The American 4x400 quartet of Talitha Diggs, Abby Steiner, Britt Wilson, and Sydney McLaughlin (photo by Kirby Lee)
I've always been the biggest track and field fan but there is no question that 2022 in Eugene, Oregon restored a considerable amount of faith in regard to the health of the sport. This was perhaps the best overall performance of the American team since 1984. That year of course the Olympic Games were hosted by the city of Los Angeles which hailed Joan Benoit (later Samuelson) as the hero who won the marathon.
This leads me to think of some of the very prominent highlights of these games which span ten competition days. There were so many, but I could narrow them down to 10!
10. Hammer Throw-
This is an event historically dominated by eastern European throwers but the success of 2019 world champion Deanna Price of the United States gave hope to a new crop of throwers. Enter 2020 Toyko Olympian Brooke Andersen. She came into Oregon signed and delivered by NIKE. Andersen did not disappoint, winning the gold medal with a massive toss of 78.96 meters (259'1") and dropping herself among the top 20 all-time. Camyn Rogers of Canada by way of Cal-Berkeley University took the silver medal landing the hammer 75.52, and American Janee' Kassanavoid copped the bronze medal with a throw of 74.86. My good friend Coach Lia Tulua is a throws guru and said the junior circuit in this country is at an all-time high in developing talent.
9. Anna Hall-
We are looking at a once-in-a-lifetime generation who can do multiple events well. Anna Hall was the 2022 NCAA heptathlon champion for the University of Florida. It was a difficult decision but she made it a focal point to concentrate on the multis instead of the 400-meter hurdles and it was an excellent choice. She would earn the bronze medal by scoring 6755 points. Her strong suits were the 100HH, 200m, and the 800m which she won in 2:06.67.
8. Shericka Jackson's 200m win-
Day five (5) was the "slow day" but the 200m semis might have well been the finals. Shericka Jackson of Jamaica fresh off her silver medal performance in the 100m made everyone take notice with a lightning fast 21.67. Immediately the chatter switched to Florence Griffin-Joyner's world record (21.34) being toppled. It also served notice that the Jamaicans were just as dangerous in this event.
In the final, I'm certain millions of fans were on their feet just like me. The gun sounded and Jackson was off to the races, eating up the curve like Pacman and when the clock stopped ticking, it read 21.45! The second fastest time in history and left no doubt that Jackson was the queen of this race.
7. Kara Winger in the javelin-
The javelin could be the most uneventful thing to watch in track and field aside from race walking. Could it be because the United States has never done well on the world stage? Well, on her final attempt as a professional, Kara Winger moved from fourth to second with a throw that sailed 64.05 meters. It was not only the perfect gift for the retiring Winger but also the first time an American earned a world championship medal.
6. 1500m final-
Is there any doubt Faith Kipyegon of Kenya is one of the best middle-distance runners in history? The two-time 1500m Olympic champion was hell-bent on winning the world title at any cost. Chief challenger Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia opened the race opposite of a tactical style. The first 400m was in a heat-seeking 58.88. Tsegay continued to drag the finalists out through the 800m in 2:03. She could not shake Kipyegon who stayed on her hip through the 1200m in 3:07. Finally, with 200 remaining, Kipyegon shifted into the lead and pulled away for the win in 3:52.96. Tsegay held on for second ahead of Brit Laura Muir 3:54.52-3:55.28. These three women were the only finishers under 4:00.
5. Tori Franklin earns a bronze medal in the triple jump-
Never has an American woman earned a medal at the world championship. Franklin's journey toward earning one seemed as long as the desire of those before her trying to get their hands on one. World record holder Yulimar Rojas of Venezuela was in the clear with a world leading 15.47. Franklin, sitting in fourth place and plodding along with two fouls. The vivacious performer looked to the crowd for energy for her fifth attempt and got it- connecting on a season best 15.72 and ecstatically earning a third place medal.
4. Jamaican 100m sweep-
None of us outside of Jamaica wanted to face the reality that the islanders were still in charge. The immaculate Shelly-Ann Frazier-Pryce proved she is still the queen and the best 100m speedster of all time. She busted a 10.67 for the third time this season- a championship record. Shericka Jackson and Elaine Thompson-Herah followed up with 10.73 and 10.81. It was the first time in history that a country followed up a sweep from the Olympics to the World Championships.
3. The US Wins the 4x100 relay-
Of course, the what if's are coming by the boatloads from the Jamaican pundits. One excuse for finishing second to America 41.18 to 41.14 was the absence of Briana Williams on the leadoff. Williams ran in the qualifying round but was replaced by Kemba Nelson in the final. This is the same speedy Nelson who runs collegiately for the University of Oregon. Nelson ran 10.88 at the Jamaican trials and is obviously very familiar with the Hayward Field track and atmosphere. As great as Jackson, Thompson-Herah, and Frazier-Pryce are, the chemistry seemed a bit off.
Aside from the shallow excuses, the Americans should be credited for their near flawless execution. Jenna Prandini's great third leg to anchor "Tee Tee" Twanisha Terry was all that was needed for the upset victory. Add in leadoff leg Melissa Jefferson and the second leg Abby Steiner, the chemistry was unmatched.
2. 100-meter hurdles-
Initially, it was a crashed-filled first round that caught the eye. Two Americans went down including defending champion Nia Ali. But I did notice Tobi Amusan running a then personal best 12.40 in the first round. However, as a fan, you had to respect what happened in the semi-finals. Amusan roared to the finish in an earth-shattering 12.12!! It was so stunning that caused the most ardent fans and commentators to question the wind gauge and even the timing system. The iconic Michael Johnson was one of them and got lambasted by fans worldwide for his comments. Amusan put the icing on the cake in the final a 12.06. Though it was wind-aided it served notice that a once thought impossible sub-12.00 is coming sooner than we thought.
She's singular... and you thought I would go against conventional wisdom huh? Stop it! But I will be the first to admit that I didn't think going under 51-seconds in the 400 meters with eight hurdles on the track was possible. Now I know better. For one, her coach is the legendary Bobby Kersee. Coach Kersee coached some of the greatest of all time including his wife Jackie Joyner-Kersee and sister-in-law Florence Griffen-Joyner.
McLaughlin handled the pressure with the amazing ease of a seasoned veteran. Everyone expected her to not just deliver a victory but a world record. The 22-year-old is an icon in the making and rocketed from the start and it was over at 200m. The final result was a jaw-dropping 50.68!!! Even crazier was that her time would have placed her among the top eight of the 400m. This is a record that will last until Mclaughlin decides to break it again. But there is talk of her moving up to the flat event in the future and taking down the mysterious world record of 47.60 that has stood since 1985.