Armstrong wins shot put at Kansas Relays

Dylan Armstrong, of Canada, competes in the elite shot put event during the Kansas Relays athletics meet Wednesday, April 20, 2011, in Lawrence, Kan. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Dylan Armstrong, of Canada, competes in the elite shot put event during the Kansas Relays athletics meet Wednesday, April 20, 2011, in Lawrence, Kan.

Dylan Armstrong won the shot put competition at the Kansas Relays with a distance of 70 feet, 7¼ inches Wednesday night.

Armstrong, ranked No. 7 in the world, topped a field that included five of the world's top 10 shot putters. He edged second-ranked Reese Hoffa, who reached 69-3½. Adam Nelson, ranked No. 10, was third at 68-5¼.

"Today was awesome," said Armstrong, a native of Canada and the only competitor from outside the U.S. "I'm really, really for this early in the season. I know we still have got a lot of work to do and accomplish."

The tradition-heavy Kansas Relays gave a new look to the shot put by holding it in downtown Lawrence. Several hundred gathered to watch the event on a temporary venue set up on a blocked-off city street. This kind of setup has been popular in Europe, but hadn't been done in the U.S. until now.

"This is really hard to beat," Nelson, a three-time Olympian and silver medalist in 2000 and 2004, said. "It's a great event and I think Lawrence did a fantastic job hosting it. We certainly had an amazing turnout."

Christian Cantwell, ranked No. 1 in the world and the reigning U.S. outdoor champion, withdrew from the event on Tuesday. Cantwell, recovering from back surgery, still showed up to watch the competition.

"This field is missing nothing with me not out there," he told the crowd before the event. "For people who don't understand track and field, this is a sick field. This is an Olympic final-type field."

It wasn't necessarily an Olympic final-type finish for most of the participants. Armstrong was the only one who cleared 70 feet, which he did with his third toss. His winning heave came in the fifth round, and Hoffa was unable to match it, reaching just 68-7 with his sixth and final atttempt.

Hoffa, the 2007 and 2008 U.S. outdoor shot put champion, sailed his first try out of bounds and just a few feet shy of the crowd, but said he was happy with his performance overall.

"If this is a bad day for me going 69-3, I'm in incredible shape," he said. "When it comes down to world championships, I'll have so many competitions, I'll know what to do if I have any problems, I'll know how to fix it.

Corey Martin, ranked No. 3 in the world and the 2008 NCAA shot put and hammer throw champion, came in fourth at 67-11¼. He barely outperformed the youngest competitor, fifth-ranked Ryan Whiting, who was at 67-11.

Nelson, who worked the crowd with slow claps and yells, was impressed with the showing by the American-dominated field.

"We're probably going to have one of the best world championship teams we've ever had in the U.S." he said. "You're seeing guys going farther distances at this time of year than I've ever seen since 2001 maybe."

The field of eight was rounded out by Dorian Scott, ranked 22nd in the world, with a best of 66-½, Noah Bryant, ranked 16th, at 65-11, and Dan Taylor, ranked 14th, at 62-7¼.