EUGENE, Ore. — Five years ago at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials, Sydney McLaughlin was a high-school student trying to prove she belonged.
This time around, she proved she’s the fastest 400-meter hurdler ever.
In one of the most highly-anticipated matchups of this year’s Olympic trials Sunday night, McLaughlin smashed the world world record and slipped past reigning world champion Dalilah Muhammad to win the women’s 400-meter hurdles with a time of 51.90.
Now 21, McLaughlin will be heading back to the Olympic Games for the second time in her young career – and this time, as a world record-holder who is favored to win gold.
Muhammad, the reigning world champion in the event, finished second in 52.42. Anna Cockrell came in third to round out the U.S. team in the event.
It was a crowning moment for McLaughlin, who has gone from high-school prodigy to collegiate all-American to world championship silver medalist in the span of four years.
She qualified for the Tokyo Olympics when she was just 16, but failed to make the final.
Mu in control in women’s 800
Athing Mu’s breakout season is continuing on to Tokyo.
Mu won the women’s 800 meters Sunday in record-breaking fashion. The 19-year-old crossed the finish line at 1:56.07 to set a new meet record and win the event. Her time is also the second fastest by an American woman.
Raevyn Rogers finished second, running a personal best of 1:57.66, and Ajee’ Wilson’s 1:58.39 was good enough for third.
Mu had the top time in the field entering Sunday’s final. The middle-distance phenom is in the midst of a superb season.
In her freshman year at Texas A&M, Mu broke numerous collegiate records, including in the women’s 400 and 800 meters. She was also named indoor and outdoor NCAA National Women’s Track Athlete of the Year.
The New Jersey teen decided to forgo her remaining collegiate eligibility to go pro and signed a multi-year deal with Nike during the trials – and on Sunday Mu illustrated why she made the decision.
A 1500m photo finish
It was fitting that, in the final middle-distance event of the trials at the brand-new Hayward Stadium on the campus of the University of Oregon, it came down to a pair of Ducks.
Reigning NCAA champion Cole Hocker used a determined final sprint to beat the reigning Olympic gold medalist, Matthew Centrowitz Jr., and win the men’s 1500 meters. The race was decided by .06 seconds, with Hocker registering a winning time of 3:35.28.
Heptathlete’s heat scare
Taliyah Brooks was sitting in fourth place ahead of the penultimate event in the heptathlon when she collapsed on the track due to apparent heat exhaustion.
Brooks received medical attention and was placed in a wheelchair. Her agent, Tony Campbell, later told The Washington Post that Brooks was “OK” and “coherent.” The Arkansas product had just completed the long jump and was officially listed as “Did Not Start” in the event that followed, the javelin throw.
When the entirety of trials was delayed five hours due to the extreme heat, Brooks filed a request to re-enter the competition, which was granted by the USA Track & Field Games Committee. But when it came time for Brooks to throw the javelin, USATF announced that she had withdrawn.
Distance double for Fisher, Kincaid
Bowerman Track Club teammates Grant Fisher and Woody Kincaid bookended their stay in Eugene with top-three finishes, as each secured a spot in two different events at the Tokyo Olympics.
Fisher and Kincaid finished second and third, respectively, in the men’s 5,000-meter race on the last day of trials, more than a week after they came in second and first in the men’s 10,000.
Paul Chelimo held off both men Sunday to win the 5,000 in a time of 13:26.82.