Some have been faster than him, others more flamboyant.
No American, though, has put together quite the resume that Shawn Crawford has assembled since the start of this decade.
Crawford routed the field in the 200 meters at U.S. championships Sunday, adding a fourth national title to his list of accomplishments a full eight years after he won the first.
Well, Crawford has been around long enough to know one when he sees it.
"Before this race, I thought I was done," he conceded. "After this, maybe I got a little bit more in me than I thought."
He finished in a wind-aided 19.73 seconds to beat 21-year-old newcomer Charles Clark by .27 seconds and 24-year-old Wallace Spearmon, whom he considers his protege, by .30.
Allyson Felix joined Crawford as America's other 200-meter champion.
A heavy favorite to win her fifth national title, Felix didn't disappoint, finishing in 22.02 (also wind-aided) to edge Muna Lee. Marshevet Hooker finished third and grabbed the last spot on the U.S. team heading to worlds later this summer.
"I felt this was a stepping stone," Felix said. "I've got a lot more work to do."
Crawford won in a field that was missing Tyson Gay, who didn't compete, having already qualified in the 100 and 200 thanks to his world championships in 2007.
While Gay may be America's biggest and fastest sprint star, nobody has a more intriguing story than Crawford. The latest chapter came at the Beijing Olympics last year, when he was awarded the silver medal after two runners who finished ahead of him were disqualified for running outside their lanes.
He never felt right about that, so he delivered the medal back to Churandy Martina _ a burden off Crawford's back, even though leaders in the Olympic movement refused to remove him from the record book.
"In my heart, I felt he deserved it," Crawford said earlier this week.
Crawford will be among the headliners on a U.S. worlds team that will also include newly crowned national champions Christian Cantwell (shot put), Jenn Stuczynski (pole vault), Bershawn Jackson (400 hurdles) Dawn Harper (100 hurdles) and Lopez Lomong (1,500 meters).
Bernard Lagat (1,500 and 5,000) and Jeremy Wariner (400) will also be on the team based on their 2007 championships, even though neither won anything this weekend. Lagat ran only one heat of the 800 and Wariner was eliminated in the semifinals of the 200.
Some American stars not as lucky include 100-meter hurdler Lolo Jones, who fell in her semifinal heat, and Olympic heptathlon silver medalist Hyleas Fountain, who was leading before withdrawing with a neck injury.
Sprinter Walter Dix and decathlete Bryan Clay, who have four Olympic medals between them, were injured earlier in the week and will also miss the trip to Berlin.
Felix ran all three heats of the 200 even though she had earned a wild card spot based on her 2007 world championship. She wanted to use the meet to round into form, and is doing just that. She'll be going for her third world championship, but has to wait until 2012 to fill in the only gap left on her resume: Felix has two Olympic silver medals, but no gold.
The woman she beat, Muna Lee, joins Gay as the only American sprinters with a chance to double in Berlin. Lee lost the 100 and 200 finals by a combined .111 seconds.
"At least I'm making a mark somewhere," Lee said. "I'll take that."
Crawford, meanwhile, has taken another step on a long path that included his association with coach Trevor Graham, now in track exile after a string of doping controversies. While many high-profile athletes associated with Graham have been embroiled in trouble, Crawford has steered clear of that and still considers himself friends with his former coach.
It's just one part of a colorful, not-always-perfect, but mostly successful career that also included a race against a cheetah and a giraffe on a Fox reality show a few years ago.
His career marches on.
"I'm just truly blessed," Crawford said. "I know I don't do all the things I should all the time. I'm human."