2016 IAAF World U20 Champs 7/21 Preview: Possibly 7 medals in play for USA

by Steve Underwood

Here is our preview of the Thursday events (7/21) at the 2016 World U20 Championships, July 19-24, in Bydgoszcz, Poland

Thursday night could be a medal bonanza for Team USA, with a legitimate possibility of seven to be claimed – give or take one or two.  The three women’s track finals feature pre-meet favorite Candace Hill in the 100, and “emerged favorites” Aaliyah Miller and Sammy Watson in the 800, and Lynna Irby in the 400 (see below).  Meanwhile, in the men’s 110H final, either Marcus Krah or Amere Lattin (or both) could get on the podium.  In the field, Elena Bruckner qualified 2nd in the discus and has a great shot.


Women’s TrackWomen’s FieldMen’s Track - Men’s Field

100m dash – Europeans impress, could derail Hill-St. Fort battle

(qualifying was 7/20, semis/final 7/21)
Meet: 11.12, Veronica Campbell Brown JAM 2000
WJR: 10.88, Marlies Gohr GDR 1977
AJR: 10.98, Candace Hill 2016

Top 5 Entries
(plus additional U.S.)
1. Candace Hill USA 11.09 (10.98 in ’15)
2. Khalifa St. Fort TTO 11.16
3. Ewa Swoboda POL 11.18
4. Evelin Rivera COL 11.20
5. Imani-Lara Lansiquot GBR 11.25

8. Jayla Kirkland USA 11.41

UPDATE (after qualifying):  The qualifying results were intriguing to say the least.  Favorites Candace Hill of the USA (heat 2) and Khalifa St. Fort of Trinidad and Tobago (heat 1) cruised in their heats with modest times of 11.43 and 11.50, as most would expect.  But Polish star Ewa Swoboda, 3rd on the entry list, blasted a wind-aided (all-conditions PR) 11.10 in heat 4 – obviously delighting the home crowd.  Perhaps she was motivated by what Great Britain’s Imani-Lara Lansiquot had done in the heat 3 before – an 11.17 wind-legal PR, well ahead of Hill’s teammate Celera Barnes, who qualified 5th overall at 11.51.  It will be fascinating to see what happens today and if either European can beat the U.S.-based preps in the end.

Original analysis:  Could this be a replay of Cali last year?  A spectacular World Youth 100 final in ’15 saw Candace Hill outrun Khalifa St. Fort, 11.08 to 11.19.  Now both have the top two seeds again and could duplicate that gold-silver finish.  Both have moved up to the professional level, but Hill did not make the Olympic team in a smoking fast Trials and, while St. Fort will run in Rio, it is here where she is a medal contender. 

Team USA also brings back Jayla Kirkland from Cali, where she won bronze.  The competition will be tougher here, but she’s still a medal contenders.  They could also run Kirkland in the 200 only and Celera Barnes in the 100.  The toughest competition could come from the hosts, as Ewa Swoboda is the 3rd seed at 11.18.  She set a World U20 mark in the indoor 60 this past winter at 7.07.

Team USA History:  Five times U.S. runners have won gold, the last being Jeneba Tarmoh in ’08.  While ’12 went without a Team USA medal, there was silver for Takeia Pinckney in ’10 and bronze for Kaylin Whitney in ’14. 

400m hurdles – Cockrell carries USA medal hopes

(qualifying was 7/20, semis 7/21, final 7/22)
Meet: 54.70, Lashinda Demus USA 2002
WJR: 54.15, Sydney McLaughlin USA 2016
AJR: 54.15, Sydney McLaughlin 2016

Top 5 Entries
(plus additional U.S.)
1. Anna Cockrell USA 55.89
2. Brandee’ Johnson USA 56.16
3. Shannon Kalawan JAM 56.29
4. Haruko Ishizuka JPN 56.75
5. Nicolee Foster JAM 56.99

UPDATE (after qualifying): Team USA had mixed fortunes in Wednesday’s qualifying.  Anna Cockrell, despite drawing lane 8, won heat 2 impressively with the overall fastest qualifier at 56.85.  But 2nd American Brandee’ Johnson, entered when Olympian and World U20 record-holder Sydney McLaughlin withdrew to concentrate on Rio, did not advance in heat 3 – looking drained and out of rhythm, and running 5th at 1:00.58.  Jamaican contender Shannon Kalawan was 2nd in heat 5 behind the impressive PR of Burundi’s Aminat Yusuf Jamal (56.94), while her sub-57 teammate Nicolee Foster also moved on, though less impressively. 

Analysis: When you can still bring to the line two previous international championship medalists, then it’s a lot easier to survive losing the best in the world.  Yes, Team USA’s gain for the Rio Summer Olympics of new prep and Junior record-setter Sydney McLaughlin – now becoming one of the sport’s most celebrated new stars on all levels – is Team USA’s loss for Bydgoszcz and the U20 Champs.  But the “loss” is immensely tempered by the fact that Team USA still has stars like Anna Cockrell and Brandee’ Johnson to bring to the game.

We’ve seen Johnson win 200 bronze at the ’14 Youth Olympics, then 400H bronze behind McLaughlin’s gold last year at World Youth.  Cockrell is no less than the Pan American Junior champ.  They stand 2-3 in the world in Team USA’s best event, so hopes of a gold-silver sweep are still very strong.  The competition won’t make it easy, though.  Jamaica has Shannon Kalawan and Nicolee Foster under 57 seconds, as well.  And there are at least three other athletes capable of high 56 or low 57 times.

Team USA History:  This has been a pretty strong event for Team USA, with golds by Lashinda Demus (2002), Takecia Jameson (2008) and Shamier Little two years ago.  There have been several medals of other colors, too.

400m dash: Irby under 52 again

(qualifying and semis were 7/19 and 7/20, final 7/21)
Meet: 50.50, Ashley Spencer USA 2012
WJR: 49.42, Grit Breuer GER 1991
AJR: 49.89, Sanya Richards-Ross 2004

Top 5 Entries
(plus additional U.S.)
1. Junelle Bromfield JAM 51.74
2. Tiffany James JAM 52.06
3. Roxana Gomez CUB 52.26
4. Yinka Ajayi NGR 52.27
5. Jessica Thornton AUS 52.33

8. Lynna Irby USA 52.51 (51.79 in ’15)
13. Karrington Winters USA 53.34

UPDATE (after semis):  Well, let there be no doubt: The Lynna Irby who won World Youth bronze at 51.79 is back.  The top American had not run faster than 52.51 this year before Bydgoszcz, but showed her peak-level form Wednesday with a 51.90 winner in semi #1, topping Cuba’s Roxana Gomez at 52.26.  In semi #2, Australia’s Jessica Thornton and U20 world leader Junelle Bromfield ran 52.12 and 52.18.  Then in semi #3, Bromfield’s teammate Tiffany James clocked a PR 51.77.  These top 5 should wage a thriller in the final.

Earlier Analysis (after 1st round): A big question from a US perspective coming in was whether or not we’ll see the pretty good “springtime” Lynna Irby or the eye-popping “summer 2015” Lynna Irby.  No one will forget the monster PR 51.79 the Indiana prep unleashed in winning World Youth silver last summer.  That kind of mark would be fighting for the gold here.  Irby was ranked 8th coming in based her on ’16 best of 52.51.  In Tuesday’s prelims, she qualified a close 3rd overall to the semis, so it would seem a medal is definitely in play.

Otherwise, Jamaica could win gold here for the first time with Junelle Bromfield, a 51.74 performer.  In fact, a gold-silver sweep would be possible given that Tiffany James is next on the list at 52.06.  Among the bronze contenders is Roxana Gomez, the Cuban who won CSI in ’15 and also ran well at World Youth and Pan Am Junior finals.  Karrington Winters is the other U.S. entry, hoping to improve enough to make the final with a 53.34 PR.  All were solid in prelims.

Team USA History:  Americans have some good success here, winning four golds.  That includes gold-silver by Monique Henderson and Sanya Richards-Ross in ’02 and gold by Natasha Hastings in ’04.  Most recently, Ashley Spencer set the meet record with her ’12 triumph and Kendall Baisden and Olivia Baker went 1-3 in ’14. 

800m run – Watson, Miller still in position for medals

(qualifying was 7/19 and semis were 7/20, final 7/21)
Meet: 2:00.06, Elena Mirela Lavric ROU 2008
WJR: 1:54.01, Pamela Jelimo KEN 2008
AJR: 1:58.21, Ajee’ Wilson 2013

Top 5 Entries
(plus additional U.S.)
1. Samantha Watson USA 2:02.91
2. Aaliyah Miller USA 2:02.96
3. Esther Chebet UGA 2:03.28
4. Josephine Chelangat KEN 2:03.54
5. Alina Ammann GER 2:03.57

UPDATE (after semis):  It’s looking very good for Americans Aaliyah Miller and Sammy Watson.  Miller, after advancing somewhat shakily in qualifying, was convincing in her semi #1, coming from behind over too-fast early leader Tigist Ketema of Ethiopia, and winning with a semis-best 2:04.36.  She looks medal-ready.  Watson was just as impressive, in her own way, negative-splitting a 2:04.50 in semi #3 to nip Canadian Victoria Tachinski at 2:04.55.  Tachinski, the NBNO champ, could certainly join Miller and/or Watson on the podium.

Analysis:  Interestingly, the top 6 on the World list are either running other events or not entered, so at #7 is none other than ’15 World Youth champ Sammy Watson – seen by many as the heir apparent to Ajee’ Wilson, who also won a Youth title before taking a Junior crown (see below).  Watson has that same sharpening sense of pace and seems to control whatever race she’s in, usually keeping them slow and using her kick.  It can’t be comforting to young 800 meter runners to know that she’ll also be eligible for the ’18 U20 champs, too!

Watson won a terrific USA Junior race with Aaliyah Miller, whose dramatic improvement from 2:06 to 2:02 was one of the stories of the meet.  She lacks the experience of Watson, but has tremendous talent to burn, as Texas fans have seen for years.  The field is crowded with other 2:03 talent, though, including Victoria Tachinski of Canada – who came down to dominate NBNO last month.  NOTE: Watson, Miller and Tachinski all made it through the first round.

Team USA History:  Ajee Wilson is the standard bearer with the only USA gold coming from her 2012 performance.  No American made the final in ’14.

Long Jump: Matthews and Samuels both have a shot

(qualifying 7/21, final 7/22)
Meet: 6.82m/22-4.5, Fiona May GBR 1988
WJR: 7.14m/23-5.25, Heike Dreschler GDR 1983
AJR: 6.83m/22-5, Kate Hall USA 2015

Top 5 Entries
(by ’16 best; plus additional U.S.)
T1. Bria Matthews USA 21-3.5
T1. Sophia Weissenberg GER 21-3.5
T3. Samiyah Samuels, USA, 21-3.25i
T3. Yanis David FRA 21-3.25
T3. Hanne Maudens BEL 21-3.25

Analysis: Based off her American Junior record 22-5 at NBNO last year, U.S. collegian Kate Hall would have been the big favorite.  Even this year, she took the WJ lead with a 21-5.25 she leapt in qualifying at the Olympic Trials.  But there’s the rub; Hall – who now has transferred from Iowa State to Georgia – competed only in the Trials this summer and not USA Juniors.  With the event also missing Swedish prodigy Tilde Johansson (21-4, but too young for this meet!), the favorites’ roles fall to a German and another American: Sophie Weissenberg and Bria Matthews, respectively. 

Matthews, a very good prep out of Georgia who didn’t seem to quite reach her potential there, has flourished at Georgia Tech in both horizontals.  Her winning 21-.35 at USA Juniors puts her in a great chance to win the first-ever U.S. medal in the event, if not the first gold.  Most accurately, though, this is anyone’s battle – including U.S. prep and NBNI champ Samiyah Samuels – as the top 8 jumpers are separated by only a few centimeters.

Team USA History:  No American has medaled in this event, with Julia Yendork’s 4th in ’90 being the high water mark.  In ’14, Quanesha Burks and Jazmin McCoy took 5th and 6th.

Hammer: Familiar Cuban leads contenders

(qualifying 7/21, final 7/23)
Meet: 70.62m/231-8, Alexandra Tavernier FRA 2012
WJR: 73.24m/240-3, Zhang Wenxiu CHN 2005
AJR: 68.12m/223-6, Shelbi Ashe 2012

Top 5 Entries
(by ’16 best; plus additional U.S.)
1. Ayamey Medina CUB 226-3
2. Beatrice Nedberge Llano NOR 222-7
3. Viktoriya Holda UKR 220-10
4. Anastasiya Maslova BLR 217-9
5. Alexandra Hulley AUS 215-8

13. Joy McArthur USA 203-7
19. Sade Olatoye USA 200-2

Analysis: Those watching the women’s hammer during Team NSAF’s trip to Havana and Memorial Barrientos in May will surely remember the rocket flying from the person of Ayamey Medina on that Friday – in the form of a 226-3 throw.  It was one of a handful of stunning performances by the Cubans and, in this case, many fans probably thought she was a senior. But Medina is just 18 and that mighty heave makes her the favorite here.  She was 5th in Cali, but has improved markedly since. 

Most of the other top five have international championship experience with some level of success; only #3 Viktoriya Holda does not.  Meanwhile, Team USA is led by a total newcomer to the event, a California prep who did not pick up the implement until this year, but has progressed to 203-7.  She has a great chance to make the final, but will probably have to add 10 feet to become a medal threat.  Sade Olatoye’s story is similar; she was a prep all-state discus and shot putter who has taken the hammer at Ohio State and soared with it.

Team USA History: Maureen Griffin is the only Team USA athlete to medal in this event, having taken bronze in ’98. Prep record-holder Shelby Ashe was seeded 2nd in ’12, but finished 10th (still the #2 finish by an American at WJ).  Neither Haley Showalter or Brooke Andersen made the final in ’14.

Pole Vault: Peinado, Moster, Murto look good

(qualifying was 7/19, final 7/21)
Meet: 4.50m/14-9, Angelica Bengtsson SWE 2012 and Alayna Lutkovskaya RUS 2014
WJR: 4.64m/15-2.75, Eliza McCartney NZL 2015
AJR: 4.46m/14-7.5, Lexi Weeks USA 2015

Top 5 Entries
(by ’16 best; plus additional U.S.)
1. Wilma Murto FIN 15-5.5
2. Robeilys Peinado VEN 14-11.5
T3. Angelica Moser SUI 14-9
T3. Lisa Gunnarsson SWE 14-9
5. Rachel Baxter USA 14-3

T9. Carson Dingler USA 13-9.25

UPDATE (after qualifying):  The favorites looked good, with Robeilys Peinado and Angelica Moser getting the auto 4.20 on their first tries, while Wilma Murto got a 4.15 on her only jump that safely advanced as well.  Americans Carson Dingler and Rachel Baxter each made the final, too, with Dingler clearing four bars before a miss at 4.15.  She cleared it on her 2nd try, however, and she was through.  Baxter had a scare at 4.05, needing three tries, then got over 4.15 on her first. 

Original analysis: The big question mark here at Worlds is Wilma Murto.  The Finn soared over a stunning 15-5.5 for a World U20 indoor record earlier this year, also superior to the outdoor WJR – but outdoors has achieved just 14-10 so far.  The latter kind of mark merely makes her one of several contenders in that range – the best being Robeilys Peinado.  The Venezuelan has a World Youth gold (’13) and Youth Olympic silver (’14) to her credit, and also won the Pan Am Junior vault last summer.

Another question mark, though, is Australian Nina Kennedy – a PR of 15-0.75 last year, but just 14-1.25 this year.  She was 4th in this meet two years ago.  The USA duo is making a satisfying return to world competition here; Rachel Baxter and Carson Dingler each made the World Youth final last year, despite their vault poles being unavailable most of the week.  Baxter improved dramatically to 14-3 this year, the kind of mark that if she can do it again would make her a medal contender.  Dingler’s PR doesn’t rank her as high, but 14 feet is in her wheelhouse if she can put it together.

Team USA History:  Desiree Freier became the first USA medalist in this event when she won silver two years ago with a HSR 14-7.25.  Rachel Laurent’s 4th in ’08 had been the previous best.

Discus: Bruckner, Ritter look great in qualifying

(qualifying was 7/19, final 7/21)
Meet: 68.24m/223-10, Ilke Wyludda GDR 1988
WJR: 74.40m/244-1, Ilke Wyludda GDR 1988
AJR: 60.59m/198-9, Shelbi Vaughan USA 2012

Top 5 Entries
(by ’16 best; plus additional U.S.)
1. Kristina Rakocevic MNE 191-3
2. Elena Bruckner USA 186-9
3. Alexandra Emilianov MDA 182-8
4. Shanice Love JAM 179-6
5. Kiana Phelps USA 176-9 (179-7 in ’14)

UPDATE (after qualifying): European stars Kristina Rakocevic of Montenegro and Alexandra Emilianov of Moldova advanced easily but it was German Julia Ritter and American Elena Bruckner who were most impressive, qualifying 1-2 at a PR 53.84 and 53.83, respectively.  It was a great start Tuesday for Bruckner, but now she’ll have to bounce back from a somewhat disappointing 7th in Wednesday’s shot final.  Bruckner’s teammate, Kiana Phelps, also made the final in 10th overall, but Jamaican’s Shanice Love – who beat Bruckner at the Penn Relays – fouled three times and did not advance.

Original analysis:  The discus is nearly on a par with the shot here as a showcase for U.S. throwers and, in this case, there’s a more consistent medal history in recent WJs (see below).  Either Elena Bruckner or Kiana Phelps – or both – could add to that recent medal legacy.  Bruckner has been pretty consistent in the mid-170s to mid-180s, with her only loss to Jamaica’s Shanice Love – herself a big medal threat – at the Penn Relays.  Phelps has repped Team NSAF in the 2015 CSI meet in Cuba, plus three Chicagoland/Iron Wood throws events, and is coming off her first NBNO title after a 2nd in ’15 and 3rd in ’14.  If either or both can get 180, they probably have a spot on the medal stand.

The competition, however, is formidable.  Kristina Rakocevic of Montenegro won discus silver and shot put bronze at WY last summer, plus was 4th at Youth Olympics in ’14.  And Alexandra Emilianov of Moldova was the one who beat Rakocevic in Cali – even though she’s behind her on this year’s World list.  When you add in Love, who won that unforgettable duel at Penn, you have a very tough field.  If you are a U.S. throws fan, you’re going to love the shot and discus.

Team USA History:  No American woman has ever won discus gold in WJ competition, but there have been five silver or bronze medalists, including one in each of the past three WJCs: Erin Pendleton silver in ’10, Shelby Vaughan bronze in ’12 and Valarie Allman silver two years ago.

Heptathlon – World #3 Lagger tops entries

(7/21 and 7/22)
Meet: 6,470 pts, Carolina Kluft SWE 2002
WJR: 6,542 pts, Carolina Kluft SWE 2002
AJR: 6,018 pts, Kendell Williams USA 2014

Top 5 Entries
(by ’16 best; plus additional U.S.)
1. Sarah Lagger AUT 5,776
2. Hanne Maudens BEL 5,709
3. Karin Strametz AUT 5,666
4. Weronika Grzelak POL 5,625
5. Bianca Salming SWE 5,596

17. Emma Fitzgerald USA 5,464
23. Kaylee Hinton USA 5,348

Analysis: The two leaders on the World list – Alina Shukh and Morgan Lake, each with PRs well over 6,000 pts – are off the board either due to injury or senior team commitments for their countries.  That leaves World #3 Sarah Lagger as the favorite.  She was the Cali runner-up last year, hitting 5,992 with the Youth implements and hurdles and beating Skukh (who has since improved more with the Junior implements/hurdles).  The other top contenders have moderate championship credentials and are solidly in that 5,500 range or better.

Emma Fitzgerald, the aforementioned Project Javelin senior, has made a spectacular return to top-level multis this year after dramatically improving her fitness level and staying reasonably healthy.  She scored in the mid-5,400s twice in just over a week at NBNO and USA Jrs.  Here, she’ll probably need to find another 100-200 points to be in serious medal contention, but her PRs suggest that’s possible.  Kaylee Hinton had a disastrous no mark in the jav at USA Jrs, but because she had the standard she made the team.  She was 4th at Pan Am Juniors last year, so she’s got high-level experience, too.

Team USA History:  Kendra Reimer was 7th in ’98 for the top US finish ever in this event.  Ashlee Moore was 13th and Shaina Burns 21st in ’14, while potential medalist Kendell Williams contested only the 100H.

3,000m steeplechase – Kenyans again

(qualifying 7/21, final 7/24)
Meet: 8:06.10, Conseslus Kipruto KEN 2012
WJR: 7:58.66, Saif Saaeed Shaheen KEN 2001
AJR: 8:33.8h, John Gregorek 1979

Top 5 Entries
(by ’16 best; plus additional U.S.)
1. Yemane Haileselassie ERI 8:22.52
2. Vincent Kipyegon Ruto KEN 8:22.7
3. Mohamed Ismail Ibrahim DJI 8:23.77
4. Amos Kirui KEN 8:27.4
5. Albert Chemutai UGA 8:41.29

13. Dylan Hodgson USA 8:50.04
16. Kai Benedict USA 8:52.68

Analysis: There are four runners that range from 14 to 19 seconds better than the rest of the field, and they are all East Africans.  Kenyans have won all 14 of the Junior champs since the distance was increased to 3k and many of the lesser medals, as well.  The Kenyans don’t have the fastest times on the list, but they haven’t raced yet at low-altitude, while the contenders from Eritrea and Djibouti have done so.

As a senior at Washington Co., KS, Dylan Hodgson was a late bloomer, hitting an under-the-radar 8:56 3,200 at the very end of his senior year.  At U. of Kansas, he blossomed into an 8:50 steepler as a frosh before winning USA Juniors, suggesting he could compete well in the 2nd group, as Bailey Roth did two years ago (see below).  Former McQueen, Nevada prep Kai Benedict has done nearly as well at Cal.

Team USA History:  The best-ever finish by an American here is 5th, by Chris Dugan in 1998.  Bailey Roth impressed two years ago when he followed a 7th-place finish in the ’13 World Youths with another 7th in the Eugene World Juniors with an 8:48.60 national prep record – less than two seconds out of 4th.

400m hurdles – Hyde looks to defend

(qualifying 7/21, semis 7/22, final 7/23)
Meet: 48.51, Kerron Clement USA 2004
WJR: 48.02, Danny Harris USA 1984
AJR: 48.02, Danny Harris 1984

Top 5 Entries
(by ’16 best; plus additional U.S.)
1. Jaheel Hyde JAM 48.81
2. Mikeal De Jesus BRA 49.62
3. Taylor McLaughlin USA 49.73
4. Yoshiro Watanabe JAP 49.76
5. Victor Coroller FRA 50.47

18. Justin Alexander USA 50.47

Analysis: Jaheel Hyde falls in the category of rare and special defending champs, having won in Eugene at age 17 after his ’13 World Youth title at 110H.  He’s also made the Jamaican team for the Rio Games, but he’s still on the start lists here.  His 48.81 is well clear of the field. 

Three others have broken 49, including U-M frosh Taylor McLaughlin, who had a great campaign after a star-studded career at Union Catholic, NJ – producing many winning and All-American relay and individual finishes in NBN meets.  While not quite as talented as sister Sydney, Taylor is already one of the top NCAA hurdlers and will likely contend to win there in ’17.  Meanwhile, he did look a little off form at the USA Juniors in Clovis, suggesting normal effects of the long NCAA season. But if he can get back under 50, he could medal.  Justin Alexander had been 3rd there, but was picked over runner-up Amere Lattin, since Lattin is in tonight’s 110H final.

Team USA History:  Americans have five golds here, including meet record-holder Kerron Clement in ’04, Chris Carter in ’06, Eric Futch in ’12 and a 1-2 sweeps in ’08 with Jeshua Anderson and Johnny Dutch. 

200m dash: Norman the clear favorite

(qualifying 7/21am, semis 7/21pm, final 7/22)
Meet: 20.28, Andrew Howe ITA 2004
WJR: 19.93, Usain Bolt JAM 2004
AJR: 20.09, Noah Lyles USA 2016

Top 5 Entries
(by ’16 best; plus additional U.S.)
1. Michael Norman USA 20.14
2. Baboloki Thebe BOT 20.21
3. Clarence Munyai RSA 20.36
4. Nigel Ellis JAM 20.40
5. Tlotliso Leotlela RSA 20.47

9. Micaiah Harris USA 20.77

Analysis: Compared to the 100, there really isn’t a question mark as to who is the leading man among the 200 entries.  Michael Norman – Lyles’ friendly rival in the battle for prep sprinting supremacy – is the unquestioned favorite.  Like Lyles, he had an amazing week at the Trials – first not qualifying to advance in a different event (400), then duking it out with him in the 200 –virtually speaking in the rounds, then literally in the final.  Norman hit 20.14 for 5th there, just .01 off Roy Martin’s previous HSR and .05 behind Lyles.  Also like Lyles, Norman just ran one of his favorite sprints at USA Juniors, dominating the 200 and passing up the 400.  So he’ll try and claim his golds here and probably the 4x400 relay.

Team USA’s #2 entry is Micaiah Harris, the Western Branch VA prep who also made the World Youth team last year.  He had a big PR 20.77 to get the surprise runner-up finish, the kind of time that could well make the final.  Medaling would probably require chopping off at least another quarter-second.  Jamaicans Ellis (see above 100) and Akeem Bloomfield are among the other medal contenders, as are South Africans Letlela (above) and Clarence Munyai at 20.36.  Then there’s Botswana’s Baboloki Thebe, who has had a stunning ascension to the top of the 400 ranks, but is also a 20.21 star in the 200 – he was 2nd to Lyles in the 200 back at the ’14 Youth Olympics.  He’ll have to choose one or the other and is likely slated for the 400, however.

Team USA History: Americans strangely struggled in this event here from 1990 through 2010, with no golds and a stretch of four championships (2004-2010) with no medals.  Then Aaron Ernest and Tyreek Hill went silver-bronze in ’12 and Trentavis Friday blasted to the gold in 2014.  Previously, the first two WJCs saw golds claimed by Team USA’s Stanley Kerr and Kevin Braunskill.

400m dash – Thebe the man to beat; favorites look good

(qualifying was 7/20, semis 7/21, final 7/22)
Meet: 44.66, Hamdan Odha Al-Bishi KSA 2000
WJR: 43.87, Steve Lewis USA 1988
AJR: 43.87, Steve Lewis 1988

Top 5 Entries
(by ’16 best; plus additional U.S.)
1. Baboloki Thebe BOT 44.22
2. Abdalelah Haroun QAT 44.81
3. Kahmari Montgomery USA 45.13
4. Wilbert London USA 45.28
5. Karabo Sibanda BOT 45.40

UPDATE (after qualifying): The key contenders all won their prelims yesterday, with favorite Baboloki Thebe running 2nd fastest overall at 46.25.  Geoffrey Kiprotich advanced fastest with a 46.23 PR, while Kahmari Montgomery looked strong in his triumph at 46.46.  U.S. teammate Wilbert London needed just 47.23 to win his heat.

Original analysis: Baboloki Thebe has had a stunning ascension to the top of 400m running.  While he had been successful at 100 and 200, his progression in ’16 from a 45.23 debut to 44.22 (#2 all-time U20) was more than expected.  Having also won the senior African title at sea level in 44.69, he’s proven that the 44.22 was no fluke.  His consistency makes him a reliable favorite.  Another African, Qatar’s Abdalelah Haroun, ran 44.27 last year and 44.81 so far this year, making him the top challenger, at least.

When 45.19 performer Michael Norman decided just to focus on the 200 at USA Juniors, that left the 400 to a pair of collegians, Missouri’s Kamahri Montgomery and Baylor’s Wil London.  Both went into the low 45s this year, but obviously you always watch for the effects of a long NCAA campaign for the collegians and how they hold up into July.  Both were under 46 in Clovis, so the prospect is promising that either or both can at least contend for bronze.  Finally, don’t forget about ’15 World Youth champ Christopher Taylor of Jamaica – just 45.66 this year but 45.27 last year at age 15.

Team USA History:  Americans have been pretty successful here, winning six times with the last being Marcus Boyd’s 2008 victory.  At least one medal went to Team USA in every WJC from ’02 through ’12, before a shutout in ’14.

1500m run – Kenyans could sweep

(qualifying was 7/19, final 7/21)
Meet: 3:35.53 Abdalaati Iguider MAR 2004
WJR: 3:28.81, Ronald Kwemoi KEN 2014
AJR: 3:36.1h, Jim Ryun 1966

Top 5 Entries
(by ’16 best; plus additional U.S.)
1. Kumari Taki KEN 3:38.8
2. Anthony Kiptoo KEN 3:39.5
3. Baptiste Mischler FRA 3:39.58
4. Mohamed Ismail Ibrahim DJI 3:39.84
5. Ayoub Sniba MAR 3:40.87

23. Diego Zarate USA 3:44.50
38. Kendall Muhammad USA 3:47.69

Analysis (after qualifying):  Kumari Taki comes in with a strong resume’, having won the ’15 World Youth title by a huge margin in 3:36.38 and coming in with a ’16 best of 3:38.8 at altitude.  He needed just 3:47.14 to win the 2nd prelim two days ago, 12th fastest overall.  Countryman Anthony Kiptoo was 2nd to Moroccan Ayoub Sniba in heat 1, the fastest, 3:44.59 to 3:44.74.  Top European Baptist Mischler of France was right behind Ethiopian Taresa Tolosa in the final heat.  Djibouti’s Mohamed Ibrahim is going for both the steeple and 1,500, ranked in the top 5 in each.  Neither American advanced in the large, crowded field.

Team USA History:  Fifth-place finishes by Jason Pyrah (1988) and Gabe Jennings (1998) top the slate for Team USA.  Neither Grant Fisher nor Patrick Joseph made the final in ’14.  Fisher would have been eligible again this year, but did not contest the Trials.

110m hurdles – Russell will challenge Krah, Lattin

(qualifying and semis were 7/20, final 7/21)
Meet: 12.99, Wilhem Belocian FRA 2014
WJR: 12.99, Wilhem Belocian FRA 2014
AJR: 13.08, Wayne Davis II 2009

Top 5 Entries
(by ’16 best; plus additional U.S.)
1. Marcus Krah USA 13.25
2. Amere Lattin USA 13.32
3. Nicholas Andrews AUS 13.33
4. James Weaver GBR 13.33
5. Damion Thomas JAM 13.42

UPDATE (after semis):  Hopes for a U.S. sweep are still on, but it won’t be easy.  NBNO and USA Junior champ Marcus Krah won semi #2 in 13.36, 2nd fastest overall, while Amere Lattin was 2nd in semi #3 at 13.39.  The latter race saw a new World U20 leader emerge as Jamaican De’Jour Russell blasted a 13.20 and looked very good doing it.  Three others ran between 13.40-13.42 in the semis.  After a good prelim, Damion Thomas of Northeast HS in Oakland, Fla. and Jamaica did not advance to the final.

Original analysis:  It hasn’t been pretty for Team USA in this event, with no medals since ’08 and no golds since ’04 (see below).  But that could change with Marcus Krah and Amere Lattin.  Krah has been an amazing success story in ’16, charging into the 13.30s during an NC state meet triple, getting edged out in a great CSI 110H by teammate Trey Cunningham, then sweeping NBNO and USA Juniors to take the World lead.  A product of the great Durham Striders program, the gold is his for the taking.

Teammate Lattin has improved strongly as a Houston Cougar frosh and ran great in Clovis during his return to the 39” hurdles.  He has Team USA experience in the ’14 Youth Olympics.  Aussie Nicholas Andrews and Brit James Weaver have been consistently fast and will be right there in the medal hunt.  Another U.S. prep, Damion Thomas of Northeast HS in Oakland, Fla., is repping Team Jamaica here and will contend as well.

Team USA History:  Americans haven’t been nearly as successful here as you’d imagine.  The last to medal was Booker Nunley in ‘08 (silver); the last to win was Aries Merritt in ‘04.  Before that there was gold for Antwon Hicks in ’02 and five medals of other colors.

Pole Vault – Current, former prep stars in the mix

Meet: 5.71m, German Chiaraviglio ARG 2006
WJR: 5.80m, Maksim Tarasov URS 1989

Top 5 Entries
(by ’16 best; plus additional U.S.)
1. Kurtis Marshall AUS 5.70m
2. Christopher Nilsen USA 5.60m
3. Emmanouil Karalis GRE 5.55m
4. Vladislav Malykhin UKR 5.55m
5. Adam Hague GBR 5.53m

6. Armand Duplantis SWE 5.51m (U.S. prep)
7. Deakin Volz USA 5.46m (5.47m in ’15)

Analysis: You could say this meet will be about rivalries old and new, when it comes to the two U.S. entries and Swedish team member Armand Duplantis.  As a U.S. prep freshman prodigy in ’15, Duplantis won Millrose indoors, but then passed up NBNI as Deakin Volz set the HSR.  They would later battle behind Paulo Benavides at NBNO, then in the summer, Duplantis won the World Youth title for his native country.  This year, Duplantis broke the graduated Volz’s record indoors, then saw Chris Nilsen’s stunning improvement take him beyond and up to an outdoor HSR 5.60m.  Nilsen beat Duplantis at both Great Southwest and NBNO, then won Juniors. 

Of course, now Volz is a college frosh and took 2nd behind Nilsen in Clovis.  Meanwhile, Duplantis PR’d (5.51m) in a small meet in Sweden to get some momentum back and set up a great 3-way clash, here.  However, they’ll hardly have the stage to themselves or even be favorites.  That role goes to Australia’s Kurtis Marshall, who has gone 5.70, just a centimeter off the meet record.  Another contender is Greece’s Emmanouil Karalis, like Duplantis a prodigal talent.  He’s just ahead of the Swede on the all-time U18 list at 5.55.

Team USA History: Amazingly, the only American medalist ever in this event had been Rocky Danners in Santiago in 2000 – the year the meet was in October.  Devin King nearly got USA on the podium again two years ago in Eugene, but finished 4th on misses despite clearing 18 feet.

Triple Jump – Cuban domination

(qualifying was 7/20, final 7/21)
Meet: 17.13m/56-2.5, Lazaro Martinez CUB 2014
WJR: 17.50/57-5, Volker Mai GDR 1985
AJR: 17.13/56-2.5, Will Claye 2009

Top 5 Entries
(by ’16 best; plus additional U.S.)
1. Christian Napoles CUB 55-6.25
2. Lazaro Martinez CUB 55-5.5 (56-6.75 in ’14)
3. Nazim Babayev AZE 55-2.75 (55-11 in ’15)
4. Pavlo Beznis UKR 54-3.75
5. Melvin Raffin FRA 54-0.5

7. Charles Brown USA 53-7.75
14. Armani Wallace USA 52-10.75

UPDATE (after qualifying):  Cuban favorites Cristian Napoles and Lazaro Martinez did what they were supposed to do and got the top 2 marks in qualifying: 54-2 and 54-1.  Another 55-footer, World #3 Nazim Babayev of Azerbaijan, did not get it done though and will miss the final.  Three others jumped behond 16 meters, including American Armani Wallace in 5th overall.  His teammate Charles Brown, Jr. was nearly as good at 15.97 and 7th overall.  It will be tough for them to get in medal contention, but they have a shot.

Original analysis:  There may not be any Ja’Mari Ward-like challenge to Cuban supremacy here.  Ward himself tried to make Team USA here, too, but the strain of the long jump at Clovis had been too much.  Charles Brown and Armani Wallace are strong, improving collegians, but neither they (or Ward, even if he’d made it) are at the 55-foot level. 

Martinez, of course, is one of the few defending champs here, having won as a 16-year-old in Eugene.  He hasn’t hit that mid-56 level recently, though, and teammate Christian Napoli – the ’15 World Youth champ and also familiar to Team NSAF preps who’ve traveled to Cuba – is a few centimeters ahead of him this year.  The bottom line is that whoever is best this week will take the gold and the other the silver – or maybe bronze, if Nazim Babayev of Azerbaijan, 8th at World Indoor this year, can produce in the mid-55s or better.

Team USA History:  Americans have medaled just three times in this event: Silver for Leonard Cobb in ’94, and bronzes for Greg Yedell in ’98 and Omar Craddock in ’10.

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