EUGENE - Instead of hawking shoes from the trunk of his car, maybe now Mike Rodgers will be promoting them from a billboard somewhere.
He is, after all, America's best sprinter this side of Tyson Gay.
Wearing his trademark headband, Rodgers sped down the track in 9.91 seconds for the victory Friday night in the 100 at U.S. championships, and served up an early taste of what the next generation of great American sprinters might look like. He beat veteran Darvis Patton by .01 second. Another unfamiliar face, Monzavous Edwards, who goes by Rae, took third.
In the women's race, Carmelita Jeter outleaned Muna Lee at the finish to beat her by one-thousandth of a second for her first national title. Jeter finished in 10.776 seconds. Lauryn Williams took third to round out the world championship squad bound for Berlin later this summer.
Trey Hardee ran away with the decathlon, taking a leisurely lap around the Hayward Field track in the 1,500 to seal his title. His score of 8,261 points beat Ashton Eaton by 186. Jake Arnold was third.
Missing from the field was Bryan Clay, the Olympic gold medalist who pulled out of the competition Thursday with an injured left hamstring. It's a decision that will cost him a spot at the world championships.
The 24-year-old Rodgers opened up a big lead on Patton, then held on at the end. Now he has an outdoor crown to go with his 2008 indoor title and four other wins this season.
Olympic bronze medalist Walter Dix wasn't in the field for the finals, pulling up just before the finish line with a right hamstring injury in the semis. He joined Gay on the sideline for the marquee race.
Not to worry. Rodgers will have plenty of company at worlds, including Gay and world record holder Usain Bolt.
"Those are the big dogs. I'm the little dog," Rodgers said. "I've just got to wait my turn like everybody else. When it's my turn to beat them, I'll beat them."
Gay didn't even line up Friday, keeping his vow to run only one race at the championships and use it as a tune up. He ran a wind-aided time of 9.75 in prelims Thursday, then left, having already qualified for this summer's world championships in Berlin in both the 100 and 200.
In Gay's opinion, Rodgers was ripe to win this race. He's been steadily improving with each race.
"I see the progression similar to what I had when I had my breakout year," Gay said earlier in the week. "He was kind of running 10 (seconds) for the past couple of years and had a breakout year this year."
Rodgers almost gave up track a few years ago when he was making more money selling Nike Air Jordans out of the back of his Malibu than he was at racing.
"I'd buy like 20 pairs of shoes, and double my money," said Rodgers, who bought the shoes at a discount thanks to his job at a sporting goods store.
But he decided to stick with running.
A good decision, especially considering this year's results.
"I am stunned. I never thought I'd be running this fast this early," Rodgers said in a pre-race interview. "I'm putting it together. When I try to put something together, I try to perfect it. I'm not perfect yet, but I'm getting there."