Athletics - Houston stuns Kendricks for U.S. pole vault title

(Reuters) - Scott Houston upset world pole vault champion Sam Kendricks while Christian Coleman stayed on course in the 60 metres at the U.S. indoor championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Saturday.

Houston, who ranked only fifth among U.S. pole vaulters last year, cleared a lifetime best 5.83 metres to beat Kendricks, who failed three times at the height after not missing an attempt through 5.78 metres.

A big loss in Europe last month played a role, Houston said.

"Three weeks ago I had a great opportunity to go compete in Germany and compete against the best in the world – the last six world champions, indoors and out, the last two Olympic medallists, gold medalists, and I got beat really bad," he said.

"You can't take a loss and just tuck your tail down and run home so I came back and got off the plane and drove up to a meet the next day and competed.

"(I) set a new indoor personal best, and kind of started this path on to the indoor national meet."

World outdoor championships silver medallist Coleman cruised through qualifying in the 60 metres in 6.46 seconds despite slowing as he advanced to Sunday's semi-finals and finals.

The top two finishers in each event qualify for the March 1-4 world indoor championships in Birmingham, England, provided they have the qualifying standard.

Coleman's time was just 0.01 seconds faster than Ronnie Baker, who won the heat prior to Coleman's.

"I put out a good race. Now I've got two rounds to fill it out," said the confident Coleman, who hopes to use the rarefied air at high-altitude in Albuquerque to eclipse Maurice Greene's 20-year world record of 6.39 seconds.

Coleman ran 6.37 seconds last month in South Carolina, but the performance will not be ratified because electronic starting blocks were not in use.

America's hurdlers also are expected to be major factors at the world championships with Christina Manning clocking 7.84 seconds in 60 metres hurdles qualifying.

World outdoor record holder Kendra Harrison won her heat in 7.87 seconds with Sharika Nelvis (7.91) also a heat winner.

Jarret Eaton led the men's preliminaries, running 7.53 seconds with Devon Allen 0.05 seconds slower in another heat. Aries Merritt, the outdoor record holder, was fifth fastest at 7.66.

Olympic silver medallist Paul Chelimo outkicked Shadrack Kipchirchir for the 3,000 metres win in 7:57.88.

Another fast closer, Shelby Houlihan, took the women's 3,000 in 9:00.08.

World silver medallist Jarrion Lawson narrowly missed the year's best long jump when he leaped 8.38 metres to defeat world indoor champion Marquis Dendy (8.22) and Erik Kynard cleared 2.30 metres to win his fifth consecutive high jump title.

(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)