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Ross-Williams punches ticket to Beijing

Tiffany Ross-Williams competes in a qualifying heat for the women's 400 meter event at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore., Friday, June 27, 2008.
Tiffany Ross-Williams competes in a qualifying heat for the women's 400 meter event at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore., Friday, June 27, 2008.

EUGENE, Ore. — Tiffany Ross-Williams remembers the 2004 US Olympic track and field trials. She was pregnant and watched the 400-meter hurdles final on television.

On Sunday afternoon, four years later, the former USC athlete was the one being watched on television. Ross-Williams will be the one being watched in August when she crouches in the starting blocks on track’s biggest stage, the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Running with power, poise and determination, the 5-foot, 2-inch Ross-Williams won the 400 hurdles final.

The 25-year-old Miami native, who had the fastest time entering the final, won in a time of 54.03. Queen Harrison (54.6) and Sheena Tosta (54.62) finished second and third to earn the remaining berths.

Former USC hurdler and four-time NCAA champion Lashinda Demus was fourth in a time of 54.76. Demus, who missed last year because of her pregnancy, did not qualify.

Ross-Williams, 25, said her goal in the final was to follow her coach’s advice and run a technically sound race.

“I thought I was going to run a little faster,” Ross-Williams said. “I did what my coach wanted me to do. He wanted me to go out and execute my race, and come home very strong in the last three hurdles. And that’s what I did, and it brought me home first.

“This is something I’ve been dreaming of all my life, to be an Olympian. And to finally make the USA Olympic team, I feel privileged. It’s a great honor.”

Ross-Williams said she dedicated the race to her family.

“Now I’m going to go back home and train and get ready for the Olympic Games so I can get a medal,” she said. “I’m very confident in myself. I know what I’m capable of doing. I just have to stay healthy, and I’ll be able to medal at the Olympics.”

Demus, who refused interview requests after the final, started strong, matching strides with Ross-Williams for the first 200 meters in the adjacent lane before fading in the stretch.

“We trained together in college, and a couple of years on the pro circuit, I’m sorry (Demus) didn’t make the team,” Ross-Williams said.

Ross-Williams said her key technically was following up a fast start with a leg switch she always executes after the sixth hurdle, while using her arms more for the stretch run.

“I wanted to focus on getting out,” she said. “I think I just executed a little bit more. I alternate (jumping) legs after the sixth hurdle, go to my arms and if you go to your arms no one will beat you off the last three hurdles.”

In the men’s 400 hurdles final, USC student Johnny Dutch finished fifth in a personal-best time of 48.52, a tenth of a second behind third-place qualifier Angelo Taylor (48.42)

Dutch said he was happy with his personal-best, but the results were bittersweet.

“I was really nervous to the point that I couldn’t believe it when he shot the gun, I stuttered really bad to the first hurdle, so that threw my game off a little bit. And it was really windy in the backstretch. ... Just bringing it home everybody wanted it, and it mattered who could get there first.

“I really wanted to make the team, but I guess it wasn’t God’s will, so I have next year to make the World Championship team.”