EUGENE — An American record, a world U20 record and meet records in seven events told only part of the story of a glorious Saturday that has to rate among the best single days in Olympic Trials history. On the penultimate day of a meet that was delayed a year, Team USATF athletes performed beyond expectations on the track and in the field.
With a hat tip to country music legend Jerry Reed, DeAnna Price’s (Carbondale, Illinois / USATF New York) theme song for this day of days should be “When it’s hot, you’re hot.” Price obliterated her own American record twice and broke her own Trials record four times in the best series in American women’s hammer throwing history, topping out at 80.31m/263-6 in round five. Price’s mark is the sixth-best performance in history and makes her the No. 2 all-time performer behind only world record holder Anita Wlodarczyk of Poland. It is also the longest throw in the world since 2017.
Price opened the festivities with a 77.82m/255-4 to add more than two feet to the Trials record she set in the qualifying round, then she improved to 78.51m/257-7 on her next throw and 79.98m/262-5 in round three, breaking her AR that was set in April. A foul in round four preceded Price’s mammoth toss in the fifth stanza and was the only blemish on her series as she closed out with a 78.16m/256-5.
Brooke Andersen (Manhattan, Kansas / USATF Inland Northwest), the No. 2 ranked U.S. thrower this year, sailed one out to 77.72m/255-0 on her second attempt and that held up for the runner-up position, with Gwendolyn Berry (The Woodlands, Texas / USATF New York) nailing down the third Tokyo berth with her first-round effort of 73.50m/241-2. Janee’ Kassanavoid (Kansas City, Missouri / USATF Missouri Valley) came close to unseating Berry for that third spot, but fell three inches short. Andersen’s throw was the best ever by a second-place finisher in any women’s hammer competition.
Holding back a bit for the first five barriers, Rai Benjamin (Mount Vernon, New York / USATF New York) turned the speed dial up to 11 around the final curve and flew off the bend into the straight chasing history in the men’s 400m hurdles. Clear over the last two hurdles, Benjamin came agonizingly close to the world record that has stood since 1992, clocking 46.83, the second-fastest time in history. Benjamin did break the Trials record of 47.37 that was set in 1988 by Edwin Moses, and he pulled the two men who will join him in Tokyo to lifetime bests. Kenny Selmon (Mableton, Georgia / USATF Georgia) was second in 48.08, a .04 second PR, and David Kendziera (Chapel Hill, North Carolina / USATF North Carolina) took the same off his with a 48.38 in third. Aldrich Bailey (Arlington, Texas / USATF Southwestern) dramatically improved his personal best in fourth with a 48.55 after coming into the meet with a PR of 50.04.
After a tantalizingly close run at the world record in the semifinal, reigning world champion Grant Holloway (Gainesville, Florida / USATF Florida) had to endure one recall in the final of the men’s 110m hurdles before safely and speedily winning in 12.96 to secure his first Olympic berth. Former Oregon star Devon Allen (Annapolis, Maryland / USATF Potomac Valley), who was fifth at Rio, came through for second in 13.10 to equal his season-best, and 2019 U.S. champion Daniel Roberts (Griffin, Georgia / USATF Georgia) was third with a season-best 13.11.
The first semifinal was over seven steps into the race when Holloway safely cleared that barrier. He lost nothing over the next nine hurdles and became the No. 2 man in history with a 12.81 that was only .01 off the world record held by Aries Merritt and broke a 25-year-old Trials meet record. Allen overtook Roberts coming to the finish of the second semi and won in 13.10, just off his lifetime best. Roberts easily snagged second in 13.25 ahead of Michael Dickson’s (Beaufort, South Carolina / USATF South Carolina) 13.29 in the third automatic qualifying spot.
What was set up as a showdown between three of the fastest women in 200m history turned into a historical event all of its own. Powering through the curve, Gabby Thomas (Austin, Texas / USATF Texas Southern) looked majestic as she set a Trials record and equalled the third-fastest time in history to win in 21.61, taking over the No. 2 spot on the all-time world performer list behind only Florence Griffith-Joyner. Jenna Prandini (Pflugerville, Texas / USATF Central California) set a lifetime best of 21.89 in second, and Ohio State’s Anavia Battle (Inkster, Michigan / USATF Michigan) was left speechless after her 21.95 not only earned her a Tokyo trip in third place but also a collegiate record. Alabama’s Tamara Clark (Tuscaloosa, Alabama / USATF Alabama) also bettered the previous collegiate record, going 21.98 in fourth, the world’s fastest ever fourth-place finish, and Olympic legend Allyson Felix (Los Angeles, California / USATF Southern California) took fifth in 22.11.
A very large field started safely in the women’s 10,000m with 41 athletes seeking a berth on the Tokyo team. Lauren Hurley (Boulder, Colorado / USATF Colorado) led them through the first mile in just under 5:10, and there was about five seconds separating the leader from the 41st runner at that point. Emily Sisson (Phoenix, Arizona / USATF New England) took over the lead from there, trailed by Natosha Rogers (Denver, Colorado / USATF Michigan) and Sara Hall (Flagstaff, Arizona / USATF Arizona), picking up the pace a bit and stretching out the field even more. Behind those three, 5,000m 1-2 finishers Elise Cranny (Beaverton, Oregon / USATF Oregon) and Karissa Schweizer (Urbandale, Iowa / USATF Oregon) were tucked in the line just ahead of newly-minted U.S. citizen Weini Kelati (Leesburg, Virginia / USATF Arizona).
Sisson continued to lead through 5,000m in 15:49 with the order unchanged behind her. The gap between 10th and 11th grew to five seconds as a quarter of the field started to pull away from the rest on each lap. With 11 laps to go Kelati started to drop off the pace and there were only eight women left in contention. Cranny and Schweizer pushed into second and third behind Sisson as the lapping started, with Alicia Monson (Boulder, Colorado / USATF Colorado) taking over fourth.
The lead pack was cut to seven with eight laps to go, still led by Sisson, and then the first four put a quick gap on the next three with less than two miles remaining. Rachel Schneider (Flagstaff, Arizona / USATF Arizona), already qualified for Tokyo in the 5,000m, hung onto fifth place but started to fall back. With five laps left Sisson continued to crank out 74-second laps with Cranny on her heels and Monson gaining ground. Perhaps feeling the pressure behind her, Sisson widened the gap markedly and dropped the tempo to 72-second laps, putting four seconds between her and Monson with three to go.
That gap stretched to eight seconds on the penultimate circuit as Sisson dropped down to sub-72 laps and Monson solidified her hold on second over Schweizer. Speeding up through the bell, Sisson completed a remarkable feat of front-running to win in 31:03.82, a Trials meet record. Schweizer covered the final lap in 68.81 to grab second in 31:16.52 and Monson was third in 31:18.55.
Past and present American record-holders Kara Winger (Colorado Springs, Colorado / USATF Colorado) and Maggie Malone (Vestavia Hills, Alabama / USATF Gulf) squared off in the women’s javelin, and the current standard-bearer came away with the win as Malone hit a Trials record 63.50m/208-4 on her fifth attempt. Winger started off with a 61.47m/201-8 season-best that would remain her top mark of the day, and that mark put Winger atop the standings until Malone’s big throw. It will be the second trip to the Games for Malone, who defended the Trials title she won in 2016, and Winger is on her fourth Olympic journey. Avione Allgood-Whetstone (North Las Vegas, Nevada / USATF Nevada) set a lifetime best of 58.94m/193-4 for third, with Ariana Ince (Chula Vista, California / USATF San Diego-Imperial) placing fourth at 57.49m/188-7.
Once she was done winning the competition with first-attempt clearances at 4.60m/15-1 and 4.70m/15-5, world leader Katie Nageotte was on her own. Her first try at 4.80m/15-9 was good, but it took her two vaults to get over a new world leader and Trials record of 4.95m/16-2.75. Nageotte made three attempts at a world record of 5.07m/16-7.5 but was unsuccessful. Morgann LeLeux-Romero was a bit of a surprise runner-up, clearing 4.70m/15-5 on her third try, and she retired after one miss at 4.80m/15-9. Rio silver medalist Sandi Morris had a best of 4.60m/15-1 and got the third Tokyo spot over Olivia Gruver based on fewer misses at earlier heights.
If you come for the queen of American long jumping, you better come ready to fly, a lesson Tara Davis (Agoura Hills, California / USATF Southern California) learned as she went head-to-head with eight-time U.S. champion and three-time defending Trials champ Brittney Reese (Chula Vista, California / USATF San Diego-Imperial), one of the most decorated athletes in U.S. history. Davis, the NCAA indoor and outdoor champion and world leader in 2021, popped out to 6.92m/22-8.5 on her first attempt to set the challenge. Reese quickly accepted, responding with a slightly wind-aided 6.94m/22-9.25 to assume the lead.
The four-time world champion and 2012 Olympic gold medalist extended her lead with a 7.11m/ 23-4 in the fourth round and added a 7.13m/23-4.75 on her next jump. Davis hit 7.04m/23-1.25 in round five and 7.02m/23-0.5 on her final attempt, assuring her of second place and a coveted first Olympic berth. The tussle for the third ticket to the Games was settled by Quanesha Burks (Baton Rouge, Louisiana / USATF Southern) on her fifth attempt when she set a lifetime best 6.96m/22-10 to pass Tiffany Flynn (Ellenwood, Georgia / USATF Georgia), who had also notched a personal best of 6.80m/22-3.75 in that round.
Nick Christie (Vacaville, California / USATF Pacific) won his third straight U.S. title in the men’s 20K race walk and Robyn Stevens (Vacaville, California / USATF Pacific) earned her first in the women’s race early on Saturday. Both races were held in Springfield on a specialized road course that allowed spectators to watch as athletes traversed a loop course.
Christie quickly established a lead over the first kilometre, putting 21 seconds between him and eventual runner-up Dan Nehnevaj (Beckley, West Virginia / USATF West Virginia). By the 10K point Christie had extended his margin to almost a minute and he tacked on another 11 seconds to that by the finish, crossing the line in 1:30:48, with Nehnevaj second in 1:31:59. Despite spending two minutes in the penalty box late in the race, Manny Corvera (San Diego, California / USATF San Diego-Imperial) placed third in 1:34:38.
Stevens, the 2020 Toyota USATF Indoor champion in the 3,000m walk last year, established a similar race pattern as Christie, taking the lead right away and then pulling further ahead as the race went on. She was two seconds up on eight-time U.S. outdoor winner and defending Trials champion Maria Michta-Coffey (Lake Grove, New York / USATF Long Island) after the first kilometre, upping that to 55 seconds by 5K. Her lead went to 1:42 by the halfway mark and by the time she hit the finish line she was more than four minutes ahead, stopping the clock at 1:35:13. Michta-Coffey remained in second at 1:39:25, while 2015 champion Miranda Melville (Chula Vista, California / USATF New York) was third at 1:40:39.
Women’s 400m hurdles semifinal
World leader Sydney McLaughlin (Playa Vista, California / USATF Southern California), the second-fastest woman in history, had Nnenya Hailey (Northridge, California / USATF Southern California)to her outside and those two didn’t have much between them until they came off the final bend and over the eighth hurdle. McLaughlin pulled away and had a very easy run in that still stopped the clock at 53.03. Hailey demolished her lifetime best with a 54.24 that sliced .74 off her previous PR. Cassandra Tate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana / USATF Southern) was third in a season-best 55.24 to seal her spot in the final.
Semifinal two had world record holder Dalilah Muhammad (Fort Worth, Texas / USATF Southern California) in lane six and Shamier Little (College Station, Texas / USATF Gulf) one lane inside her. As is her won’t, Muhammad set a torrid early pace and was one stride up on Little through hurdle eight. From there the duo ran side by side and Little was a bit quicker on the sprint in to win in 53.71, .15 ahead of Muhammad. Anna Cockrell (Waxhaw, North Carolina / USATF North Carolina), the NCAA champion, was third in 55.10. The two-time qualifiers were 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Ashley Spencer (Austin, Texas / USATF Texas Southern) and Deonca Bookman (Dallas, Texas / USATF Southwestern), who lowered her PR to 55.66 in semi one.
Men’s 200m semifinal
Looking easier than it should have, Kenny Bednarek (Minneola, Florida / USATF Florida) came away with a 19.90 to win the first section, slowing down coming to the finish. Isaiah Young (Clermont, Florida / USATF Southern) came through under 20 seconds in second at 19.99, and Andrew Hudson (Cibolo, Texas / USATF Texas Southern) held off 100m third-placer Fred Kerley (Taylor, Texas / USATF Gulf) for third in a personal best 20.02. Kerley clocked a lifetime best 20.08 and got one of the time qualifier spots in the final along with Kyree King (Ontario, California / USATF Southern California), fifth in a PR 20.23.
Setting his fifth world U18 best this year and his first world U20 record, breaking the mark of one Usain Bolt, 17-year-old Erriyon Knighton (Riverview, Florida / USATF Florida) steamed to a 19.88 to win semi two that also lowered the American U20 record he set in yesterday’s first round. In his wake, reigning world champion Noah Lyles (Alexandria, Virginia / USATF Potomac Valley) looked the best he has all year with a smooth 19.91 for second, and Terrance Laird (Downington, Pennsylvania / USATF Mid-Atlantic) of LSU took third in 20.22.
Women’s Heptathlon 1st Day
Annie Kunz (San Clemente, California / USATF Southern California) had her best first day ever to lead after four events, capitalizing on individual event bests in the high jump and 200m to tally 4,042 points. Kunz also had the best throw in the shot put and, were it not for a slightly illegal wind, would have had a personal best in the 100m hurdles. Taliyah Brooks (Fayetteville, Arkansas / USATF Arkansas) had the fastest times in the 100H and 200 to sit second overall with 3,946 points, while 2017 U.S. champion Kendell Williams (Kennesaw, Georgia / USATF Georgia) was third with 3,924. Defending national champion Erica Bougard (Chula Vista, California / USATF New York) was close behind at 3,912.
Click here for full results and the schedule.