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Grant Holloway, Rai Benjamin in class of their own in men's hurdles at U.S. Olympic trials

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EUGENE, Ore. — The world record in the men's 110-meter hurdles has stood for nearly a decade. The mark in the 400 hurdles has been practically untouchable, going all the way back to 1992.

But on a balmy night at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials Saturday, both of those records nearly fell — and in the span of just 45 minutes.

In a dominant back-to-back display, 110-meter hurdler Grant Holloway and 400-meter hurdler Rai Benjamin each came a fraction of a second away from immortality at Hayward Field, cruising to victory in their respective finals — and showing why the United States likely will be favored to sweep the men's hurdles events at the Tokyo Olympics.

Holloway, the 23-year-old Florida product, was agonizingly close to breaking Aries Merritt's world record in his semifinal heat, finishing one-hundredth of a second behind the all-time mark with a time of 12.81 seconds. He went on to win the final with a time of 12.96.

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Benjamin, meanwhile, won the final in the 400-meter hurdles by more than a full second, with a time of 46.83. He was just .05 seconds off the world record set by Kevin Young nearly five years before Benjamin, 23, was born.

"I looked at it and I was like, 'Dang, man. Point zero five,' " Benjamin said with a smile. "It hurts a little bit to know that it was right there and I couldn't grab it. But it's just more fuel for the fire, man. It'll come when it comes."

For Holloway, flirting with the record was neither surprising nor particularly emotional. He said he had a feeling after his preliminary round that he could accomplish something special. It just came down to execution.

"I wasn't pressing for the record," Holloway said. "The main goal was just to set myself up and to let everyone know that I'm here to win. I told everybody in my first interview: I didn't come to this party to sit on the wall. I came to this party to dance."

Grant Holloway was one-hundredth of a second off the world record in the 110-meter hurdles.
Grant Holloway was one-hundredth of a second off the world record in the 110-meter hurdles.

After his race, Holloway — the reigning world champion in his event — ran over to the stands to hug his coach, Mike Holloway. The two are not related, but the elder Holloway has coached the champion hurdler since his college days at Florida.

Grant Holloway said they had a heated exchange Friday, but he can't imagine anyone else as his coach.

"The analogy that I use is we're both two big apes in the jungle, and we both want to beat our chest," the hurdler said. "We both want to be heard. We're both Holloways. At the end of the day, we're both (expletives) to each other. But it's all love."

With Holloway and Benjamin in the men's hurdles events, and the likely combination of Keni Harrison, Sydney McLaughlin and Dalilah Muhammad on the women's side, it's entirely possible that the U.S. could leave Tokyo with a sweep of the hurdles gold medals.

They might break some world records along the way, too.

"I think there's more there, in the tank," Benjamin said. "A lot more there."

Sisson cruises in 10,000 meters

Scorching temperatures prompted USA Track & Field to move the women's 10,000-meter race to Saturday morning. But the heat did little to slow Emily Sisson.

Sixteen months after she dropped out of the Olympic marathon trials, Sisson pulled away from a crowded field and won the 10,000 meters by a full 13 seconds, in a new meet record of 31:03.82. She registered negative splits — increasingly fast times — in each of the final eight laps of the 25-lap race.

"I kept telling myself, 'If you’re feeling the heat, so is everyone else, too,' " said the 29-year-old Sisson, who led for roughly three-quarters of the race.

Karissa Schweizer and Alicia Monson finished second and third, respectively. Schweizer also qualified in the 5,000 meters and said she hopes to run both races in Tokyo.

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Eye on Knighton

For the second night in a row, 17-year-old Erriyon Knighton found himself competing head-to-head with reigning world champion Noah Lyles in the men's 200 meters. And for the second consecutive night, it was Knighton who came out on top.

A four-star football recruit before he turned pro earlier this year, Knighton edged Lyles to win his semifinal heat with a blazing time of 19.88 seconds, a new personal best. He noted in a post-race news conference that he also slowed up with 20 meters to go, indicating that he may run an even faster time in Sunday's final — which will also feature Kenny Bednarek, 100-meter Olympic qualifier Fred Kerley and Terrance Laird, who recently won a pair of national titles at LSU.

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Wins for Reese, Nageotte

Brittney Reese is heading to her fourth Olympic Games after winning the long jump final Saturday with a best jump of 23 feet, 4¾ inches. The 2016 Olympic silver medalist jumped three inches farther than reigning NCAA champion Tara Davis, who placed second and also qualified for Tokyo.

Meanwhile, in the women's pole vault, Katie Nageotte cleared the bar at 16 feet, 2¾ inches to set a new meet record and world lead. Morgann LeLeux and reigning Olympic silver medalist Sandi Morris placed second and third, respectively, to round out the team.

Contact Tom Schad at tschad@usatoday.com or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Grant Holloway, Rai Benjamin dominate men's hurdles at Olympic trials