Fred Kerley & ETH Olympic 100m Drama, Sydney & Noah Ready, Eric Holt!? – 11 Takeaways from NYC Grand Prix

NEW YORK — The USATF NYC Grand Prix was the final major tune-up before the US Olympic Track & Field Trials, which start in less than two weeks.

On the track Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone blasted a 48.75 400m to show she is ready for the Trials, Noah Lyles ran 19.77 into the wind, and unheralded Eric Holt gave Jake Wightman a run to the line in the 1500, but the biggest news is what happened to the reigning Olympic 100m gold and silver medalists Elaine Thompson-Herah and Fred Kerley. (Race videos here)

Embed from Getty Images

First, Thompson-Herah slowed noticeably near the end of the women’s 100m with a limp as she finished last in 11.48 and had to be carried off the track. Her Olympic defense is in serious jeopardy.

Kerley meanwhile showed up to the track wearing Puma spikes (he was sponsored by Asics). After the race was called back once for a false start, Kerley had one of the most egregious false starts we’ve ever seen. He said his blocks had slipped (which they had) and eventually instead of waiting for them to get the blocks sorted out, he just exited the track barefoot with his Puma spikes in hand. Kerley told the media he was in Puma spikes because there had been a mix-up with his luggage, but after the meet when it was announced that he and Asics had mutually parted ways, it was clear that was not the case.

Former US national team sprinter Rae Edwards said Fred “has not liked the spikes Asics has given him.” Rae then said Fred had previously shared a video with him of his Asics spikes breaking after a practice in them. Fred then posted on Instagram a video of him training in Puma spikes with the caption, “What’s understood don’t need to be explained.”

Article continues below player.

Meanwhile there are a lot of questions surrounding Kerley’s status. Kerley had tweeted on May 14 “World record next time I touch the 100,” and this was his first race since then. Kerley hasn’t run faster than 10.03 in four 100m races this year.

Below we have 11 quick takes on the NYC Grand Prix from Noah Jampol, who was on-site for us at Icahn Stadium.

1. Fred Kerley Leaves NYC in Dramatic Fashion with More Questions Than Answers

Going into the meet, Fred projected a ton of confidence in the training he’d put in and his ability to run super-fast times like Usain Bolt’s world record. As he lined up, it looked like we’d get some answers on whether that confidence was warranted or more of Fred’s unique, unwavering self-belief in action. But we were to get no resolution at all. After a series of incidents with the blocks and potential false starts, Fred opted to skip the race explaining he was getting cold and all the delays had made this a business decision.

In between when he talked to the press and NBC’s Lewis Johnson he was noticeably fuming. He was observed loudly calling the blocks “f-ing ret—-,“ and trying to avoid speaking for the NBC cameras. To Fred’s credit, he came back to speak with Lewis, greet the young fans, and even speak in the mixed zone. He remains steadfast that with training partners like Rai Benjamin and Michael Norman, he’s got nothing to worry about as far as tangible results. He ripped the “elementary” blocks, and insisted he was not DQed but rather made the decision himself not to run (indeed he was listed in the results as a DNS). At the very least, “Sprint” season 2 has a moment that viewers are going to be talking about.

And to add even more drama, Chris Chavez reported (and subsequently confirmed) after the race that Fred and Asics have officially parted ways. Fred was seen wearing Puma spikes in the meet, but said in the mixed zone this was due to a mix-up with his luggage. Considering the 100m race was literally sponsored by Asics, read between the lines about how that may have impacted his mindset as far as jumping out of the race.

2. It Looks like Elaine Thompson-Herah’s Olympic Year Magic Has Run Out

Trackside onlookers were keen to see whether ETH’s tough Pre Classic was rust or if she was in real trouble to contend for Team Jamaica, let alone double gold glory. Today, it could not have gone worse. On one of her final strides, Thompson-Herah seemed to tweak her lower leg, and she was noticeably limping in the aftermath. She was carried by support staff through the mixed zone and whether we’ll see her racing again in 2024 is a real question.

3. Sydney McLaughin-Levrone Is On a Different Level

Coming into the race, SML was cagey about what her goal was for today. Afterwards, she was direct — Sanya Richards-Ross’ 48.70 American record. She came up slightly short, but she agreed with me that the wind might have had something to do with that. She also confirmed her Trials plan is unchanged — meaning just 400m hurdles. She said she’d have to see something “crazy” to change that up, and when pressed on that she didn’t think today’s performance was that. I guess it makes sense for someone with a 50.68 400mH to not be easily impressed.

4. Eric Holt Isn’t a Dark Horse Anymore

Eric Holt was contrite and honest after coming only a few hundredths from pulling off a major upset against Jake Wightman in the men’s 1500. The more surprising emotion you could read off of him was his visceral disappointment after what many would call a career-best race. He spoke about how before races he is terrified of sh—ing the bed and letting down his Empire Elite team. When I asked Hobbs Kessler about Holt, he scoffed at the notion of Holt being a “dark horse” any longer, insisting the only thing differentiating Holt and many flashier names is his sponsorship status. After watching Holt nearly win despite having to do some work from the front and fend off a lot of charges, it’s hard to disagree.

5. Sage Hurta-Klecker Is Right Where She Needs to Be

With nobody going with the pace on a gusty day, the women’s 800m turned into a tactical test for some of the USA’s contenders. Sage Hurta-Klecker passed the test, getting the win in 2:00.33, fending off charges from Olivia Baker and Sammy Watson. She confirmed today she is all-in on the 800m, and with the question marks around Ajee’ Wilson (a DNS today), Raevyn Rogers’ form, and Athing Mu’s current health status, she looks like a good bet to make the team. A strong group of NCAA runners like Juliette Whittaker can’t be underestimated, however.

6. Men’s 800 in US is Wide Open Outside of Hoppel

Coming into this race, the moment was ripe for Isaiah Jewett or maybe Clayton Murphy to stake their claim as a favorite to make the team alongside major favorite Bryce Hoppel. The script was completely flipped as behind Mr. Consistency, Tonatiu Lopez of Mexico, it was Wes Ferguson and Josh Hoey PBing and executing strong races over the bigger-name contenders. After the race,  Murphy was angry at his tactics and said “I ran like an idiot.” He conceded he’s in hard training and it’s been going well, but knows he didn’t give himself a chance today. Never count the veteran out, but college phenoms Shane Cohen and Sam Whitmarsh have to be thinking top 3 is highly realistic for them.

7. Devynne Charlton Picks Up a Signature Win

Devynne Charlton had the indoor season of her life, setting two world records and winning World Indoors gold. Outdoors, she looks like she is now picking up where she left off with a 12.56 win into a -1.9 headwind. Somewhat surprisingly for a 60mH star, she pointed out her start as an area to improve. Behind her, Tobi Amusan and Alaysha Johnson were very happy with their race while Keni Harrison was confident she’d bounce back. Tonea Marshall, who’d had an excellent season with seven sub-12.50 times, was a DNS.

8. Trey Cunningham Is Firmly Back in the Mix

Trey Cunningham was happy to pick up a second straight W after running 13.12 in Jamaica. When I asked him about the couple of NCAA guys who ran in the 13.20 range on Friday, his wariness was noticeable. He knows that making this team will be a grind and there are a ton of names in the mix after the obvious guys like Grant Holloway and Daniel Roberts.

9. Wayde van Niekerk Is Trending in the Right Direction, Kirani James Is Ageless

I didn’t get a chance to talk with Kirani James, but it’s worth considering how impressive his longevity has been. When healthy over the last 13 years, he’s a good bet to finish 1st or 2nd in pretty much any race he runs. In terms of other guys in the field, Wayde van Niekerk’s season opener in the 400 was solid in running 44.74 on a windy day. Last year, van Niekerk was running great on the circuit before having a tough showing in Budapest. This year, both he and coach Lance Brauman are aiming to train through the season and peak for the Olympics. Hearing Wayde talk about finding joy with the sport and coping with having to work so hard to run times he used to find to be light work was very illuminating.

10. Gabby Thomas Is Doing Just Fine

Gabby Thomas was impressive today coming back from an 11.34 (-2.1) 100 to run 22.42 into a huge headwind of 3.1. She conceded after the race that she was very happy to bounce back from a disappointing LA Grand Prix. During that specific training block, she said that she never competes well. Tamara Clark had been running well this season (22.21 SB) so the .37 margin of victory was strong. Gabby also says that she and her coach have tweaked the plan this year with the goal of dropping her fastest times in Paris, after she’s run 21.6 in Eugene twice (2021 Trials and 2023 USAs) but been a little bit off that in the global finals.

11. There’s No Doubting Noah Lyles Right Now

After missing out on seeing Fred Kerley, the crowd was hyped to see Noah do his thing. Despite similar issues with the blocks, Noah was unfazed and was the class of the field wire-to-wire. Even more scary for his competitors? He admitted he backed off on the turn out of caution before opening up in the last 50. While the wind didn’t cooperate in hitting the 19.4-5 he was targeting, Noah said that even with the eyes on Paris, he’s going to drop a huge time in Eugene.

Miss the meet and just want to see race videos? We’ve got 2024 NYC Grand Prix race videos here.

Want More? Join The Supporters Club Today
Support independent journalism and get:
  • Exclusive Access to VIP Supporters Club Content
  • Bonus Podcasts Every Friday
  • Free Shirt (Annual Subscribers)
  • Exclusive Discounts
  • Enhanced Message Boards