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Athletics: Merritt beats James to capture 400m

Reigning world champ LaShawn Merritt beat 2012 Olympic Games gold medal winner Kirani James to win a star-studded 400 metre race at the Drake Relays on Friday.

DES MOINES: Reigning world champ LaShawn Merritt beat 2012 Olympic Games gold medal winner Kirani James to win a star-studded 400 metre race at the Drake Relays on Friday.

American Merritt posted a winning time of 44.44 seconds to beat James of Grenada in front of a crowd of 10,924 at Drake Stadium.

"It is my first time at the Drake Relays," Merritt said. "The crowd was awesome. I like how they cheered my name before I started. Great atmosphere."

The field featured the top four ranked runners in the world.

Merritt's time was the fastest of the young season, but he failed to break the meet record of 44.41 set by Michael Johnson in 1996.

James took second place in 44.60, while World bronze medallist Luguelin Santos, of the Dominican Republic, finished third in 44.72.

"You have to run a better 200 if you want to have a chance against him," said James. "Once he's out front in the last 80 metres he's very hard to catch because he's very experienced and he's very strong and a very good athlete."

Merritt and James have now gone head-to-head 10 times in their careers, with each winning five times.

"Afterwards, everybody kind of said the same thing -- they're glad that's over with," Merritt said.

"It takes a mental state to get prepared for a race of that magnitude this early in the season, not even a Diamond League race. They should make this Diamond League for sure if they're going to keep stacking the field like that."

Jamaican Hansle Parchment beat 2013 World champion David Oliver to win the 110-metre hurdles in 13.14.

World silver medallist Michael Tinsley won the 400-metre hurdles in 48.57 and Kenyan Helen Obiri won the women's 1,500 metres in 4:04.88.

In men's high jump, Canada's Derek Drouin leaped 2.40 metres to beat Erik Kynard and Dusty Jonas who both cleared 2.35m.

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