U.S. Olympic Trials: Sydney McLaughlin smashes 400m hurdles world record, JuVaughn Harrison wins historic double

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·Yahoo Sports Columnist
·6 min read
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There is a historic heatwave gripping the Pacific Northwest, and with the air temperature reading 108 degrees and the temperature on the track around 140 degrees, all of it dangerous for athletes and spectators, U.S.A. Track & Field paused the final day of the meet on Sunday for several hours, letting the heat index improve a bit before resuming, though it was still 98 degrees when running resumed.

The final six events were held beginning at 8:30 p.m. PT, with the meet finishing just before 1 a.m. ET.

There has been a great deal of attention and high expectations on 21-year-old 400 meter hurdler Sydney McLaughlin, and she validated all of it in a major way in the final. Pushed by her rival, the reigning Olympic and World Champion Dalilah Muhammad, McLaughlin shattered the world record, becoming the first woman ever to run under 52 seconds in the event. McLaughlin's time was 51.90s; Muhammad ran 52.42s.

The last three times McLaughlin and Muhammad have been on the track together, the world record was lowered: Muhammad first in the U.S. Championships in 2019, and again later that year in Doha at the World Championships, and now McLaughlin holds the crown.

The pair will be joined by University of Southern California star Anna Cockrell, who ran a lifetime best 53.70s for the third Olympic spot. Cockrell recently became just the second woman ever to win both the 100m and 400m hurdles events at the NCAA Championships, and after running both events at the Olympic Trials she has a lot of races in her legs over the last month but she can now rest and get ready for Tokyo.

Shamier Little was the favorite to make the team with McLaughlin and Muhammad, but she stretched too much for the eighth hurdle, clipping it with her trail foot, which caused her to stumble just enough to lose her momentum. She was fourth.

JuVaughn Harrison, who recently finished up his historic senior year at Louisiana State, made more history on Sunday, becoming the first American man since Jim Thorpe in 1912 to qualify for the Olympic team in both long jump and high jump.

He did it in style too, winning both events. 

In high jump, held first, Harrison cleared 2.33m (7 feet, 7.75 inches). Then in the long jump — Harrison got a much longer rest thanks to the heat-induced pause — he soared to a personal-best 8.47m (27-9.5) on his fourth try.

Joining Harrison in high jump is University of Tennessee grad student Darryl Sullivan, who struggled at the lower heights, but would also clear 2.33m, and Shelby McEwen, who represented the U.S. at the World Championships in 2019 and jumped 2.30m (7-6.5).

Harrison's long jump teammates are Marquis Dendy (8.38m, 27-6), who has been on two World Championship teams but was in that heartbreaking fourth-place finisher spot for the 2016 Rio Games, and Texas senior Steffin McCarter, who was just fifth at the NCAA Championships a couple of weeks ago but put together a much better series on Sunday night, matching his lifetime best of 8.26m (27-1.25) on his third jump, which held up and sends him to Tokyo.

The women's 800m saw 19-year-old Athing Mu, who finished a phenomenal freshman season at Texas A&M and then turned pro this week, signing with Nike, once again lower her lifetime best. Her 1:56.07 was a new Trials record, the best time in the world so far this year, and less than a half-second off Ajeé Wilson's American record.

World silver medalist in 2019 Raevyn Rogers was second in 1:57.66, a lifetime best, and Wilson clinched the third spot, finishing in 1:58.39 for her second Olympic berth.

Reigning world champion Noah Lyles won the men's 200m in a world-leading 19.74s. Kenny Bednarek, who finished fourth in the 100m earlier in the meet, was second in a lifetime best 19.78s, and 17-year-old Floridian Erriyon Knighton was third in 19.84s, also a personal best. 

Knighton is the youngest man to make the U.S. Olympic track and field team since Jim Ryun in 1964.

There was a thrilling finish in the men's 1500m, with University of Oregon's Cole Hocker out-kicking 2016 gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz for the win, 3:35.28 to 3:35.34. However, Hocker has not yet run the Olympic standard time of 3:35.00, which means he doesn't automatically get to go to Tokyo. It's up to USATF and World Athletics, the sport's governing body, to decide if Hocker will be allowed to compete based in part on his world ranking; he's currently ranked 42nd in the event.

The third-place finisher was Notre Dame's Yared Nuguse in 3:36.19; Nuguse broke the NCAA record in the event earlier this year. 

The seventh and final event of the heptathlon, the 800m, was among the races pushed back, which was likely a welcome break for the women competing. After four events on Day 1, the second day began with the long jump and javelin throw. Just before the javelin began, Taliyah Brooks, who was in fourth place after five events, fainted and was brought to the hospital.

While U.S.A. Track & Field Games Committee did grant her request to re-enter the competition, Brooks ultimately decided to withdraw. 

One other woman that deserves attention is Lindsay Flach. Just before the Trials began, Flach announced that she would be competing in her third Trials while 18 weeks pregnant. She did not fare well relative to her competition, finishing last among the 15 women who made it through all seven events, but it was inspiring to see her and her bump taking part. Flach started the 800m but only ran the first 100m before jogging off the track, likely out of caution for her health.

The Americans who are headed to Tokyo are Annie Kunz, Kendell Williams and Erica Bougard. Kunz came into Trials without the Olympic standard of 6420 points and had the meet of her life, posting lifetime bests in several events to get well above the standard with 6703 points. Williams was an Olympian in 2016, while Kunz and Bougard are headed to the Games for the first time.

In the men's 5000m, 2016 Rio silver medalist Paul Chelimo won the event in 13:26.82; the second- and third-place finishers, Grant Fisher (13:27.01) and Woody Kincaid (13:27.13), had already earned tickets to Tokyo in the 10,000m on the first day of the meet 10 days earlier.

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