This is a fun piece by Sean MacPherson. Sean was a member of the SOJC Track Bureau last year, and this year he provided pieces on the Pre Classic, NCAA, and USATF Champs. He will be writing for us during the World Champs as well.
By Sean MacPherson for RunBlogRun
The U.S. team for the Eugene World Championships in three weeks is set after an action-packed four days at Hayward Field. With plenty of stories and performances to choose from, here were my biggest takeaways from the U.S. Championships.
Sydney McLaughlin might be the most dominant athlete in the sport
Syndey McLaughlin beat her own world record to win Saturday’s 400m hurdles final. What’s more impressive is that she did it running all by herself, as her main competitor and 2019 world champion Dalilah Muhammad took the bye and did not race. Beating a world record at a non-global meet is rare and was debatably the moment of the meet. Ryan Crouser and Syndey McLaughlin are two of the most dominant figures in the sport right now and have proven so by giving the Hayward Field fans a world record performance over the last two seasons. Having run times of 51.61 (with hurdles 5,6 in wrong places) and 51.41 so far this season, look for McLaughlin to break this record again in three weeks.
Noah Lyles and Erriyon Knighton are becoming a fantastic rivalry
Last season, Cole Hocker and Matthew Centrowitz were the rivalry that got the track and field buzzing throughout the Olympic Trials. This time around, the Noah Lyles and Erriyon Knighton dynamic became a fun storyline after the Men’s 200 meters. After Knighton rocketed out of the blocks and led most of the race, Lyles chased the 18-year-old down over the last 80 meters to take the victory. Right before the finish line, Lyles made a pointing gesture toward Knighton. Then, in an interview with NBC, Lyles made fiery comments about the race, and Knighton eventually stormed off. While Lyles downplayed his finish line gesture by saying it was about the critics and not Knighton, there’s undoubtedly some tension here and I can’t wait to see it play out on the biggest stage next month.
Superstars that didn’t make the team
During what was supposed to be a quiet day of track prelims on Thursday, we saw defending U.S. Champion Cole Hocker fail to qualify for the 1500-meter final. On that same day, Tara Davis failed to post a clean mark in the long jump. Star sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson fell short of qualifying for the 100-meter and 200-meter finals. Olympic medalist Gabby Thomas finished 8th in the 200 meters. These were just a few of the star athletes that came up short during this weekend’s championships. It goes to show how difficult it is to make a U.S. team and to peak at the right time while avoiding injuries, sickness, etc. during a season. Despite the disappointing weekend, I hope that we can see these young stars return to form in the near future.
Fred Kerley is the fastest short sprinter in the world right now
Over the course of two days, Fred Kerley ran times of 9.83, 9.76, and 9.77 to win a U.S. Championship in the 100 meters. As if that wasn’t enough, the 27-year-old earned a spot on the 200-meter team with a third-place finish in that race. It’s hard to believe that this is just his second season is a short sprinter; it was a bold move for an athlete that medaled in the 400 meters in the World Championships in 2019. Kerley is continuing to get better at the short sprints and has a chance to assert himself on the world stage in both the 100 meters and 200 meters. I consider him the clear favorite for the 100 meters and a real contender to medal in the 200 meters in July’s World Championships.
Collegians Fitting Right in with Professionals
We saw plenty of memorable performances and World Championship bids from college athletes over the course of this weekend. On the women’s side, a collegian won the 100, 200, and 400 meters with victories by Melissa Jefferson (Coastal Carolina), Abby Steiner (Kentucky), and Talitha Diggs (Florida). On the men’s side, Champion Allison (Florida) and Randolph Ross (NC A&T) claimed two of the three spots on the 400 meter team. Abdihamid Nur (NAU) made the team in the 5000 meters over a very strong field. Brandon Miller (Texas A&M) dove across the line to take third in the 800 meters over Clayton Murphy. Jonathan Davis (Illinois) crossed the line second in the 1500 meters. This is just a small sample of what college athletes were able to accomplish at this weekend’s U.S. Championships. It shows how high-level the NCAA currently is and that these athletes are able to compete at the highest level in the world despite the rigorous and lengthy collegiate season.
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