#USATF: World Records Book End U.S. Olympic Trials At Hayward Field

EUGENE – Mother Nature made the fans at Hayward Field wait a few hours on the final day of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field on Sunday, and the wait was worth it.

A delay for excessive heat moved most of the day’s schedule later by more than four hours as Eugene suffered under the highest temperature ever recorded in the city.

Team USATF’s finest responded with a display that could only be described as spectacular, including a world record, a meet record and a historic double.

Setting the second world record of an Olympic Trials that has seen a slew of super performances, Sydney McLaughlin (Playa Vista, California / USATF Southern California) became the first woman ever to break 52 seconds in the 400m hurdles, stopping the clock at 51.90 to chop .26 off the record set two years ago by the woman who finished second here, Dalilah Muhammad (Forth Worth, Texas / USATF Southern California).

McLaughlin delivered on the promise she showed in finishing second to Muhammad’s world-record run at the 2019 World Championships, but it wasn’t clear until the final hurdle, where the 21-year-old started to pull away on the road to history. Muhammad was second in 52.42, a time only she, McLaughlin and two other women have ever matched or bettered. USC’s NCAA champion Anna Cockrell (Waxhaw, North Carolina / USATF North Carolina) took advantage of a small stumble by Shamier Little (College Station, Texas / USATF Gulf) to move into third and secure her Tokyo spot with a 53.70, taking .98 off her lifetime best. Little was fourth at 53.85.

Showing poise and pacing that belie her youth, 19-year-old Athing Mu (Trenton, New Jersey / USATF New Jersey) came within a couple meters of the American 800m record, becoming the second-fastest ever U.S. performer with a Trials meet record 1:56.07 that ultimately wasn’t even close. Mu ran behind Chanelle Price (Eugene, Oregon / USATF Oregon) through 400m in 57.53 and then moved to the lead to pass 600m in 1:27.58. From there she ran relaxed and confidently attacked the final straight, covering the last 200m in 28.49. Mu’s time also shattered the American U20 record she set at Waco in April. Raevyn Rogers (Houston, Texas / USATF Gulf) made a strong move from sixth to second over the final half-lap, chalking up a lifetime best 1:57.66, while American record holder Ajee’ Wilson (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania / USATF Mid-Atlantic) staved off Virginia’s Michaela Meyer (Southbury, Connecticut / USATF Connecticut) to grab third in 1:58.39. Meyer slashed her personal best to 1:58.55 in fourth, while Price and Allie Wilson (Atlanta, Georgia / USATF Georgia) behind her also notched lifetime bests.

Completing a double that makes him the first American man since Jim Thorpe in 1912 to represent the U.S. in the Olympic high jump and long jump, JuVaughn Harrison (Baton Rouge, Louisiana / USATF Southern) flew to a lifetime best 8.47m/27-9.5 on his third attempt and replicated the double that he won at the NCAA Championships two weeks ago. Harrison’s 8.24m/27-0.5 opener was the leader until Marquis Dendy (Ocala, Florida / USATF Florida) went 8.38m/27-6 in round two, and Steffin McCarter (Copperas Cove, Texas / USATF Southwestern) of Texas tied his personal best with a third-round 8.26m/27-1.25 after Harrison retook the lead for good. Those three held their positions through the final three stanzas to firm up the Olympic berths, with Damarcus Simpson (Miami, Florida  / USATF Florida) fourth after a personal best 8.19m/26-10.5. 2016 Rio gold medalist Jeff Henderson (North Little Rock, Arkansas / USATF Utah) was sixth.

By the time the bar in the men’s high jump, which was contested earlier in the day, had reached its third height, 2.24m/7-4.25, only six men remained in the competition. That height quickly knocked out two of them, leaving Harrison and 2012 Olympic silver medalist Erik Kynard (Toledo, Ohio / USATF Missouri Valley) along with Darryl Sullivan (Marion, Tennessee / USATF Tennessee) and Shelby McEwen (Abbeville, Mississippi / USATF Southern). Kynard’s Tokyo hopes rested on making it over 2.33m, the Olympic standard, as he was the only one of the quartet who hadn’t achieved that yet.

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All four cleared 2.27m/7-5.25 their first time, and then all except Kynard went over 2.30m/7-6.5 on their initial attempts. Kynard missed twice and then passed his final attempt to take one shot at the next height, which would give him the Tokyo mark. Once he missed that, the team was set. Harrison and Sullivan sailed over 2.33m/7-7.75 first time, and McEwen missed twice before passing his final attempt. The bar was raised to 2.36m/7-8.75, which would match Harrison’s U.S. leading mark in 2021 and after two misses each by Harrison and Sullivan and a pass by McEwen, the bar was put at 2.39m/7-10, which would be a meet record and world leader. Sullivan missed his only try at it and McEwen also failed on his single attempt, leaving Harrison as the winner.

The first two and three-quarter laps were just the warm-up for the real show in the men’s 1,500m, with all 12 finalists bunched up within less than two seconds of each other and poised to see who had the fastest finishing kick. Reigning Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz (Arlington, Virginia / USATF Oregon) had the lead at the bell in 2:56.29 and behind him the order changed repeatedly as the other 11 jostled for position. Coming off the final turn, Oregon’s NCAA champion Cole Hocker (Indianapolis, Indiana / USATF Indiana) went wide and started to chase down Centrowitz, catching him and then passing him just before they crossed the line to win in 3:35.28. Centrowitz was the runner-up at 3:35.34 and Notre Dame’s Yared Nuguse (Louisville, Kentucky / USATF Kentucky) claimed his ticket to Tokyo with a third-place 3:36.19. The 2019 U.S. champion, Craig Engels (Beaverton, Oregon / USATF Oregon), was fourth in 3:36.69.

Reigning world champion Noah Lyles (Alexandria, Virginia / USATF Potomac Valley) gave the meet a fitting finish, winning the 200m in 19.74, a season best that was the product of relaxing and running the way he did in 2019 when he was dominant at Doha. Kenny Bednarek (Minneola, Florida / USATF Florida) had a slight lead coming off the curve and yielded just a little to Lyles after that, setting a lifetime best of 19.78 in second, while high schooler Erriyon Knighton (Riverview, Florida / USATF Florida) once again broke the world U20 record with a 19.84 that cut .04 off the mark he set in the semifinal and is also a world U18 best, his sixth of the year. Fourth-place finisher Fred Kerley (Taylor, Texas / USATF Gulf), who is already on the Tokyo squad in the 100m, set a personal best 19.90 in fourth.

Stringing together a remarkable series of performances that added up to a 550-point lifetime best and an Olympic Trials heptathlon title, Annie Kunz (San Clemente, California / USATF Southern California) moved to No. 5 on the all-time U.S. performer list with her  6,703 point tally. Kunz, who did not have the Tokyo standard before this meet, came into day two as the leader with 4,042 points and got things under way with a big PR in the long jump, spanning 6.50m/21-4. She then threw the javelin a personal best 45.06m/147-10 and capped it all off with a 2:15.24 season best in the 800m. It is the highest score in the world this year, and Kunz needed all of it to hold off Kendell Williams (Kennesaw, Georgia / USATF Georgia), who scored a personal best 6,683 to take second, adding 73 to her previous high. Erica Bougard (Chula Vista, California / USATF San Diego-Imperial) rounded out the Olympic squad with 6,667 in third. Lifetime bests behind them went to Miami’s Michelle Atherley (Coral Gables, Florida / USATF Florida), who was fourth with 6,352, and Chari Hawkins (San Diego, California / USATF San Diego-Imperial).

Hot weather has been no obstacle to 2016 Olympic silver medalist Paul Chelimo (Colorado Springs, Colorado / USATF Colorado), as anyone who watched his amazing solo win at scorching Sacramento in the 2017 U.S. Championships can attest, and he again beat the heat and a star-studded field to win his first Trials title and third U.S. championship with a 13:26.82 that all came down to a wild dash to the finish over the final 200m.

Garrett Heath (Seattle, Washington / USATF Pacific Northwest) took the lead for the first two laps before Chelimo overtook him and settled into controlling position and went through the mile in just under 4:20. Chelimo let 10,000m champion Woody Kincaid (Portland, Oregon / USATF Oregon) and Emmanuel Bor (Colorado Springs, Colorado / USATF Colorado) move to the front intermittently over the next few laps, and even BYU’s Conner Mantz (Smithfield, Utah / USATF Utah) shot to the lead briefly after the pace had slowed to almost a trot after the 3K point, which was reached in 8:07.26. Mantz’s injection of pace, a 62.75 lap, got the race back in rhythm and the final 600m was all about who would get the three precious Tokyo berths from among Chelimo, Kincaid, Grant Fisher (Portland, Oregon / USATF Oregon) and Oregon’s Cooper Teare (Alameda, California / USATF Pacific).

Chelimo hit the bell lap at 12:33.99, with Fisher and Bor the closest behind him, and then threw down a 52.83 final circuit and 25.50 last 200m, going wider and wider down the stretch to force Fisher and Kincaid out as they tried to catch him. Fisher won the duel with Kincaid by .12 in 13:27.01, reversing the finish order in the 10,000m, and Teare was left in fourth at 13:28.08 despite running the fastest final 400m.