Young sprinters and hurdlers rewrote the record books, while Mary Cain confirmed her serious intentions at the under-20 level at the USA Junior Championships, held in Eugene on Saturday and Sunday (5-6).
The event was held at historic Hayward Field, the same venue that will host the IAAF World Junior Championships on 22-27 July. And a number of remarkable results achieved there last weekend provided a glimpse as to what the world will see in just two weeks as the top two finishers in each event secured selection.
The weekend’s outstanding performer was sprinter Kaylin Whitney. The 16-year-old went into the competition with a 100m personal best of 11.27, but improved on that in the heats with 11.17 (0.8m/s) before further improving to a stunning 11.10 (0.9m/s) in the final.
Not only is it the fastest time in the world this year by a junior athlete, it is also a world youth best, breaking the long-standing mark of 11.13 set by Chandra Cheeseborough in 1976.
Whitney returned on Sunday for the 200m and replicated her achievements from the shorter sprint, setting another world youth best and world junior lead when clocking 22.49 (1.3m/s).
“I’m not perfect yet. I still have so much to work on, in my technique, for example,” said Whitney. “But I am happy I could put together a strong race today and run such a fast time. I wasn’t feeling much pressure; I was focused and treated this like any other meet. At the Worlds, it’s going to be lots of fun. And in the relay, it’s going to be crazy. And it will be fast.”
Double world youth medallist Ariana Washington will represent the USA internationally again, as she finished second in the 100m with a season’s best of 11.30. The 200m silver went to Jada Martin, who set a personal best of 23.02.
Fellow record-breaking Trayvon Bromell set the world junior 100m record of 9.97 on this same track in June at the NCAA Championships, so the expectations coming into the men’s 100m were high. Would the fastest junior sprinter in the world be able to secure a team spot? And would he be able to run even faster?
But 19-year-old Trentavis Friday stole a bit of the spotlight from Bromell, running the second-best 100m time ever by a junior athlete with his 10.00 (1.6m/s) in the heats. In the final, however, Friday false started and was disqualified.
Bromell, meanwhile, was calm. He clocked 10.08 in his heat and 10.07 (1.2m/s) in the final, winning the national title by a big margin.
Friday redeemed himself on Sunday, winning the 200m in a wind-aided 20.03 (+2.9).
“My coach told me to forget about the false start and re-focus. He said: ‘Usain Bolt did that, and you can do it!’” said Friday. “We were already talking about the relay with Trayvon, and it’s going to be great. The competition will be strong, Jamaicans are coming, but with both of us on the team, we’re running 38!”
Kendal Williams captured two silver medals, clocking 10.27 in the 100m and a windy 20.46 in the 200m.
Record-breaking hurdles races
The similarly-named Kendell Williams, the combined events specialist, returned to the venue of her recent NCAA heptathlon title and this time won the 100m hurdles with a US junior record.
Her time of 12.87 (2.0m/s) improved the previous mark by 0.04 and takes her to second on the world junior all-time list, just 0.03 behind the world junior record set by Aliuska Lopez in 1987.
In second, Dior Hall set a personal best of 13.00 to enter the world junior all-time top 10.
“With the Worlds being so late in July, we decided to take it easier and have more fun in training, to be able to recover in time for an indoor pentathlon,” said Williams. “And it proved to be a good decision – I ran a huge personal best today.”
Coming into the 400m hurdles final, Shamier Little owned the six fastest performances this year by a junior athlete. Now she has seven.
Little – who was in a position to win a medal at the last World Junior Championships before she tripped over the final hurdle – clocked 55.43 for the win, just 0.36 off her PB.
But she was far from unchallenged. 14-year-old Sydney McLaughlin was leading for most of the race and clocked a stunning 55.63 for second, not only a world age-14 best, but also superior to the world age-15 and age-16 bests. McLaughlin is too young to compete at the 2014 World Junior Championships, but will be eligible for the next two editions.
In the men’s event, pre-race favourite Timothy Holmes claimed the title with 50.02. He is one of two junior athletes to have run sub-50 this season, the other being Jamaica’s world youth champion Jaheel Hyde.
After false starting at the senior US Championships, world junior 4x400m champion Kendall Baisden redeemed herself in the 400m by winning in 52.21. World youth silver medallist Olivia Baker set a personal best of 52.46 to capture the second team spot.
In the men’s one-lap final, Tyler Brown dipped under 46 seconds for the first time in his career, clocking 45.74 to become the third-fastest junior in the world this season. Lamar Bruton took second in a close battle with Michael Cherry, 46.11 to 46.12.
Cain makes her choice
Mary Cain won the 1500m silver medal at the US Championships in Sacramento, and just one week later was challenging her peers for a team spot in the 3000m.
It was her first race of the season over this distance, which meant she also needed to achieve the 9:35.00 entry standard for the World Juniors. She did that with ease, leading all the way through and stopping the clock at 9:15.81, an outdoor PB but some 13 seconds shy of her indoor best.
“We chose 3000m because I felt I’d be more challenged, I don’t have that much experience in this event,” said Cain. “Plus there is just one round at the Nationals, as opposed to the 1500m, so I can train through this meet.
“There will be an Ethiopian girl, who already ran 8:41. When I saw this time, I was like ‘oh my gosh’. But then I got really excited. I don’t shy away from competition. And I’m ready for whatever race it will be: sit-and-kick, or a faster pace right from the start.”
World youth medallists back in action
Keturah Orji, a double medallist in the horizontal jumps at last year’s World Youth Championships, captured the women’s triple jump title with a season’s best of 13.45m.
Another world youth medallist, Raevyn Rogers, won the 800m in 2:04.40 after leading throughout the race. Sabrina Southerland demonstrated a strong finishing kick to claim the second team spot in 2:04.83.
Alexa Efraimson captured the 1500m title in a close battle with another top teenage runner, Elise Cranny. Efraimson, the world youth bronze medallist, clocked 4:16.87 while Cranny ran 4:17.40.
In just his second ever competition with the under-20 6kg implement, 2011 world youth shot put bronze medallist Braheme Days posted 19.95m to take the title. His season’s best of 21.16m puts him third on this year’s world junior list.
Top marks in field events
It was only when the in-stadium announcer mentioned it that discus thrower Valarie Allman discovered she led this year’s world junior list. She even improved on her world-leading mark and personal best with her first attempt, sending the implement to 57.45m. Her mark remained unchallenged for the rest of the competition.
“I don’t really follow my international peers and I try not to focus on being a world leader, because I tend to overthink it sometimes,” said Allman. “I had a pretty bad competition at the NCAA Championships here in June, so we went back to basics in training, and everything went well today. Now I can say that I like Hayward Field, and I’m excited to see other throwers from all over the world in the sector soon.”
Travonn White set a personal best of 8.04m (1.7m/s) to secure team selection and victory in the long jump. The mark takes him to second in the world this season among juniors. Only Asian junior champion Wang Jianan has jumped farther.
Cole Walsh improved his pole vault PB by 23 centimetres to gain victory over Devin King on count back. Walsh cleared 5.35m on his first attempt, while King did it on his third.
The nation’s best junior shot putter Raven Saunders had to use a crowd-funding website to enable her to travel to Eugene for this competition, and was happy to win with a solid 17.04m to ensure she will compete in Eugene again this summer.
“This is the best track I’ve been to,” she said. “So many great athletes came through here, and so many great things happened here. It was designed for athletics, not for football or any other sport, so it has a perfect design and you have a special feeling competing here.”
USA’s team will be announced by USA Track and Field this week.
Elena Dyachkova for the IAAF