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Olympic Trials Day 8: Could a high schooler make the Olympics?
17-year-old Erriyon Knighton ran the fastest time of the day and broke his own world youth record in the first round of the 200-meter dash in 20.04.
Erriyon Knighton is only 17 years old and still has one more year left at Hillsborough High School in Tampa, Florida, but he proved why he’s already a professional track athlete in the first round of the 200-meter dash.
He broke his own world youth record in 20.04 (-0.2) to clock the fastest time of the day at Hayward Field, dusting reigning world champion Noah Lyles (20.19) and Fred Kerley (20.41), who was third in the 100m final last week. Pro athletes are not considered eligible for high school records, but Knighton’s time bettered the national high school record of 20.09, which was set by none other than Lyles himself en route to a fourth place finish at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials. Based on how he ran today, Knighton may do (at least?) one better than that in Sunday’s final.
“I came out here to do what I had to do to get to the next round,” he said after the race. “Not too much pressure, but obviously, I had to run because I had a world champ behind me, so I couldn’t let off the gas too much.”
I can’t stop watching this video of Lyles congratulating Knighton in the weird virtual Zoom mixed zone. The person who commented “Atlanta vibes” is right on; please, HBO/Hulu/Netflix, we need a buddy comedy about elite sprinters and a kid who thinks he knows how to be a track and field agent… let’s call it Clermont.
Okay, but could a high school kid actually make the Olympics? His time today ranks No. 7 in the world this year, and No. 4 in the U.S. behind Terrance Laird (19.81), Kenny Bednarek (19.88) and Lyles (19.90). There is a bit of a gap there to break 20 seconds and 19.90 and though Lyles hasn’t looked like the strongest version of himself at these Trials, his 19.50 PB doesn’t lie.
If Knighton were to qualify for Tokyo, he’d the third-youngest man in U.S. history to make the Olympic team in track and field, according to Letsrun, behind Arthur Newton (17 years, 165 days old), who raced the steeplechase at the 1900 Paris Olympics; and Jim Ryun (17 years, 171 days old), who competed in the 1500m at the 1964 Tokyo Games.
More Takeaways from Day 8
The only track final of the day was the men’s steeplechase, which saw Hilary Bor and Benard Keter, training partners in the Army’s Word Class Athlete Program (WCAP) under coach Scott Simmons, go 1-2 in 8:21.34 and 8:21.81. This is Bor’s second Olympic team and Keter’s first. Mason Ferlic, a PhD student at Michigan representing Tracksmith, timed his kick perfectly to take third in 8:22.05 to make his first Olympic team.
In the women’s 200m semi-finals, Gabby Thomas improved yesterday’s world lead to a blazing 21.94 (+1.8), while Jenna Prandini won her section in 21.99 (-0.3), the second-fastest time in the world this year. Can we see two Americans on the medal stand in Tokyo? Fan favorite Allyson Felix quietly improved her season’s best to 22.20 (-0.3) for the third-fastest time of the day. She is shaping up to go out in style at what is to be her fifth and final Olympic Games.
High school phenom Hobbs Kessler, who signed an adidas contract this week, finally looked his age in the 1500m semi-finals. The 18-year-old went straight to the back of heat 2, but the slow pace never picked up and he simply was out of position once the kicking started at the bell lap. On the bright side, the bag is secured and he’ll be that much more experienced for future championship racing. The other biggest casualty of the semis was 2017 world finalist and 3:49 miler Johnny Gregorek.
Maybe one of my favorite moments from Friday’s action was the 1500m semi-final homestretch sprint between Matthew Centrowitz and Cole Hocker, the former and current Oregon Ducks. It’s just a semi-final, so who cares who wins, but the side-eye from 2016 Olympic champ Centro was absolutely killer. I am dying to know what he whispered to the yung duck. If you have a bunch of time to kill, deep dive into this thread on instagram “beef” between Centro and a bunch of boys.
In the men’s discus final, Mason Finley (who is a massive 6’8” and 335) won with a top mark of 63.07m, followed by Reggie Jagers (62.61m) and Sam Mattis (62.51m), who the broadcasters noted had recently quit his job on Wall Street to train for the Olympics. Sometimes the risk pays off!
On that note — tomorrow, my risk will be either running at 4:45 a.m. or in 97-degree heat! I hope you all enjoy better long runs than me.
More from the U.S. Olympic Trials
Days 5-6 are rest days, no track, sorry!
Former Texas star Ryan Crouser shatters outdoor world record in shot put win at Trials, Austin American-Statesman
At 19, NCAA Star Athing Mu Says She’s “Made for This,” Women’s Running
Born to run? Olympic hopeful Sarah Lancaster made her mark at Texas in tennis, basketball, Austin American-Statesman
Everything Is Clicking at the Right Time for Josette Norris, Runner’s World