Sammy Watson seems to be sprinting up the ladder of competition in track and field.
A 16-year old about to enter her senior year at Rush-Henrietta, Watson now has a lofty goal after winning a second world title in as many years, this time at the junior or under-20 level.
“Olympics 2020 definitely,” Watson said Tuesday at the Greater Rochester International Airport.
Watson returned from Bydgoszcz, Poland, where last week she won two gold medals, one with a United States 1,600-meter relay during the IAAF World Under-20 Championships. When Watson won the women’s 800 final, she led a one-two finish of American sprinters.
Whether someone follows track and field or not, anyone can call that one legitimate confidence-booster.
“I think it proves how competitive I am, I guess and how willing I am to go after it,” Watson said.
Two weeks before the world junior championships in Europe, Watson was at the United States Olympic Trials in Oregon trying to qualify for the upcoming games in Rio de Janeiro. As a teenager, an Olympic berth for Watson in the 800 might have been a longshot, and she failed to advance out of her heat.
‘It went better than I thought,” Watson said. “I didn’t think I would make the Olympic Trials, so I’m happy I did that.”
Hugs in the airport from her mother Sharon Outler, older sister Ceara, teammates, friends and coaches from the Rochester Running Rebels club seemed to end Watson’s summer. Watson is looking forward to a sample or two of junk food and rest.
“It was nice, I’m glad it’s over and I can relax,” Watson said. “I’m going to catch up on sleep, eat bad a little bit and spend time with friends. I’ve been running so much, every weekend, so I haven’t had time for that.
“Starting in late May, I’ve been traveling every weekend, riding on an airplane. It’s been a lot, it’s been really tiring, but it’s been fun at the same time. I love the support, I hope they don’t get tired of my success. because I like the support and positive energy, that’s helps me do well. That’s when I do best.”
Watson’s climb may be part of a short rise of the Rochester region’s profile in track and field, led by 2012 Olympic women’s pole vault gold-medalist Jenn Suhr, of Riga.
Race walker Miranda Melville, a 2007 Rush-Henrietta graduate, qualified for the upcoming games, her first. Webster Schroeder graduate Brycen Spratling, a sprinter, and Victor’s M.J. Erb, a steeplechaser, also competed in the most recent Olympic track and field trials. Suhr is headed to her third Olympic Games.
Lanae-Tava Thomas, a rising junior teammate of Watson’s at Rush-Henrietta and an up-and-coming sprinter, is on national leaderboards in the 100 and 200 dashes. Watson won the International Association of Athletics Federation or IAAF World Youth or under-18 girls 800-meter final a year ago in Colombia.
“It’s kind of unheard of that she won two different world championships basically, and she’s only 16,” USA Track and Field Niagara Association youth chair Demetrius Bennett said. “She ran against 20-year old women. Last year, was more like a high school-type situation.
“She’s dedicated, a young lady who studies her craft. You can see that possibility, of her running in the Olympics. She’s learning how to study her competition, that’s a very important thing. You can have four years to get it right. Anything can happen in four years. Injuries. Other young people developing. In this sport, you go through a spurt where, you know what, you might not run fast times. But the one thing I can say about Sammy is, we have not seen her best race yet. We don’t know what she can do.”