Vashti Cunningham

Fred Kerley runs world’s fastest 100m of 2022; Allyson Felix ekes into U.S. final

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Olympic silver medalist Fred Kerley ran the world’s fastest 100m this year and won the USATF Outdoor Championships, setting himself up as the favorite for the world championships in three weeks.

In a span of two hours, Kerley ran 9.76 seconds in the semifinals and, less than two hours later, 9.77 in the final. Those are the world’s two fastest times this year.

“I put the work in,” Kerley told Flotrack. “It’s the day I was supposed to have.”

Kerley is joined on the world team by Rio Olympian Marvin Bracy-Williams (9.85), the world’s fastest man of 2021 Trayvon Bromell (9.88) and Christian Coleman, who scratched after qualifying fourth into the final but has a bye into worlds as reigning world champion.

USATF OUTDOORS: TV Schedule | Results

Allyson Felix extended her farewell season by grabbing the last spot in Saturday’s 400m final. She was in last place coming around the last curve in her semifinal, then surged into fourth place and made it into the eight-woman final on time.

In 2019 and 2021, USA Track and Field put all eight finalists on the world championships and Olympic teams for relay purposes. If that’s repeated this time, Felix will have made her 10th world championships team dating to 2003.

“My legs just didn’t feel the best, but I knew that’s kind of how this season was going to go,” said Felix, whose goal was to make the relay pool.

Melissa Jefferson won the women’s 100m in a wind-aided 10.69 seconds. Jefferson, the fastest collegian this season who was eighth at the NCAA Championships two weeks ago for Coastal Carolina, prevailed by three hundredths over 2018 U.S. champion Aleia Hobbs. Twanisha Terry rounds out the individual 100m team for worlds, which will also be in Eugene.

“One [NCAAs] had to be sacrificed for the other [U.S. Championships],” Jefferson told Lewis Johnson on CNBC. “Had I done good at NCAAs, I might not be standing here right now.”

The race lacked Sha’Carri Richardson, who was eliminated in the first round on Thursday. Richardson ranked No. 3 in the world last year despite having her Olympic Trials win disqualified for a positive marijuana test, ruling her out of the Tokyo Games.

Ryan Crouser, two-time Olympic champion and world record holder, recorded the joint-fourth-best throw in history to win the shot put. He’s joined on the team by runner-up Joe Kovacs, who has a bye into worlds as reigning world champion.

Olympic champion Valarie Allman won the discus, though she also has a bye into worlds as the reigning Diamond League season champion.

Rio Olympic silver medalist Sandi Morris won the pole vault with a 4.82-meter clearance, tops in the world this year. Tokyo gold medalist Katie Nageotte was third to join her on the team. London gold medalist Jenn Suhr announced her retirement on Thursday at age 40.

Vashti Cunningham won her 10th consecutive U.S. high jump title (indoors and outdoors).

Rayvon Gray won the men’s long jump with a personal best 8.19-meter leap but doesn’t have the world championship standard (8.22), so he must wait to see if he gets into worlds on world ranking.

JuVaughn Harrison, who in Tokyo became the first American man to compete in the high jump and long jump at the same Olympics since Jim Thorpe in 1912, was 11th. Rio gold medalist Jeff Henderson didn’t enter nationals due to injury.

In semifinals, Olympic champion and world record holder Sydney McLaughlin easily advanced to Saturday’s 400m hurdles final with the top time (52.90) by 2.12 seconds. Dalilah Muhammad, the 2016 gold medalist and former world record holder, has a bye into worlds as reigning world champion. She didn’t compete at nationals due to injury.

All of the favorites advanced to this weekend’s finals in the men’s 400m (Michael NormanRandolph Ross), men’s 800m (Bryce Hoppel, Clayton Murphy) and women’s 800m (Athing Mu, Raevyn Rogers, Ajeé Wilson).

Donovan Brazier, who is returning from injury, withdrew after the 800m first round but has a bye into worlds as reigning champ.

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Trayvon Bromell wins 100m; Keni Harrison finds redemption and trip to Tokyo

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Trayvon Bromell ran the second-fastest time in the world this year to win the men’s 100m at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials on Sunday night.

Who has the fastest?

Bromell, of course.

Just 15 days after running 9.77 seconds — the second-fastest time over the past six years — Bromell went 9.8 in the Olympic Trials final to continue building his case as the gold-medal favorite in Tokyo. The St. Petersburg, Florida, native turns 26 next month.

“It’s a marvelous feeling,” Bromell said of his win.

The last time the world saw Bromell on a global stage, he was leaving it in a wheelchair.

Bromell was second at the 2016 Olympic Trials and finished eighth in Rio. He anchored the 4x100m team to what was thought to be a bronze medal, until the U.S. was disqualified for an exchange violation. In an effort to secure that medal, though, Bromell tumbled across the track at the finish, flaring up heel pain caused by a bone spur that was growing by his Achilles.

Unable to walk, officials wheeled Bromell away.

He had two surgeries after the Rio Games and then, after going two years between races, blew an adductor muscle in his upper leg in his first meet back in 2019.

At a time in 2018 when he was questioning whether he wanted to continue living, Bromell dedicated himself to his faith at his mother’s suggestion. He now describes himself as a spiritual runner, who competes with the message that “God is real.”

He attributes his recent successes both to his faith and the coaching change he made in 2019 to Rana Reider.

On the biggest lesson he has learned in his tumultuous five-year journey, Bromell said: “Understanding that internally I’m not as strong, and understanding that I need people and I need my faith to be able to do what y’all saw today. We’re human, we break down easily. We’re not as strong as we think we are, and that’s one thing I had to realize.”

Bromell will be joined in Japan by Ronnie Baker and Fred Kerley, who moved into Olympic medal contention as well with personal bests of 9.85 and 9.86 seconds, respectively.

Baker is now tied for second on the world-lead list with Marvin Bracy-Williams, who pulled up during his semifinal and will miss out on an Olympic return, followed immediately by Kerley.

The next-fastest sprinter this year who is not American is South Africa’s Tlotliso Leotella, who ran 9.94 in mid-May.

TRACK AND FIELD TRIALS: Results | TV Schedule | Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview

After accruing several Diamond League victories over his career and placing second at the 2018 U.S. outdoor championships, the 27-year-old Baker finally made his first U.S. outdoor team.

“I’ve been through a lot, trying to make these world teams, Olympic teams for the past five years,” Bake told NBC reporter Lewis Johnson. “It feels really good to finally get on one.”

Kerley, 26, is the 2019 World bronze medalist at 400 meters, a distance he is known for and with which he also won the 2017 and 2019 U.S. titles, but surprised the track world by announcing one week ago that he scratched the 400m and would focus on the 100m and 200m in Eugene, Oregon, despite not having raced the 100m between 2015 and 2020.

Noah Lyles, the 2019 World champion at 200 meters who had aspirations of competing both distances in Tokyo, finished seventh in 10.05 seconds.

Justin Gatlin, the 2004 gold medalist and reigning World silver medalist, had hoped to make a fourth Olympic team at 39 years old but came in last after pulling up due to injury in the last 25 meters. He had run a 9.93 in Saturday’s heats and looked capable of making the team.

“You never realize there’s going to be an end until the end comes,” Gatlin said while in tears.

“I would have liked to put out a better performance, especially on Father’s Day, for my kids and my father and my father’s father,” he continued, “but at the same time I’m glad to be able to have the career I had.”

Rounding out the 4x100m relay pool will be Kenny BednarekMicah Williams and Cravon Gillespie — all of whom make their Olympic debut with Baker and Kerley.

Also making a long-awaited Olympic debut in Tokyo is hurdler Keni Harrison, who has been a gold-medal favorite for the past five years.

Harrison was sixth in the women’s 100m hurdles at the 2016 Olympic Trials, missing out on a team that went on to sweep the podium in Rio, but made headlines of her own just a few short weeks later.

On July 22, 2016, exactly two weeks before the Opening Ceremony, Harrison ran 12.2 seconds in the 100m hurdles and broke a world record that had stood since 1988.

No athlete other than Harrison has come within 0.1 of her world-record time since.

After winning three consecutive nationals titles and the 2019 World silver medal, Harrison finally had her shot at an Olympic team again and this time was victorious.

“I’m so happy to come out here, do what I know I can do, and put the past behind me,” Harrison said.

She ran a season’s best time of 12.47 seconds to lead 2016 Olympic champion Brianna McNeal (12.51) and Christina Clemons (12.53).

Clemons joins Harrison on the Olympic team, while McNeal awaits the result of an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“It’s been such a long journey for me, it’s been very tough for me this year,” McNeal said, dedicating the race to her younger brother Jeremiah, who died from a car crash earlier this month.

“I think she’s mentally strong,” Harrison said of McNeal, “and for this to be her first race of the season, that’s amazing.”

Unable to control her tears on the track, Clemons — who is married to 2016 Olympic 4x400m gold medalist Kyle Clemons — couldn’t believe she would be making her first Olympic appearance at 31 years old.

“I’ve been going after this since 2012,” she said. “I ruptured my Achilles in 2013. I wasn’t healthy enough in 2016 (when she reached the semifinals). We had to wait a year in 2020. I’ve been looked over, I’ve been counted out. I’m just so happy.”

U.S. women have won eight of the last 12 Olympic medals awarded in this event.

Allyson Felix was second in the women’s 400m to make her fifth Olympic team, alongside fellow mother Quanera Hayes, who won the race, and Wadeline Jonathas.

VIDEO: Allyson Felix pens powerful letter to her daughter

The men’s 400m was won by 23-year-old Michael Norman, who ran the second-fastest time in the world this year at 44.07 seconds. Norman’s 43.45 from April 2019 is the fastest time in the world since 2016; he pulled up due to a lower-body injury in the 2019 Worlds semifinal, missing out on a potential first World medal.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Norman told Johnson of hugging his mom in the stands after the race. “They were with me through this five-year journey from 2016 to now, so to share this moment with them is really special and I’m really looking forward to the next couple months to see what’s going to happen.”

Norman was fifth in the 200m at the 2016 Trials.

Michael Cherry also set a season’s best time of 44.35 seconds.

World leader Randolph Ross, a 20-year-old who won the NCAA title for North Carolina A&T State University earlier this month in 43.85 seconds, was third.

Trevor StewartVernon Norwood and Elija Godwin — who was impaled by a javelin in May 2019 — make the team for the relay pool.

In the field events, 2016 Olympian Rudy Winkler set an American record hammer throw of 82.71 meters to land on his second Olympic team. Daniel Haugh and Alex Young also had personal bests of 79.39 and 78.32 meters, respectively.

Keturah Orji sealed her Olympic return as well by winning the women’s triple jump with a meet record of 14.52 meters. Orji was fourth in Rio and could earn the U.S. its first women’s triple jump medal. Tori Franklin and Jasmine Moore will compete at their first Olympics after jumps of 14.36 and 14.15, respectively.

“I want to put out a more consistent series in that 14.50 area,” Orji said. “I think most of my jumps are in the 14.30s, so I just want to work on that when we go back home.”

Reigning World bronze medalist Vashti Cunningham won the women’s high jump title after finishing runner-up in 2016. She is the only women’s high jumper nominated to the Olympic team at this time as second- and third-place finishers Inika McPherson and Nicole Greene do not have the Olympic standard of 1.96 meters, which was also Cunningham’s winning height in Eugene.

In the men’s decathlon, winner Garrett Scantlin set a personal best of 8647 points, while Steven Bastien (8485) and Zach Ziemek (8471) also hit personal bests that met the Olympic standard and ensured they would join Scantlin in Tokyo. Ziemek was seventh in Rio.

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Vashti, Randall Cunningham bid for Olympic sibling history may be more likely in 2021

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It appeared Vashti Cunningham and her older brother, Randall II, were very hopeful to become the first brother-sister duo to make a U.S. Olympic track and field team in 32 years.

Vashti, who made the Rio Olympic high jump team at age 18, won her first U.S. outdoor title in 2017. Randall, as a USC senior, cleared a personal-best 2.29 meters at the 2018 NCAA Indoor Championships, a height that would rank fourth among Americans outdoors that year.

Randall would win the NCAA title with that clearance, but he also fractured a tibia planting on a jump at the meet. It required surgery. He hasn’t competed since, according to World Athletics.

Vashti continued her ascent by earning bronze at the 2019 World Championships.

Then the Tokyo Olympics were postponed to 2021.

“Mixed emotions,” said the siblings’ father, retired NFL All-Pro quarterback Randall Cunningham, who also coaches Vashti. “On the one hand, I’m thinking, we’re prepared and ready to go. Vashti’s ready. On the other hand, with my son Randall II coming back, it gives him time to heal up a little bit more and get adjusted to jumping again.”

Vashti and her father spoke from Las Vegas with Mike Tirico on “Lunch Talk Live” on Monday.

The Cunninghams could become the first brother-sister pair to make a U.S. Olympic track and field team since the 1980s — notable pairs Al Joyner and Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Carl Lewis and Carol Lewis — according to Olympedia and the OlyMADMen.

Also in the 1980s: The elder Cunningham finished his high jump career in high school, clearing 6 feet, 10 inches, to stay in shape for football. That’s about three inches taller than Vashti’s personal best and eight inches shorter than his son’s best.

“I don’t compare to my kids,” he said. “I was OK. I wouldn’t have gotten a scholarship for track and field. They train a lot harder than I did back then.”

Vashti trains and competes in unique fashion. She participates sparingly on the Diamond League circuit and about 10 times per year total.

“We’re trying to preserve her,” her dad said. “I’m not trying to burn her out as a young kid. She’s only 22 years old.”

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