The women’s 400m hurdles were one of the most anticipated races of the entire trials by the track & field cognoscenti. In July 2019 (52.20) and again in October 2019 (52.16), Dalilah Muhammed sets WRs and Sydney McLaughlin came in second.
In 2021, it was a very different story. Not to say that Dalilah Muhammed did not fight, she flew, going 52.40. Muhammed and McLaughlin were close until Sydney took off just past the ninth hurdle and she just moved well, leaning classically at the line (a Bobby Kersee special), and taking every bit of the WR off that she could! 51.90 seconds!
This duel between McLaughlin and Muhammad is not over. Dalilah has set WRs twice, and is the only woman, besides Sally Gunnell, to win both Olympic and World titles at the 400m hurdles, arguably, the most challenging of track’s non-distance events.
Elliott Denman gives us a lesson on Sydney, her coach, her family, and just how talented this young woman is!
DAY 8 BLOG FROM TRIALS
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
EUGENE, OREGON – Temps had dipped from the downright dangerous 110 vicinities to the merely uncomfortable mid-90s by the time they ran off the final finals of the star-spangled, steadily-sizzling USA Olympic Trials Sunday night at the smashingly stunning $275-million Hayward Field Sunday night.
And what a windup session to the eight-day Trials this one turned out to be.
Ju’Vaughn Harrison scored a totally unprecedented Trials double in the high (7-7 3/4) and long (27-9 1/4) jumps.
Oregon freshman – can he be “the new Pre?” – Cole Hocker (3:35.28) ran down defending Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz (3:35.34) to win the 1500m.
Noah Lyles turned in a statement win – yes, he was again the pre-Tokyo 200 favorite – by dashing the
half-lapper in 19.74.
Athing Mu celebrated her new status as a Nike pro athlete by lowering the women’s 800 Trials record to 1:56.07 and outperforming veteran greats Raevyn Rogers (1:57.55) and Ajee’ Wilson (1:58.39.)
But the race they’ll be talking about for eons was the women’s 400 hurdles which saw Sydney McLaughlin fight off the reigning world and Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad over the final two barriers and go on to a world record 51.90 win.
Muhammad wasn’t going to abdicate her reign without a battle. But McLaughlin was simply unstoppable.
No one can tell you the McLaughlin story better than Mike McCabe, her high school coach at Union Catholic of Fanwood, N.J. He’s seen the former Dunellen (N.J.) resident who now calls Southern California her home base grow from likely prospect to queen of her global realm.
McCabe – whose Union Catholic athletes will be competing at the Nike Scholastic Nationals next week at Hayward Field – flew into Eugene a few days early to catch the sight of his Sizzling Syd chasing the world mark at Trials. And his star alumna more than lived up to every expectation.
“We knew that Syd was going to get it (the WR) sooner or later,” said McCabe, who’s been coaching at UC for 17 years. Well, sooner it was.
“She was almost flawless tonight. She ran the perfect race. She got out well and finished strong.
“I guess there can’t be a greater thrill for any coach than to see his athlete run to a world record.
“And it’s doubly great to see her make the Olympic team.”
These days she trains at UCLA under the guidance of the famed Bobby Kersee, whose best previous pupil was his wife, the former Jackie Joyner whose status as the greatest-ever of all-female track athletes has never been challenged. Now Sydney McLaughlin will head to Tokyo as the most solid selection to do something sensational all over again.
Speaking to the slender crowd – many fans simply didn’t return to Hayward after the
long postponement – McLaughlin spoke with an eloquence far beyond anything you’d expect from a
“It’s such a great honor to represent my nation and my family,” she said, to rounds of applause.
It’s that single word “family” that really speaks volumes in the McLaughlin story.
Her dad, Willie McLaughlin, had been a brilliant 400-meter runner at Manhattan College, fast enough, talented enough to race his way into the semifinals of the 1984 Olympic Trials.
Her mom, Mary McLaughlin, had been a high school track athlete but found herself without a team to run for once she got to Manhattan, which then did not field a women’s varsity squad,
But Mary still met Willie on the Manhattan Jaspers’ campus in the Riverdale section of
the Bronx, New York.
Their romance bloomed. They’d marry and bring four children into the world. (One of them, big brother and Michigan grad Taylor McLaughlin, was a Big 10 400 hurdles champion and an entry into these Trials, too, until knocked out by injury.)
Willie and Mary McLaughlin also happen to be an interracial couple but have never let their differences stand in the way of a solid marriage.
I’d like to suggest to some execs high up on the several national networks’ decision-making chain that they give Willie and Mary McLaughlin some major interview time.
Want a poster couple to discuss the hot-button issue of race that seems to be pulling the nation in too many painful directions these challenging days?
My nominees: Willie and Mary McLaughlin.
“It just stinks,” McCabe says of all this intolerance besetting the nation.
But then he shifts focus to the amazing Olympic daughter of Willie and Mary McLaughlin
and realizes it’s not all doom and gloom on the American amity front.