worlds.
"It was tough at times but I was always hopeful a day like this would come," said Wells.
"I'm just happy to be on top, to be looked as the best hurdler.
"This (the Worlds) will be my first team, my first time to wear the US logo on my chest.
"It will be an amazing honor and I can't wait to represent my country."
"I am so happy for her, to see her reach this ultimate accomplishment at America's biggest meet, that's just wonderful," said Hampton coach Maurice Pierce. "After all that she'd gone through, she finally put it all together.
"She did great, just great."
Just three years ago, at this same site, Wells' career came to shattering but temporary halt. She'd run a 12.58, placed second in her semifinal of the hurdles at the Olympic Trials and, heading into the final, seemed to have a solid chance of making the USA Beijing-bound team.
But she never did run that final, a race that went off with her assigned lane empty.
Instead, a step past the finish line of that semifinal, she toppled to the track in agony. She felt "something pop" and it was her right hamstring. As the final was going off, she was being rushed to the hospital.
It took months of rehabilitation before she could resume running and most of a year before she could compete. She did run a 13.01 in 2009 and got down to 12.84 in 2010, placing second in the Nationals.
And now, just three weeks before her 29th birthday, she's back, all the way back. The pain of it all, physical and mental, is nothing but a memory.
Sunday was not Robby Andrews' day.
Andrews, the University of Virginia sophomore who already owns two NCAA 800 meter titles (indoors 2010, outdoors 2011), had run 1:48.60 in his opening-round section here Thursday, 1:49.25 in the semifinals on Friday, and seemed primed for a huge performance in the Sunday final.
It didn't happen. Andrews, whose lifetime best was the 1:44.71 it took him to win the NCAA title in Des Moines, Iowa, two weeks ago, was never really in the medal hunt and placed eighth in 1:51.68. Nick Symmonds won the event in 1:44.17.
"I just didn't have it today," said Andrews. "I've had a great year, so many good things happened. Until today. That's life. I'm a young guy. I'll be back."
Newport News' Keith Moffatt, a Menchville High and Morehouse College (Atlanta) graduate, had taken silver high jump medals at the 2006 and 2009 USA Nationals, but settled for an eighth place Sunday at 7 feet, 4 ¼ inches. His career best of 7-6 ½ dates back to 2006.
While the hurdles final was a joy to Wells, it was a disaster for Yvette Lewis.
Lewis, a Menchville High and Hampton University alumna competing for the Norfolk Real Deal Track Club, already had placed fifth in the triple jump at Nationals, and reached the hurdles final with a 12.77 semifinal.
But, right before the hurdles starting gun was fired, Lewis flinched. She was called for a false start and disqualified.
One more tough-luck runner was UVa's Stephanie Garcia in the women's 3000-meter steeplechase final. Heading into the final half-lap, she was running in the lead group and seemed to have a potential podium position in her sights.
And then it happened as the Hayward crowd reacted in dismay. She clipped that final barrier and toppled into the pit. As the front-runners, led by eventual 9:44.11 winner Emma Coburn of Colorado, rushed ahead, the water-soaked Garcia could only get back on her feet and struggle home fourth in 9:51.57.
"Can't really explain it," said Garcia. "All of a sudden I was down and I can't exactly tell you why."