The last 100 meters of the men’s 400 meters was gut-churning. Michael Cherry was not about to give and he dug in, sensing, just hoping that Michael Norman would falter.
At 350 meters, Michael Norman put in the afterburner and moved away, in 44.07, a seasonal best, and world leader. Michael Cherry, who gutted it out, was rewarded with a second place, and a PB of 44.35.
Sean MacPherson, a member of Lori Shontz’s band of Oregon sports journalist, did this piece for RunBlogRun.
Lori Shontz and Larry Eder are editing the pieces for SOJC.
Michael Norman Collects 400 Meter Title After Five Years of Patience
In 2016, an 18-year-old sprinter from Vista Murrieta High School in Murrieta, California, came to the Olympic Trials and walked away with a more-than-respectable showing, a fifth-place finish in the 200 meters.
In the five years since, Michael Norman has become a star in the sprints, specifically the 400 meters. He began posting world-class times and winning NCAA titles but had yet to earn the title of U.S. champion, or Olympian.
Until Sunday night at Hayward Field. Norman bested the 400-meter field at the Olympic Trials, winning in a season-best time of 44.07.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Norman said. “It’s been five long years, so to come in here and check one more box off my dream list is a long time coming. Only half the job is done.”
Michael Cherry finished second with a personal-best time of 44.35, and Randolph Ross took third in 44.74 to also earn a trip to Tokyo.
In 2016, Norman was one of a handful of high schoolers to compete at the trials. He had won the Gatorade Player of the Year in track & field as a junior, and in 2015, he led Vista Murrieta to its first state title in any sport by scoring 21.5 out of the school’s 37 points. His times in the 200 and 400 are both top 10 all-time among high school runners, and he’s the only prep sprinter ever to have posted a top 10 mark in both events.
The problem at the Trials in 2016? Youth and inexperience. This time, Norman came to Eugene with brand new confidence.
“In 2016, there were no expectations, no goals, just have fun and see what happens,” said Norman. “This year everything was done with a purpose, and I had a goal in mind. This year was more focused and goal-driven.”
The field for the final ushered in a new era of American men’s 400 meters. Not a single athlete had been in the final in 2016. Four out of the eight athletes were NCAA athletes representing their schools, including the third-place finisher, Ross, who won the NCAA title just one week prior.
“Me being so young and seeing all these people like Michael Cherry, Michael Norman,” said Ross. “I used to see them in high school and so coming in and being right next to them, it was a little overwhelming in the beginning. But I just had to settle down and do what I do.”