By Bob Baum ~ The Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The United States will send a track and field team loaded with young talent to the Athens Olympics, fresh faces sorely needed by a troubled sport.
Thirty-two athletes under the age of 25 are on the tentative roster turned over to the U.S. Olympic Committee on Monday by USA Track & Field, the sport's governing federation.
Nine of them won events at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials, which ended on Sunday with a victory by the youngest of all -- 18-year-old Allyson Felix -- in the women's 200 meters.
"It's just great to have so many young people on this Olympic team," said Felix, whose time of 22.18 seconds was the second-fastest in the world this year. "I'm in great company. There's so many of us, and we're all excited, passionate and we're just ready to go."
The team's other teenager is 19-year-old Sanya Richards, who left the University of Texas in June to concentrate on her running career -- and, like Felix, sign a lucrative athletic shoe contract. Richards broke her American junior record -- and ran under 50 seconds for the first time in her career -- in finishing second in the women's 400.
"I am thrilled to be a part of the new era of athletes," Richards said. "I think it's great for our sport. The United States has always been the forerunner in track and field, and this has proven we're going to continue to do that -- and I'm excited to be a part of it."
Several of the youngsters have shots at medals, including 22-year-old Justin Gatlin, the former NCAA champion at Tennessee who made the team in both the 100 and 200 meters.
"I think it's just untapped potential with all these young athletes out there," Gatlin said. "They're out here running on heart and dreams. Ever since we were little kids we just wanted to be out there runnin', out there on the Olympic team."
Alan Webb, 21, faces a tough challenge against the powerhouse runners of Africa and Europe in the 1,500 meters, but he represents a legitimate hope for the United States, which hasn't won a medal in the event since Jim Ryun's silver at the 1968 Mexico City Games.
Webb knows what the infusion of young talent can do to help track's image after this year's steroid scandal.
"This is a great sport. There's been a lot of negative press going around track and field, but I really believe the people who should be up in the spotlight will be there, the people who have done things the right way," he said.
Among other youthful performers to watch in Athens:
--Sheena Johnson, 21, winner of the NCAA title for UCLA a month ago, ran the fastest 400 hurdles in the world this year, 52.95 seconds, at the trials. The top three had the world's top three times, with 25-year-old Brenda Taylor second (53.36) and 21-year-old Lashinda Demus, of South Carolina, third (53.36).
--Jeremy Warren, 20, a junior-to-be at Baylor, won the men's 400 and has the No. 2 time in the world in the event at 44.50 seconds. His Baylor teammate Harold Williamson, 21, was named to the 1,600 relay pool. The runner-up to Warren at the trials, Rickey Harris, is 22.
--Bryan Clay, 24, upset world champion Tom Pappas in the decathlon with a personal best 8,660 points, third-best in the world this year.
--DeeDee Trotter, 20, the NCAA champion from Tennessee, finished third in the women's 400 but already has beaten Richards this year.
--Muna Lee, 22, the LSU standout was second to Felix in the 200 at 22.36, fourth-fastest in the world this.
--Lauryn Williams, 20, who just left Miami to turn pro after winning the NCAA title as a junior, was third in the 100 at the trials, and has the second-fastest time in the world this year at 10.97 seconds.