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Merritt qualifies for Olympics

LaShawn Merritt, a Portsmouth native and Suffolk resident, came in first place in Olympic qualifying for the men’s 400-meter race on Sunday.

Merritt blew past the competition, finishing with a time of 43.97 seconds, nearly a second better than the runner-up, Gil Roberts, who finished with a time of 44.73 seconds.

Merritt will be running in the Olympic games for the second time in his career. Merritt won the 400 meter event at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, but he missed the 2012 Olympics after injuring his hamstring.

Merritt is also running the 200-meter sprint in the Olympic trials. He finished in third place in the quarterfinals with a time of 20.09 seconds, earning his way to the semifinal qualifier on Friday night. The race had not concluded by press time.

The top two times for each semifinal, plus the next two fastest times overall, qualify for the 200-meter finals.

Merritt is 30, which means the 2016 Olympics may be his last chance to compete at a top international level.

Merritt’s personal best time of 43.65 seconds makes him the sixth-fastest 400 runner in history.