If there was going to be world record in the 400m hurdles, the one to break it was supposed to be Sydney McLaughlin. After all, McLaughlin made the Olympic Games at 16, set a world U20 record of 52.75 and was the world leader at 53.32.
There was a world record. Just not by her.
Dalilah Muhammad took down the 16-year-old record, running 52.20 on Sunday (28) as the four-day USA Championships closed at Des Moines, Iowa.
The Olympic champion charged out hard and was never threatened on a track made wet by light rain. She broke the record of 52.34 set in 2003 by Yuliya Pechonkina and lowered her PB from 52.64.
McLaughlin was second in 52.88, her second-fastest time ever. Ashley Spencer's fast finish earned her third in 53.11, equalling a PB and nearly overtaking McLaughlin. Shamier Little was fourth in 53.91, and even though she is in the top four in the world, she did not qualify for the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019.
Joining the top three in Doha will be Kori Carter, who has a bye as defending world champion.
Muhammad, 29, said she was “still in shock” but acknowledged she had thought about the world record all season.
“Funny enough, I got a little injured like two weeks ago,” she said. “I had a crazy fall and so we've kind of been shutting down. It's just one of those things that you're just hoping for the best... I just trusted in what we had been working on at this point.”
“Being a USA female hurdler is the hardest thing to do,” said Spencer, who took Olympic bronze behind Muhammad in Rio three years ago. “You just have to show up and show out when it’s your time and hope everything works out in your favour.”
The last athlete to set a one-lap hurdles world record in Des Moines was Ralph Mann, nearly half a century ago. Coincidentally, he was in the stadium to witness McLaughlin’s feat. Mann set a 440-yard hurdles record of 48.8 at the 1970 NCAA Championships.
In other highlights, Noah Lyles won a 200m duel against Christian Coleman and tactical races led to riveting finishes and losses by Olympic medallists in the men’s 800m, 1500m and 5000m races.
Into a slight -0.7m/s wind, Lyles pulled away for a time of 19.78. Coleman, the 100m champion, was second in 20.02 and said he still aims for a World Championships double.
“I live in Florida and it is hot and rains at any time in the day and it comes in hard, so light drizzle doesn’t bother me,” Lyles said. “All I care about is the win. If they say I won, that’s it. It’s a relief.
“The USA is the hardest team to make and to go through three rounds. This is my first time of going through three rounds of the 200m, so I was really excited to see what I could do.”
Three Olympic medallists beaten
The men’s 800m had an uncharacteristically slow first lap, led by Isiah Harris in 54.91. It was a 400m sprint thereafter, won by Donovan Brazier in 1:45.62 off a closing 50.63.
Clayton Murphy, the Olympic bronze medallist, was second in 1:46.01 (50.89) and Bryce Hoppel third in 1:46.31 (51.32).
The 5000m was, if anything, more peculiar.
Paul Chelimo, Woody Kincaid and Lopez Lomong pushed the pace through a 2:30 kilometre and 4:07 mile, then alternated fast and slow laps as if it were fartlek. They eventually slowed enough to allow the field to catch them, resulting in seven men bunched ahead of the last lap.
Lomong completed a 10,000m/5000m double with a 53.35 last lap giving him a finishing time of 13:25.53. Chelimo, the Olympic silver medallist, was second in 13:25.80 and Kincaid third in 13:26.84.
Lomong and Kincaid don’t have the necessary 13:22.50 World Championships standard, so instead Hassan Mead, fourth in 13:28.04, and 21-year-old Drew Hunter, fifth in 13:29.19, will be selected for Doha.
Lomong, 34, became in the first man to win national titles in the 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m (or their equivalents) in a career. He closed in 55.59 for 27:30.06 in the 10,000m on Thursday. He was not planning to run the 5000m in Doha anyway.
“I really, really wanted this,” he said. “I’m glad I made this decision. It’s a great double.”
In the 1500m, Craig Engels held the rail and kept Matthew Centrowitz from passing all away around the final lap. Engels closed in 51.92 for a time of 3:44.94, 0.04 ahead of the Olympic gold medallist.
“I promise you that if I am able to stay healthy the next two months, I’m going to be in pretty damn good shape,” Centrowitz said.
Roberts holds off Holloway in hurdles
Daniel Roberts, who lost to Grant Holloway at the NCAA Championships, won the 110m hurdles in 13.23. Holloway, world leader at 12.98, was second in 13.36 and Devon Allen third in 13.38. Holloway dove at the finish, unsure if he had made the World Championships team. “I was like, ‘I’m either in third or fourth. That’s just my luck, so risk it for the biscuit’,” Holloway said. “My rib hurt like crazy. I’ll be all right.”
Overnight heptathlon leader Erica Bougard was overtaken by Kendell Williams in the first event of day two as Williams sailed out to a wind-assisted 6.83m in the long jump, giving her a 95-point margin over Bougard. But Bougard responded with a 45.80m PB in the javelin and 2:12.41 in the 800m to take victory with 6663, moving to third on the 2019 world list. Williams was rewarded with a PB of 6610, putting her fifth on this year’s world list.
Ajee Wilson won a fourth 800m in six years, employing her front-running tactics for a time of 1:57.72. Hanna Green was second in 1:58.19 and Raevyn Rogers third in 1:58.44. Athing Mu, 17, was fifth in a PB of 2:01.17.
Shelby Houlihan completed a second consecutive distance double, winning the 5000m in 15:15.50 after taking Saturday’s 1500m. It was her third in a row at 5000m.
Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs reprised their 1-2 steeplechase finish from the 2017 World Championships, in 9:25.63 and 9:26.61.
Sandi Morris won a third straight pole vault title, clearing a season’s best of 4.85m. Katie Nageotte was second at 4.80m and world leader Jenn Suhr, who had won the previous five US titles, third at 4.70m. Suhr has been in the top three for 14 years in a row.
Valarie Allman won the discus at 64.34m. Also earning World Championships berths were Kelsey Card, 63.33m, and 21-year-old Laulauga Tausaga, 62.08m. Four-time champion Gia Lewis-Smallwood, the American record-holder, was fifth with 61.51m.
Roy Jordan for the IAAF