July 8, 2016
EUGENE, Ore. — High schoolers Michael Norman and Noah Lyles got a taste of the big-time by running the two fastest times in 200-meter qualifying on Thursday at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials at Hayward Field. Turns out, they weren’t done. Friday night’s sequel was even better — Lyles (Alexandria, Va.) and Norman (Murrieta, Calif.) once again won their heats, Lyles clocking 20.26 (0.4 m/s wind) to take heat 2 minutes after Norman beat out Justin Gatlin to win heat 1 in 20.21 (-1.1 m/s wind). Act III promises to be must-watch drama: two 18-year-olds competing against Olympic champs Gatlin and LaShawn Merritt in the toughest 200-meter national championship in the world.
The smart money is on either Merritt who — oh by the way — ran a world-leading 19.74 to win heat 3 and Gatlin, who took silver over 200 meters at the World Championships in Beijing last year, to go 1-2 in some order. And Ameer Webb, who was the second-fastest qualifier today in 19.97 has the #2 time in the world this year (19.85) and has won two Diamond League meets this year. As well as Norman and Lyles have run this week in Eugene, they’ll have to reach a whole new level in the final if they are to make it to Rio.
But rather than focus on what could still happen — and nothing is off the table right now — let’s appreciate what these two young men have just accomplished. Here are some of the men they beat out to make this final:
Jarrion Lawson — 2016 NCAA 200 champion
Dedric Dukes — 2014 NCAA 200 champion (19.97 pb)
Isiah Young — 2015 USA runner-up, 2013 USA champion
Walter Dix — 2x Olympic medallist, #4 all-time at 200 (19.53 pb)
Wallace Spearmon — 3x WC medallist, 3rd at USAs last year (19.65 pb, #8 all-time)
We’ve got interviews with Norman and Lyles below, plus brief recaps of the other sprint action — including the crazy women’s 100 hurdles final, World Championship silver medallist Shamier Little‘s shocking exit in the 400 hurdles and the continued brilliance of high school junior Sydney McLaughlin in the same event.
Men’s 200 results
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Michael Norman will face Noah Lyles for the second time
Norman obviously ran great tonight, but said that he felt his start could have been better and that there are a few things he took “mental notes” on during the race to improve on in the final. After the race, Norman and Gatlin hugged and Norman asked whether Gatlin remembered him from a Nike Elite camp that Norman attended last year. Gatlin did.
Norman said he was a little sore from his 20.06 in Thursday’s first round, but likes that the three rounds of the 200 are all on different days as he’s used to running a lot of same-day doubles.
Norman said that he and Lyles are friendly (they congratulated each other at 3:10 of the interview), but they’ve only raced against each other once in their careers — on this same track one year ago at USA Juniors, where Lyles beat Norman, 20.18 to 20.24. Their second meeting will come on one of the biggest stages possible, with three Olympic berths on the line.
Noah Lyles: “Mike hyped me up. I saw him going and I was like, ‘Oh dang, he’s right alongside Gatlin … Oh snap! He just passed Gatlin! Alright, I gotta get out there.’”
Lyles said watching Norman beat Gatlin in the heat before him fired him up to go win his heat so he wasn’t one-upped by Norman. Talking about watching Norman’s race Lyles said, “Mike hyped me up. I saw him going and I was like, ‘Oh dang, he’s right alongside Gatlin … Oh snap! He just passed Gatlin! Alright, I gotta get out there.’”
Even though he’s up against enormous odds as a high schooler facing professionals, Lyles said coming into the meet, making the Olympics was the goal and he feels it’s realistic. Considering that Norman had the 4th fastest time of the day even though he ran into a headwind (Merritt, Webb and Gay were faster, but had a tailwind) and Lyles was only .05 behind winning his heat, a high schooler snagging the third spot is a real possibility.
Asked about Merritt’s 19.74 (ran in the heat after Lyles), Lyles had an interesting reaction as he said, “That’s definitely impressive! That’s definitely my goal on my phone. So I guess I’m going to have to find a new goal, a better goal.” Asked why his goal was 19.74, Lyles explained, “I like four. And I know I’m going to run 19.7, so might as well be 19.74.”
Lyles also spoke about Drew Hunter going pro and was pretty knowledgeable on the subject as he knew Hunter had planned on going to Oregon (both Lyles and Hunter are from Virginia). Lyles said, “That’s great. I’m not like a ‘distance connoisseur,’ but I’m very proud for him … I know he was going with Oregon, but if you find another way, another path that’s looking even better, I say go for it.” Asked if he was thinking of going pro, Lyles said it’s definitely something he’d consider “if the money’s right.”
Justin Gatlin Full of Praise for the High Schoolers: “They’re coming out to be giant killers”
Justin Gatlin was beaten today by high schooler Norman, the same high schooler he was mentoring at a Nike Elite camp this winter. When asked if one of the high schoolers could make the team, he said most definitely. “Going into the finals they (Norman and Lyles) feed off each other. Watching them in the call room, they look at each other and they’re like ‘We got this, we got this.’ They’re coming out to be giant killers.”
When asked about LaShawn Merritt’s sub-20 run, Gatlin said, “LaShawn’s in 19 shape, he’s been in 19 shape since May.”
Gatlin’s 20.23 was his fastest 200m of the year (Gatlin didn’t run the 200 until the Trials this year) and said of the final, “I think I’m going to rise to the occasion when it’s time.”
LaShawn Merritt Trying the 200/400 Double for the First Time Since High School
Merritt’s 19.74 improved on his 19.78 world leader in Bahamas. He would not commit to doing the double in Rio, but it still is a possibility saying, “I’m not sure yet I’m just going to take it a race at a time.” We asked Merritt why he chose to double this year and he said it was because he opened so fast (20.23 then 19.78) and that if he ever was going to attempt the double, this was the year. Merritt said he completed the 200/400 double in high school and the 200 was actually in his pro contract when he first signed pro.
Walter Dix gives the HS phenoms some advice
Walter Dix, the 4th-fastest man ever at 200 (19.53), was eliminated after running 20.63 and placing 5th in heat #2 today. We asked the five-time NCAA champion and 4-time global medallist if he had any advice for the HS phenoms.
“I’d just tell them to stay focused and I’d tell them to go to college – whether they go pro or not – and get a degree. There isn’t that much money in track but you can have a great career. That would be my advice,” said Dix.
“I think the college structure helps. It’s hard being 18 and trying to deal with adult problems. It’s not like the NFL or NBA where they have a team setting you can walk to. In track and field, you are on your own,” added Dix. “I think a college program, period, is the best structure.”
As for Dix, now 30 years old, he is no spring chicken and he wasn’t sure if he’d continue to compete for years to come.
“We’ll see. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do it like the guys in front of me right now. (Editor’s note: We think he was referring to Justin Gatlin/Tyson Gay). When they get older, they get faster,” said Dix.
Brianna Rollins Torches the Field to Win 100 Hurdles; Kristi Castlin & Nia Ali Join Her on Team USA as American Record Holder Keni Harrison Winds Up 6th
Out of all the events at the Olympic Trials, the women’s 100 hurdles may be the toughest one in which to make the Olympic team. Entering today’s meet, the world top five looked like this:
1. Keni Harrison, USA 12.24
2. Brianna Rollins, USA 12.53
3. Jasmin Stowers, USA 12.55
4. Sharika Nelvis, USA 12.61
T-5. Kristi Castlin, USA 12.62
T-5. Cindy Roleder, GER 12.62
Here are the results from tonight’s U.S. championships:
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So if you ran 12.62 before today, you’d be in the top five in the world. If you ran 12.62 today — which Keni Harrison did — you only finished sixth in the United States Olympic Trials. That’s how good the U.S. is in this event.
The depth in this field was incredible. Heck, 2008 Olympic champ and reigning U.S. champ Dawn Harper-Nelson didn’t even make the final. Domestically, only the 2013 U.S. final, where Rollins set the American record and it took 12.48 to make the team, was a better race. But apart from the depth, there were two major stories: Rollins’ brilliance and Keni Harrison’s failure. That may be unfair to Harrison, but after how she has been running this year, there is no other way to characterize her performance today. Anything other than an Olympic berth was going to be a failure.
Brianna Rollins was focused solely on herself this week
Harrison broke Rollins’ American record earlier this year, but Rollins said she wasn’t focused on her or anyone else as she can only control her 10 hurdles. Rollins now has to be viewed as the favorite in Rio — with Harrison out, she has the five of the seven times in the world this year among women entered, including a clear #1 today. As Harrison showed this week, the 100 hurdles is a streaky event. But Rollins has been one of the most consistent in the world over the past few years. She was world champion in 2013, finished as the top American at Worlds in 2015 (4th) and took silver at World Indoors in the 60 hurdles in March.
Should Rollins have been DQ’d?
Rollins clearly stepped in Queen Harrison’s lane during the race, as shown in the NBC screenshot below.
Harrison clearly noticed it too.
There may have been TWO hurdlers running in MY lane lol but at the end of the day, that's for the officials to decide. Congrats ladies!
— Queen Harrison (@goQueengo) July 9, 2016
USATF Rule 163.5 states:
In races run entirely in lanes, each competitor must keep in the allotted lane from start to finish. In races run partially in lanes, each competitor must keep in the allotted lane from the start to the marked cut-in points. Unless a material advantage has been gained or the athlete is in violation of Rule 163.4, a competitor shall not be disqualified if he or she: (a) Is pushed or forced by another competitor to step out of the lane, or (b) Steps out of the lane on the straightaway, or (c) Steps or runs outside of the outer lane line on the curve, or on any straight part of the diversion from the track for the steeplechase water jump. Excluding the above exceptions, the Referee shall disqualify a competitor if an Umpire reports that the competitor has stepped out of the lane. NOTE: Material advantage includes improving position by any means, including exiting from a ‘boxed’ position in the race by having stepped or run inside the inside edge of the track.
Reading that, Rollins should be fine — rule 163.4 refers to impeding/obstructing another runner, and Rollins was far enough in front that she did not appear to do that to Harrison (you can see for yourself in the race video here). Rollins told us in the interview above that no officials said anything to her about running in Harrison’s lane.
Stoic Keni Harrison: “This stuff happens”
If we were going to bet on anyone in this loaded event making the team heading into the meet, it would have been Keni Harrison. She broke the American record at Pre, running 12.24 (#2 all-time), won all six of her races and had the world’s four fastest times — 12.24, 12.36, 12.42 and 12.46, with no one else under 12.50. Yet she could only manage a 12.62 today, her second-slowest of the season, behind only the 12.66 she ran into a headwind in Stockholm on June 16.
Harrison’s choke is hard to compute. It’s not like the wet track should have been a problem for her — we even said in our Stockholm recap that the cool, wet conditions would be “good preparation in case there is inclement weather at the Trials.”
Harrison kept a smile on in the mixed zone and offered no excuses, but we felt like her voice was about to crack and she was close to breaking into tears. Such is the pressure and importance of the Olympic Trials. Watch the video below to decide for yourself.
Harrison said felt “great” and is not injured and would “have to go watch film” to figure out what happened. Up next is the Diamond League meet in London. She said she understood “this stuff happens” and that is true, but it only happens at the US Olympic Trials, which makes it so beautiful.
Harrison said, “I know these girls are going to do great in Rio and make America proud.”
Queen Harrison was 4th but is proud of the team the U.S. is sending to Rio
A loud vibration prior to the start caused the field to be told to stand up, and Harrison said that threw her off. She hit two hurdles during the race, and against a field this good, that was ll it took for Harrison to miss out on her second Olympic team by .02.
Though Harrison began her interview by saying “Ain’t nothing worse than fourth, huh?” she was quite upbeat and said that she’ll be pulling for her hurdle competitors in Rio. Harrison said that she knows she’s one of the best in the world and that “it’s not even a question” that tonight’s field was tougher than the final will be in Rio next month. Based on how fast everyone ran, we’re not going to argue with her.
Olympic Gold And Silver Medalist Dawn Harper-Nelson Didn’t Make The Final
The depth of the United States’s women’s hurdles is so great that one of the best hurdlers of all-time, Dawn Harper Nelson, didn’t even make the final. Harper Nelson is the 2008 Olympic champ and 2012 Olympic silver medalist and has won every US Championships she has contested since 2012 (she was a DNS in 2013 as she had a bye to Worlds). But here she was third in the second heat and missed being one of the two time qualifiers by .01 of a second.
Harper Nelson seemed in shock that she was in the position of not making the US team (understandable since she’s been on every US outdoor team since 2008) and said, “I can’t believe I’m saying this. ‘Someone else to represent us.’ I won’t get that amazing blue uniform. Like are you serious? … This will always be a bitter taste in my mouth. Nothing I can do about it. Yeah, it sucks.”
Sydney McLaughlin Impresses In Women’s Hurdles as Shamier Little Shockingly Exits
Norman and Lyles weren’t the only high schoolers to impress or win their semifinals today. On the women’s side, 16-year-old Sydney McLaughlin won the first of two semifinals in the 400 hurdles in 55.23.
“It was a little bit harder [than yesterday],” McLaughlin said. “It was a very close race that went out hard. The rain again messed up my hair, but it’s ok. I feel pretty good going into the final,” said McLaughlin, who added that it’s “a little hard to adjust to the weather” and said that her legs felt a “little heavy” since she raced yesterday. McLaughlin think she’ll feel better in the final on Sunday as she’ll get a day off.
When asked what she could improve, McLaughlin said her start and finish were good but she has a little “work to do” on the middle of her race.
When we asked her what her goal for the final was, McLaughlin said she’s just focused on running a new personal best (her pb is 54.56)
“PR. I understand this is an Olympic Trial team kind of thing, but I don’t really think about that. I’m [just] 16, you know and am just running to get the experience. I have many years to go.”
While McLaughlin’s win was a little surprising, it wasn’t a total shock as she is, after all, the fifth-fastest woman in the world this year (but fourth-fastest American). What was shocking was the fact that world leader and three-time NCAA champion Shamier Little — who earned silver in Beijing last year — went out in heat #2 after finishing 5th and running just 55.64 (her world leader is 53.51). Little had come into the Trials undefeated (8 for 8) on the year at 400h but she finished 2nd in her heat yesterday (55.83) and fifth today.
Little, who turned pro this week with adidas, foregoing her senior year at Texas A&M, walked through the mixed zone without talking to the media, declining our request for comment.
With Little out and world #3 Georganne Moline out of the competition due to injury (she was a DNS yesterday), the favorite on paper is world #4 Dalilah Muhammad, who won the second heat today by a ton in the fastest time of the day by far (54.14). The third-fastest time of the day was the runner-up in that heat, Harvard’s Autumne Franklin. Franklin, the NCAA 4th placer, ran 55.40. NCAA runner-up Kiah Seymour of Kentucky failed to advance out of heat 1 where she was 5th in 56.26.
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