Lynna Irby didn’t get the gold. She achieved virtually everything but that.
The Pike High School (Indiana) sprinter finished second in the 400 meters Friday night in the under-17 World Youth Championships at Cali, Colombia.
The 16-year-old led until the closing 50 meters, when she was overtaken by Bahrain’s Salwa Eid Naser, whose time was 51.50 seconds. Irby’s time of 51.79 shattered Indiana’s state record, and she came within .09 of becoming the fastest sophomore in high school history.
“I didn’t think that I could do it. I just feel really blessed and honored, trying not to cry,” said Irby, who wiped away tears on the medal stand as she accepted her silver.
Naser, 17, running in a hijab, improved her previous best of 52.74. She was the 2014 Youth Olympics silver medalist.
Great Britain’s Catherine Reid won bronze in 52.25. The top seven all set personal bests.
In an event in which every tenth is meaningful, Irby cut her pre-July best by two full seconds. She had finished second in the trials July 1 to select this U.S. team.
“We were rolling. It was really fun. All the competition was great,” said Irby, who thanked friends for sending messages of encouragement.
This is the ninth youth worlds, a biennial meet begun in 1999 by the IAAF, the world governing body for track and field. Irby would have secured gold in all but two of those nine meets, and she ran the fastest time by an American high school girl since 2007.
“It was beyond anything I could imagine for her,” said Michael Vinson, her Indiana Storm club coach. “It took a 51 to beat her. Unbelievable.”
Coincidentally, Irby’s Pike coach, DeDee Nathan, is also an IAAF medalist. Nathan, an Olympic heptathlete, won gold in the pentathlon at the 1999 World Indoor Championships.
“Sometimes you get to these type of meets, mentally, you’re not there and not confident,” Nathan said. “She ran her race. I know she ran her race.”
Irby ran Thursday’s fastest semifinal, 52.77, just ahead of Naser’s 52.99.
Irby, the first Indiana athlete to win a medal at the youth worlds, could win another. She is likely to be chosen for Sunday’s mixed 1,600 relay, which features two boys and two girls per nation.
In each of her first two high school seasons, she swept the 100, 200 and 400 at state meets.