So close, but no cigar. Perhaps that’s all for the best because they’re barely old enough to smoke one, anyway.
A pair of American teenagers finished on the doorstep of the U.S. Olympic team in the prestigious 200-meter event. After eye-popping performances in the heats and semifinals, Noah Lyles of T.C. Williams in suburban D.C., and Michael Norman of Southern California’s Vista Murrieta, finished the event’s final in fourth and fifth place; the first three finishers earn the U.S. spots in the Olympics, with the fourth place finisher serving as an alternate. You can see the race’s tight finish below.
Lyles’ night was not without a pair of strong silver linings. As noted by FloTrack, among other sources, the 18-year-old phenom broke the national prep record in the event with a time of 20.09 seconds, topping the prior mark by an impressive 0.04 seconds. He can also hold out some hope that he might get a chance to compete in Rio de Janiero as well, though that would require American 400-meter champion LaShawn Merritt, who finished second, to drop the event to focus on the 400 (or an unanticipated injury, of course).
That’s not the case for Norman, who impressed throughout qualifying — he even won his semifinal ahead of eventual champion and previous Olympian Justin Gatlin — only to fall to fifth in the final. Nearly as heartbreaking, his time of 20.14 seconds was precisely 0.01 off the prior scholastic record (not counting the improved time posted by Lyles).
Gatlin was effusive in his praise for both teens after the final, gushing about their speed, composure and poise in an interview with the Orange County Register. While he had the rougher night of the pair of teenagers, Norman was still content with his performance, ready to look forward to the forthcoming World Junior Championships; he leaves for Poland Thursday.
“I had a great start,” Norman told the Register. “I feel like I didn’t hold my drive phase long enough. I feel like I didn’t have that extra umph. It was probably the fatigue that was getting to me but overall it was a pretty good race.
“I really didn’t have any expectations coming in here. I was just like I’m just going to go out here, run and have a great time. And I ended up kind of exceeding my expectations and making it to the final.”