When Kendal Williams clocked a personal best of 10.21 to upset his highly-favoured team-mate and world junior record-holder Trayvon Bromell in the men’s 100m final at the IAAF World Junior Championships, Oregon 2014, Bromell himself might have been the least-surprised person at Hayward Field.
“I saw Kendal right beside me when I came up. I saw the whole race, Kendal had a great race and executed well,” Bromell said to the assembled press in the mixed zone shortly after the race.
Williams explained the same moment somewhat differently.
“When I stood up and was right next to Trayvon, it was crazy,” he said. “I had to focus on what I had to do, not on anyone else.”
Certainly the signs were there.
Williams had lane four in the final, earned by winning his semi-final heat; maybe that was discounted due to it being the slowest of the three semi-finals.
But in the first round Williams ran a PB of 10.23, a sign he was in the shape of his life, and when the final came he was the only starter to deliver a personal best on a chilly evening.
Williams’ victory ended a 10-year drought for the USA in the men’s 100m at the World Junior Championships, with the last win coming from Ivory Williams in 2004, a long barren period for a nation that prides itself on its speedsters.
Unlike his team-mate Bromell, Williams hasn’t yet run a race in the NCAA (US collegiate system).
In May, he won the 100m/200m double at the Florida State High School Championships for Stanton College Prep in Jacksonville.
The 200m was his speciality, with his victory there his fourth straight win, earning him a share of a little bit of history. Only two other athletes had ever won four consecutive titles at the championships over 200m, the last one finishing his run in 1986.
More battles with Bromell beckon
At 100m, Williams had two wins and two runner-up finishes, the last of those, in 2013, coming behind none other than Trayvon Bromell.
A year and a few months later, that final got re-run in Eugene, and the result, as Bromell pointed out in the mixed zone afterwards, was two medals coming back to Florida.
The older sprinter wasted no opportunity to build up his younger rival. “I told Kendal, winners focus on winning, losers focus on winners,” he said.
“I’ve been waiting all year for my time to shine, and it finally came tonight,” said Williams.
Bromell may have sounded a little rueful when he followed up one of his comments with: “I’d like to do that (race) again.”
He may not have been wishing for a different result, but he’ll have plenty more chances to race Williams when the new champion starts his NCAA career at Florida State University next year.
Before that, however, Williams has another chance to shine here in Eugene when he contests the 200m; he advanced to the semi-final round on Thursday morning. The US draught in this event at the championships is longer than it was in the 100m, stretching back to Tony Wheeler’s win in 1994.
Additionally, both Williams and Bromell are likely to figure in a USA 4x100m relay team which is looking increasingly difficult to beat.
Williams stopped short of predicting a time or even a victory, noting the real challenge of any relay: “As long as we get the stick around, the time will come.” But then he added: “We have a great chance in the relay.”
Despite the relative dearth of individual titles in the men’s sprints, at least the USA has won five of the past six 4x100m titles and eight of the 14 since the championships began in 1986.
Parker Morse for the IAAF