Whittaker, Willis, Brackins ace qualifying: NSAF @ World U20s, Day 1 A.M.

by Jim Spier

Day 1 (Monday) Morning Session

Monday morning’s first session was all about qualifying for Team USA – for field and running event finals and semifinals (in the case of the 100m dash and 800m run). 

Juliette Whittaker, Roisin Willis and Johnny Brackins photos by Joy Kamani, NSAF.

Here’s an event-by-event recap of the session:

Women’s Javelin Qualifying

The leading qualifier (getting the auto qualifier on her first throw) was Adriana Vilagos of Serbia with a throw of 193-01.  She is the current world leader at 205-11 and has a shot at the meet record (206-08) and an outside shot the world record (209-06).  As usual, 12 are taken to the final, with the 12th qualifier throwing 160-04.

Elizabeth Bailey (Charlotte U./Eureka HS, MO) could manage 137-09 and did not advance.  Elizabeth is one of only four U.S U20 javelin athletes who met the world U20 standard (164-00) and the only one to show up at the USATF trials. 

The other three athletes are all part of the NSAF Javelin Project:  Katelyn Fairchild (Texas A+M/Andale HS, KS – 179-02), Mc Kenzie Fairchild (Andale HS, KS – 169-04) and Gabriella Garcia (Basha, Chandler, AZ – 165-06).  Another NSAF Javelin Project member, Eliza King (home-schooled, Aiken, SC) exceeded the entry standard (168-10) at the American JavFest, but that was after the USATF qualifying meet.

Men’s Decathlon – Day 1

The U.S. had no qualifier in this event.  The world qualifying standard was 7050 points.  Landon Helms, the Nike Outdoor Nationals champ, totaled 6425 points in winning the USATF qualifying meet.  He had scored 7051 points the prior week in winning NON.  It that case, he used high school implements (shot put and discus), which are lighter than the U20 implements.

Women’s Shot Put Qualifying

The leading qualifier was Malilka Nasreddinova of Uzbekistan at 52-11.  US athletes Amelia Flynt (U. of California/Cinco Ranch, Katy, TX) and Chrystal Herpin (U of Texas/Dawson, Pearland, TX) missed the cut (top 12), finishing 14th (47-3.5) and 16th (46-09).  These marks were well below those athletes’ season bests.  Flynt, the US Junior leader, had thrown 54-02.75, and Herpin 51-06.25, both in meets in March of this year

Men’s 1500m Qualifying

Muluken Tewalt (Wake Forest/Latin Public Charter, Washington, DC) has had better days, losing contact early, and managing only 3:56.54.  He had come into the event with a best of 3:41.31. 

On the other hand, Nathan Green (U of Washington/Borah, Boise,  ID), the 2021 Nike Outdoor Nationals Mile champion, looked like he belonged.  He ran a very smart race, covering all of his competitors’ moves and relaxing down the homestretch and finishing 2nd in his race, one of three auto qualifiers in his heat easing  to a time of 3;45.80.  Nathan, the US Junior leader, had run 3:37.46 at the NCAA meet and will be in the hunt for a medal.

Women’s 3000m Steeplechase Qualifying

Kenya and Ethiopia (as usual) have some incredible talent here.  The leading entrant is Sembo Almayew of Ethiopia at 9:09.19 with Kenyan Faith Cherotich second-best at 9:12.04!  They are almost a minute better than a good portion of the 26 entrants.  Cherotich was the overall best qualifier running 9:38.18, leading three women under 10:00.00.

The Americans fared well, both qualifying for the final.  Karrie Baloga who will be a senior this fall at Cornwall HS in New Windsor, NY, finished 12th overall at 10:35.33.  Harper McClain (U of Oregon/St. Helena, CA) was right behind Karrie, running 10:37.05.

Women’s 800m Qualifying

It was no problem for the two Americans Juliette Whittaker (Mount de Sales, Catonsville, MD) , the US High School Record Holder, and Roisin Willis (Stevens Point, WI).  Both graduated from high school in June and both with be at Stanford in the fall.   They easily qualified in tactical races, with the idea being to finish in the top 3 and to advance to the semi-finals.  The next round will be the challenge, but both have the talent to advance to the finals and both have legitimate chances of getting a medal.

Men’s 100m Qualifying

Letsile Tebogo (Botswana) set the World U20 record of 9.94 last month at the Senior World Championship in Eugene.  In heat 3 of qualifying here, he ran 10.00 (-0.6), breaking the meet record of 10.05 set by Great Britain’s Adam Gemili in 2012.  He achieved that record despite the worst reaction time of any of the seven competitors in his 10.00 race. 

Americans Laurenz Colbert (Baylor/Eleanor Roosevelt, Greenbelt, MD) and Michael Gizzi (U of Alabama-Huntsville/Alcovy, Covington, GA) each ran well.  They both finished 2nd in their heat, automatically qualifying for the semis.

Laurenz Colbert is the grandson of legendary Eleanor Roosevelt HS (Greenbelt, MD) coach Larry Colbert.  He also was a member of the NSAF Iceland team that competed in Reykjavik in 2020, just before the pandemic shut everything down.  It should be noted that high schoolers T-Mars McCallum (10.13) and Rodrick Pleasant (10.14), the #2 and #3 ranked Juniors (U20) were not present at the USATF Qualifying meet.

Men’s Long Jump Qualifying

Curtis Williams (Florida State U/Leon, Tallahassee, FL) and Johnny Brackins (USC [formerly of Baylor]/Lees Summit, MO) both qualified for the 12 person final. Curtis was the 10th overall qualifying, jumping 24-11.25, and Johnny was 5th at 25-02.75.  Note that Julian Collins (U of Alabama), with a best of 26-05 did not attend the USATF Qualifying meet.


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