Willis’ 800m GOLD leads 4-medal night for Team USA: NSAF @ World U20s, Day 3 P.M.

by Jim Spier

Roisin Willis, at left, celebrates her 800m GOLD medal and meet record. At right, BRONZE medalist Juliette Whittaker and Willis enjoy the mixed zone after taking 2 medals for Team USA. Photos by Joy Kamani and Steve Underwood.

Despite a heavy thunderstorm that delayed the meet for two hours, Wednesday evening's session was the best of the meet for Team USA thus far.

Given their ranking of 1-2 on the World U20 list, Juliette Whittaker and Roisin Willis were expected to make the podium and they did just that in a thrilling final. But it was Willis who was triumphant this time, winning gold in a championship record 1:59.13 ahead of Whittaker's bronze.

Malik Mixon authored a silver medal performance for Team USA in the men's 110m hurdles, while Shawnti Jackson captured bronze in the women's 100m dash. Three others competed and did well in evening finals, making for a very strong night for the Americans.

At left, Malik Mixon burns the final barriers for the 110H SILVER. At right, Shawnti Jackson wins BRONZE just behind Tina Clayton's GOLD. Photos by Joy Kamani.

Details below (chronological, by event):

Women’s Heptathlon Day 1 – Afternoon Session

What follows is an event by event summary for both athletes, comparing their USA U20 performances with their performance at the World U20 Championships:

JaiCieonna Gero-Holt

USATF U20       --- World U20      
Event Mark Score Cum. Score   Event Mark Score Cum. Score
100mh 14.62 892 892   100mh 14.76 874 874
HJ 5-11.75 991 1883   HJ 6-00.5 1029 1903
SP 39-06 664 2547   SP 38-11.5 653 2556
200m 25.69 824 3371   200m 25.85 811 3367


Bryanna Craig

USATF U20       --- World U20      
Event Mark Score Cum. Score   Event Mark Score Cum. Score
100mh 14.55 902 902   100mh 14.65 888 888
HJ 5-07.75 879 1781   HJ 5-07.75 879 1767
SP 34-07 565 2346   SP 30-02 477 2244
200m 25.11 877 3223   200m 25.72 822 3066

JaiCieonna’s totals are almost identical to that of the USATF Junior meet, while Bryanna is down more than 100 points.  After Day 1, the leaders are:

1. Saga Vanninen  Finland  3666
2. Sandina Sprengel Germany 3591
3. Luna Goureau  France  3577

JaiCieonna is in 8th (3367), 1 point out of 7th.  Bryanna is =19th (3066)

Womens 400m Hurdles Semi Finals

(Top 2 in each of the 3 heats heat and next 2 fastest times advance to the final)

Akala Garrett (Harding, Charlotte, NC) ran aggressively for the first half of the race, was trailing slightly after 6 hurdles, then came back to win her heat in a PR of 57.28 as the rain began to pour down (just before the storm delay). The 2-time Nike Outdoor Nationals champ continues to look like a medalist – and a potential gold medalist at that.

Michelle Smith (Virgin Islands/Montverde Academy, Montverde, FL) finished 2nd in heat at 57.83, a National U20 record for the Virgin Islands.

Michaela Rose (LSU/Landry Academy, Suffolk, VA) had no problem in winning her heat in 57.83, just off her PB of 57.62.  Rose and Garrett each have performed with authority in the prelims and semis, and both have a great chance to climb the medal stand in Thursday’s final.

Men’s 200m Semi-Finals

(Top 2 in each of the 3 heats heat and next 2 fastest times advance to the final)

Anthony Smith (Turkey/U of Washington/Eastside Catholic, Sammamish, WA) finished second to Botswanan favorite Letsile Tebogo, running 20.83, an improvement of his National Record set in the first round.  He advanced to the final.

Brandon Miller (Grand Valley State/Fenton, MI), the 2021 Nike Outdoor National 200m Champion, was a time qualifier to final.  He placed 4th in his heat, but clocked the second fastest non-auto qualifying mark (20.57).

Women’s 100m Semi-Finals

(Top 2 in each of the 3 heats heat and next 2 fastest times advance to the final)

Shawnti Jackson (Wakefield, Raleigh, NC) ran very impressively and was rewarded with a PR in winning her semi, running 11.16 [-0.4] and getting the US Junior and High School lead.  That’s =9 all-time US High School.

Mia Brahe-Pedersen (Lake Oswego, OR), the 2022 Nike Outdoor Nationals runner-up, was third in her heat, but was the fastest non-automatic qualifier, running 11.36.

Women’s Discus Throw Final

Emma Sralla (Sweden/Marcus, Flower Mound, TX), the World Junior (and US High School) leader at 185-00, opening with a right sector foul, then got the lead in round 2 with a throw of 180-03.  She increased her lead in round 4, throwing within 10 inches of her personal best, 184-02. Two rounds later, she celebrated winning the gold.

Siniru Iheoma (Princeton/Council Rock South, Holland, PA) took the early round 1 lead with a toss of 174-04, then fouled on her next two throws.  She was supplanted in round 3 by the Greek Fillipidou.  She advanced to the 8-woman final sitting in the bronze medal position, but then got knocked to 4th in round 5 by Mine’ De Klerk (South Africa) and finished 4th overall.

Women’s 400m Semi-Finals

(Top 2 in each of the 3 heats heat and next 2 fastest times advance to the final)

Mekenze Kelley (Coastal Carolina/Campbell, Smyrna, GA) finished 4th in her heat (53.09).  Zaya Akins (South, Raytown, MO was 5th in her heat at 53.62.  Neither Mekenze nor Zaya will advance to the finals.

Men’s 400m Semi-Finals

(Top 2 in each of the 3 heats heat and next 2 fastest times advance to the final)

Tyler Floyd (Canada/Seattle Prep, Seattle, WA), the 2022 Nike Outdoor Nationals 200m runnerup, took advantage of being in the fastest heat overall.  He ran to a 4th-place finish in that heat and became the 2nd fastest non-automatic qualifier (46.22 PB).

Ashton Schwartzman (Texas A+M/Waucona, WI), World Junior #2 at 45.16, finished 3rd in his heat and was not one of the two non-automatic qualifiers, clocking only 46.50 for 10th overall.

Steven McElroy (Cincinnati/Pickerington North, Pickerington, OH) World Junior leader at 44.93, ran fast enough to qualify, finishing second (45.67) to the fastest qualifier (Delano Kennedy – 45.49).

Men’s 1500m Final

Nathan Green (U of Washington/Borah, Boise, ID) ran a very smart race but there was not a whole lot he could do to run down the Kenyans and Ethiopians, who took the first four places.  Those four East Africans separated themselves early in a very fast-paced race (55.65, 1:55.93, 2:55.46), with Nathan running 7th or 8th almost the entire race. 

Nathan made his big move on the backstretch of the final lap, gradually passing the 3 ahead of him and finishing fifth overall in 3:39.44.  It was an admirable time considering the long season of this collegian.  Reynold Cheruiyot of Kenya was the winner in 3:35.83.

Women’s 800m Final

Juliette Whittaker (Mount de Sales, Catonsville, MD), World Junior leader and U.S. High School record holder at 1:59.04 and Roisin Willis (Stevens Point, WI), #2 World Junior at 2:00.03 were expected to put on a show – and boy, did they ever. 

Roisin led from the beginning as expected, passing 400 meters at 59.41.  At about 600 meters, she was passed by Audrey Werro of Switzerland.  The 600m time was 1:29.50.  Werro started to pull away and both Willis and Whittaker were chasing.  But Willis dug deep and charged down the homestretch, passing a faltering Werro and extending her lead.  She set a meet record of 1:59.13, breaking 2:00.00 for the first time. 

Werro, in second place, clocked 1:59.53 for a Swiss National Record, and Juliette was 3rd in 2:00.18.  Whittaker and Willis are #1 and #2 all time high school.  The only other prep to break 2:00.00 was Mary Cain, running 1:59.51 in 2013.

Men’s 110m Hurdles Final

Never underestimate Malik Mixon (Westlake, Atlanta, GA).  He was the 24th qualifier (of 24) after round 1.  He did not run an especially great race in the semis, yet got a PR of 13.52.  In the final, he showed what he was made of, finishing 2nd in a big PR of 13.27, just .04 out of first.  

Mixon was not previously in the top 5 in the US Junior list (though he had a wind-aided mark under 13.30) and now leads it.  He broke into the top 5 US high school with his 13.52 semi mark, but is now on top with that 13.27.  That also is =#5 all-time U.S. high school.

Women’s 100m Final

We knew we’d see something special in the finals after Tina Clayton, the defending champ, jogged the entire race and ran 11.18.  She defended her title, running a meet record 10.95 [-0.1].   Serena Cole (Jamaica) was 2nd in 11.14. 

It was a literal photo finish determining the bronze medal, with Shawnti Jackson edging N’Ketia Seedo (Netherlands) 11.148 to 11.149.  Mia Brahe-Pederson finished 7th in 11.33.  Shawnti’s 11.15 is now #9 all time (Marion Jones best was 11.14).

US Finals Summary

  • W Discus Siniru Iheoma  4th
  • M 1500m Nathan Green  5th
  • W 800m Roisin Willis  1st
  • W 800m Juliet Whittaker 3rd
  • M 110mh Malik Mixon  2nd
  • W 100m Shawnti Jackson 3rd
  • W 100m Mia Brahe-Pedersen 7th

US Medals after Day 3:  3 Golds, 6 Total


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