By Mark Maloney
SEC Digital Network
LONDON - What if Lolo Jones hadn’t clobbered a hurdle in 2008?
What if she hadn’t needed surgery in 2011?
The "what ifs" end when focused on Jones’ effort, though.
Jones just missed an Olympic medal Tuesday, placing fourth in the 100-meter hurdles in London’s jam-packed Olympic Stadium.
Australia’s Sally Pearson ran away with the gold medal, bettering the Olympic record of 12.37 set by Team USA’s Joanna Hayes at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Fraser pulled away at the fifth hurdle and finished in 12.35.
Americans took the next three spots: Dawn Harper second in a personal-best 12.37, Kellie Wells in a personal-best 12.48 and Jones in a season-best 12.58.
Jones was among several current or former Southeastern Conference performers on display at the track Tuesday.
Four years ago at Beijing, Jones (LSU 2004) seemed to be on her way to a gold medal, leading with two hurdles left.
But she banged the ninth of 10 barriers and stumbled home in seventh place.
She had spinal surgery last year to correct a tethered spine, a condition that likely was the cause of a string of injuries.
Struggling to rebound from surgery and maintain her health, Jones never got all the way back.
"I’ve got pain," she said. "I’m not going to blame it on surgery ... but I’m definitely not as healthy as I was earlier."
Jones, who turned 30 Sunday, barely snuck into Tuesday’s finals. With the top two from each of three heats advancing, plus the next two fastest finishers, Jones placed third in her heat earlier in the day. Her time of 12.71 gained her the last qualifying berth.
In the finals, she gave it her best shot.
"I’m pleased to say I can lift my head a little bit higher when I tell my kids about what their mom did at the Olympics," she said. "At least this time it was a clean race. I just wish that I had a better result. ... It’s my season best, so it’s the best that I could do for this year. But obviously I’m crushed."
Fifth-place finisher Nevin Yanit set a Turkish record, also timed in 12.58.
* In the first round of the men’s 110 hurdles, Aries Merritt (Tennessee 2007) and Jason Richardson (South Carolina 2009) advanced to Wednesday’s semifinals. Merritt had the fastest time of the day, 13.07.
"The track is blistering fast," Merritt said. "The (winning) time is going to be extremely fast."
In the next heat, Olympic record-holder Xiang Liu of China hit the first hurdle and fell.
"It’s ashame it happened to Liu," Merritt said. "I don’t think anything was wrong before the race. He looked OK.
"You make a mistake, you’re out of the game. It’s all about making the least amount of mistakes."
Richardson won his heat, and his time of 13.33 tied world rcord-holder and 2008 gold-medalist Dayron Robles of Cuba for sixth-best.
"Dayron Robles is an amazing competitor," Richardson said. "My mother said ‘sharing is caring.’ Maybe he can share."
Trinidad and Tobago’s Mikel Thomas (Kentucky 2009) did not advance, fifth in his heat and 32nd overall in 13.74. Shamar Sands (Auburn 2007) of the Bahamas was disqualified for running out of his lane.
* Wallace Spearmon (Arkansas 2007) and Ole Miss junior Isiah Young passed first-round tests in the 200 meters to reach Wednesday’s semifinals.
Spearmon, who was disqualified in the Beijing Olympics for stepping on the inside line of his lane, placed second in Tuesday’s heat and seventh overall in 20.47.
"I will be staying as far away from the line as possible, In ‘08 it cost me a medal," Spearmon said. "This is what every child growing dreams of, and I’m here representing the U.S.A., living the dream."
Young placed third in his heat and tied for 12th overall in 20.55.
Trinidad’s Rondel Sorrillo (Kentucky 2010) was eliminated. He finished fifth in his heat and 34th overall in 20.76.
Estonia’s Marek Niit (Arkansas 2013) also was ousted, sixth in his heat and 38th overall in 20.82.
* Former Florida Gators Christian Taylor and Will Claye qualified for Thursday’s finals in the triple jump.
Taylor (2010) led all qualifiers at 56-5 3/4.
"It was great," he said. "It’s such a blessing."
Leevan Sands (Auburn 2004) of the Bahamas, cousin of hurdler Shamar Sands, ranked second with a distance of 56-4.
Like Taylor, he needed only one attempt to qualify.
"I had one great jump and that was the plan," Sands said, "to save my legs for the finals.
Claye (2012), who already has a bronze medal in the long jump, came through on his third attempt to rank seventh at 55-4 1/4.
"I was behind the board on all my jumps. I had a headwind; I wanted to be safe," Claye said. "I made it through. I know what I have to do, so I just do it."
* In women’s long jump qualifying, 2008 Olympics fifth-place finisher Brittney Reese (Ole Miss 2008) moved into Wednesday’s finals. After fouling on her first two attempts, Reese qualified ninth with a last-chance effort of 21-6 3/4.
Sierra Leone flag-bearer Ola Sesay, who began her collegiate career at Kentucky before finishing at North Carolina, was eliminated. She placed 23rd with a jump of 20-5.
* Defending gold-medalist in the women’s 200 meters, Veronica Campbell-Brown (Arkansas 2004), advanced through the semifinals with the third-best time of the day, 22.32.
"I think I executed a decent race," she said. "I’ll remain confident and try to put it together. ... My intention is to stay focused and to run my heart out."
Trinidad’s Semoy Hackett (LSU 2012) also qualified with a national record-tying 22.55.