2022 Worlds Day 1 Recap: Kerley 9.79, Omanyala Makes It to Oregon & Advances, Felix Goes Out with Bronze as Dominican Republic Wins Mixed 4×400

By LetsRun.com
July 15, 2022

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EUGENE, Ore. – The 2022 World Athletics Championships began with something of a soft opening at Hayward Field on Friday night with just one event final – the mixed-gender 4×400 relay, which normally wouldn’t draw much attention but was a big event this year because it featured the final competitive race of Allyson Felix’s decorated career. But Felix and the screaming Hayward Field fans – who made a ton of noise even though there were plenty of empty seats – would not get their golden ending as Felix got walked down on her second leg and then anchor Kennedy Simon got walked down in the final 50 and went from first to third as Team USA took bronze behind the Dominican Republic and the Netherlands.

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Track action began with prelims in the men’s 100, men’s steeple (full steeple recap here), and women’s 1500, with the 100 producing the bulk of the intrigue. 

US champ Fred Kerley blasted a 9.79 – the fastest prelim ever at a Worlds or Olympics – to lead all qualifiers and give him the #1, #2, and #3 times in the world this year. Ferdinand Omanyala, the only man to beat Kerley this year at 100m, who only left Kenya on Thursday evening after a delay in processing his visa, arrived in town three hours before his race and wound up third in his heat in 10.10 to advance to the semis. And 19-year-old Letsile Tebogo of Botswana ran 9.94 in heat 5 to lower his own world U20 record of 9.96 set earlier this year.

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Meanwhile Olympic champ Marcell Jacobs ran his first race since June 25 but didn’t look totally comfortable. He advanced by running 10.04 – tying his season’s best – but will have a tough time factoring in Saturday’s final, should he make it.

Recap and analysis of Friday’s events below.

Mixed-gender 4×400: Team USA runs a B team and gets punished for it

Though the United States won the men’s and women’s 4×400 at both the 2019 Worlds and 2021 Olympics, they finished just 3rd in the mixed-gender 4×400 at last year’s Olympics in part because America’s biggest 400m stars did not run the race. The same thing happened tonight as a US squad that didn’t feature anyone who finished higher than 4th in the individual 400 at USAs was beaten by two countries who opted to send their best, the Dominican Republic and the Netherlands.

Elija Godwin got things started well for the US by splitting 44.71 on leg one, giving Felix a lead of a full second at the first exchange. Felix split 50.15 but would hand off in second after Olympic silver medalist Marileidy Paulino split a sensational 48.47 to bring the Dominican Republic into the lead. Vernon Norwood responded with the fastest split of the night (44.40; the two Americans were the only men to split sub-45) to give anchor Kennedy Simon the lead, which she grew after going out extremely hard – too hard –  over the first 200 of the final lap. We timed her in an unofficial 22.9. But Simon ran out of steam in the final straight (her final 100 was just 15.3 to cap off a 28.0 final 200), allowing Dominican anchor Fiordaliza Cofil (49.92) and Dutch anchor Femke Bol (48.95) to steam by her and finish 1-2. Simon’s 50.90 split relegated the US to third. *Results

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Quick Take: This event is a bit of a catch-22

It’s a catch-22 because right now the US – clearly the world’s strongest nation in this event – doesn’t take this event seriously. But if the US did start to take this event seriously, the Americans would crush everyone and it would not be an interesting race.

The former is probably preferable to the latter from an excitement factor – tonight’s race was thrilling and the crowd was into it – but the World Championships is supposed to be the pinnacle of the sport. Should we really be crowning a champion in an event that’s never run outside of the global championships and in which the best country doesn’t care?

Quick Take: This is who the US ran tonight

Here are the four legs the US ran tonight and their finishing positions at USAs in the 400:

Elija Godwin (4th)
Allyson Felix (6th)
Vernon Norwood (5th)
Kennedy Simon (5th)

So none of the athletes running the individual 400 for the US at Worlds were running today. Nor were any of the athletes in the 400 hurdles. USA 4th-placer Wadeline Jonathas did run the prelims this morning for the US but was subbed out for Felix after Simon split (50.64) faster than Jonathas (51.48) in the prelims.
While Godwin and Norwood ran well – they had the two fastest splits – sub in Michael Norman and Rai Benjamin and the US wins this race. 

Likewise, if you added Athing Mu or Sydney McLaughlin on the women’s side, the US would also win handily. But all those athletes have an individual event to run in Eugene plus the regular 4×400. And new rules state that you can only sub out one runner from the prelims to the final.

Either they weren’t asked to run or opted not to with those events in mind. And you can’t really blame them – though individual stars like Bol and Paulino did opt to run this race ahead of their individual events. Heck, Paulino even ran the prelims this morning as well.

The big difference really came on the women’s legs. The US women just haven’t been that good in the 400 this year and neither Felix (50.15) nor Simon (50.90) split under 50 seconds while the Dominican Republic and the Netherlands each had one woman under 50 and another under 49.

Quick Take: What a career for Allyson Felix

Felix has received a ton of attention over the years as the darling of American track & field, and while it could veer into over-the-top hagiography at times on NBC broadcasts, she will deservedly go down as a legend of the sport. Felix has seven Olympic golds (more than any woman in track & field history) and 13 World Championship golds (more than any athlete, period), and while those totals are padded significantly by relay wins (6/7 in the Olympics, 9/13 at Worlds), her rare ability to excel in both the 100 and 400 made her a key asset in both relays.

Plus she still won an individual Olympic gold (200m, 2012) and four individual World Championship golds (200m in 2005,  2007, and 2009, 400m in 2015). She’s not the greatest sprinter who ever lived, but her combination of longevity, versatility, and four individual golds is matched by few in the history of the sport.

Allyson Felix’s Medals 
200 400 4 x 100 4 x 400 MX 4 x 4 Total
Olympic Gold 1 2 4 7
Olympic Silver  2 1 3
Olympic Bronze 1 1
WC Gold 3 1 3 5 1 13
WC Silver 1 1 1 3
WC Bronze 1 1 1 3
Total 7 5 6 10 2

Men’s 100: Kerley flies, Jacobs toughs it out and Omanyala makes it to the start line

This evening’s 100-meter heats produced more excitement than usual for a first round at a global championships. Fred Kerley got things started in heat 2 by running 9.79, the fastest time ever in a first round at Worlds or the Olympics – and faster than the winning time of 9.80 in last year’s Olympic final. Kerley looked to be going all-out, but he ran a similar time of 9.83 in the first round at USAs and was able to return and run even faster the next day in the semis (9.76) and final (9.77). He is unquestionably the World Championship favorite heading into Saturday.

Fellow American Trayvon Bromell (9.89) also looked great and unlike Kerley, he did shut it down just before the finish line, celebrating as he won heat 3. In heat 4, Olympic/World Indoor champ Marcell Jacobs, who has battled injuries in his upper hamstring and back this year, ran 10.04 to finish second and advance, but did not look smooth and admitted to NBC’s Lewis Johnson after the race that he’s still not 100%.

“I’m not really well,” Jacobs said. “My season don’t start really good. But we are here and we try everything.”

Jacobs did look like he was holding back towards the end of his race today, but he won’t be able to win gold by holding back on Saturday. It will likely take 9.7 or faster to defeat Kerley and the way Jacobs looked today, that seems impossible for him right now. *Results

Quick Take: Ferdinand Omanyala recounts his wild journey to Worlds

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Omanyala was fairly relaxed in the mixed zone for a guy who arrived in Eugene less than four hours before his race began today. Omanyala said he left Nairobi at 6 p.m. on Thursday (Nairobi is 10 hours ahead of Eugene), then flew five hours to Doha, 14 to Seattle, and then hopped a quick flight this afternoon from Seattle to Eugene. (Fortunately, his ticket was business class; he said he slept around nine hours on the plane to Seattle). He didn’t look all that great coming out of the blocks today but ultimately advanced by running 10.10 to grab the third and final auto qualifier spot out of heat 7.

Omanyala said the rest of the Kenyan team applied for visas last Thursday and the vast majority were approved Friday but his was not for reasons unknown to him. He believes the US Embassy in Kenya were the ones responsible for the delay.

“I hope they do that better next time,” Omanyala said.

Still, Omanyala was in good spirits despite his very long trip as he stayed in the mixed zone talking to the media for a long time after his race and even talked to the media when he landed at the airportin Eugene before his race. Why was he so relaxed?

“In life you can’t force issues,” Omanyala said. “I learned that you have to relax in every situation so that things can work out.”

Quick Take: Kiwi Eddie Osei-Nketia broke his dad’s New Zealand record by running 10.08 in the final heat

The man 1 spot ahead of Omanyala was 21-year old New Zealander Eddie Osei-Nketia who improved from 10.12 to 10.08 and broke the national record of 10.11 that was set by his dad in Gus Nketia in 1994. Eddie said his dad promised to get him something special if he broke his record and now Eddie said he wants to try to go sub-10 and make the final.

Women’s 1500 Heats: Everything goes according to plan

The women’s 1500 heats very much went according to form. Just as was the case with the men’s steeplechase, the top 3 seeds each won one of the three heats and all of the top 10 seeded entrants moved on to the semifinals and the highest seeded person to not make the final was the 14th seed, in this case Kenya’s Edinah Jebitok who came in with a 4:02.63 but only ran 4:07.12 for 9th in heat 3. *Results

Top 10 Seeds / Results
Faith KIPYEGON KEN 03:52.59 – Won heat 2 in 4:04.53
Gudaf TSEGAY ETH 03:54.21 – Won heat 3 in 4:02.68
Hirut MESHESHA ETH 03:57.30 – Won heat 1 in 4:07.05
Freweyni HAILU ETH 03:58.18 – Q 3rd in heat 2 in 4:04.85
Sinclaire JOHNSON USA 03:58.85 – Q 4th in heat 1 in 4:07.68
Jessica HULL AUS 03:59.31 – Q 2nd heat 2 in 4:04.68
Elle ST. PIERRE USA 03:59.68 – Q 4th heat 2 in 4:04.94
Georgia GRIFFITH AUS 04:00.16 – Q 3rd in heat 1 in 4:07.65)
Winnie  NANYONDO UGA 04:00.25 -q – 7th in heat 3 in 4:03.81
Cory Ann MCGEE USA 04:00.34 Q – 6th in heat 1 in 4:03.61

Quick Take: Sinclaire Johnson feels like she belongs and is here to compete for a medal

We didn’t talk to Johnson but David Monti of Race Results Weekly sent us some quotes from when he talked to her.

“That’s where I see myself,” Johnson said. “I see myself at the top. That’s where I feel like I belong. I think I was just letting the fans and the whole camaraderie kind of carry me through the race. Yeah, just to make sure I stay really calm and get through.”

Quick Take: A happy Gudaf Tsegay says, “My mind is a winner.”

Guday Tsegay was a sport and did her best to talk us in English. Smiling, we asked her what she thinks about being in the 1500 and 5000 this year versus the 5000 last year. She said she would have liked to do the 1500 last year as well but had a very big injury. When we asked her what the injury was, she pointed to her soleus/Achilles area and said it was hurting her in both legs.

She was very happy about being healthy this year. While we were talking to her, Faith Kipyegon came by and gave her a big hug. When we asked her how does she beat one of the all-time greats, she didn’t give us a concrete answer but said, “My mind is a winner.”

Quick Take: Aussie Jessica Hull said she didn’t want to get boxed in while the Aussies didn’t want Georgia Griffith to talk about her controversial 1500 selection

Jessica Hull said the game plan was to not get boxed in and she’ll probably do the same tomorrow in the semis and run extra ground to stay out of trouble. Hull also revealed that she rarely works out with Nike Union Athletics Club teammate Sinclaire Johnson as Hull is a 1500/5000 runner while Johnson is an 800/1500 runner.

As for Griffith, we tried to ask her a little about that controversial exclusion of Aussie champ Abbey Caldwell from Worlds, but the Aussie media handler said she would only answer questions about the race.

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Day 1 Discussion:

Day 1 Discussion:

*Complete Event-by-Event Previews *Complete 2022 World Outdoor Coverage

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