Elite hurdlers Sydney McLaughlin, Tara Davis could steal the show at U.S. Nationals

SACRAMENTO – The fastest ever high school girls hurdlers – Tara Davis, from Agoura (Calif.) over 100 meters, and Olympian Sydney McLaughlin of Union Catholic (Scotch Palins, N.J.) at 400 meters – figure to get plenty of attention at the USATF National Championships at Sacramento State University this weekend.

Davis also has emerged as a legitimate World Championships team contender in two events, especially the long jump. The worlds are scheduled for August in London.

Davis and McLaughlin should be named to the American Family Insurance ALL-USA Girls Track and Field Teams when they are announced.

The two hurdles races and the long jump might be America’s three best women’s events – where Team USA swept gold and took seven of the nine medals at the 2016 Olympics. The good news is the U.S. team has earned a bonus fourth World Championships entrant for each of those events.

Davis took a “break” after falling just one point shy of singlehandedly winning the June 3 California Interscholastic Federation State Meet in Clovis for Agoura. She repeated as state champion with the fastest high school 100 meter hurdles time under any conditions, 12.83; long jumped 22-1 1/4; and defended her triple jump title with a 42-11 3/4 jump.  (All three winning marks had aiding wind in excess of the allowable 2.0 meters per second for official ranking and record purposes.)

“I just attribute it to hard and work and practice,” Davis said after her state meet performance. “I’m taking a break until the US Nationals. I’m hoping to run the hurdles and long jump at both the junior and senior meets.”

Agoura’s Tara Davis (Photo: Chuck Kirman, The Ventura County Star)

Davis said she believes her best chances for a World Championships berth lie in the long jump, where she has the No. 8 all-conditions mark in the world, a wind-aided 22-3 ¾, and is officially No. 13 among wind-legal performers at 22-1.

The USA has five of the current top seven jumpers on the world list, headed by 2012 Olympic champion (and 2016 silver medalist) Brittney Reese at 23-4 3/4. Reigning Olympic champion Tianna Bartoletta is co-No. 4 at 22-5 but has a “free pass” as the defending world champion. Track and Field News picks Davis to finish third at this weekend’s USA championships, behind the older duo.

Bartoletta, 31, is well aware of the new teenager on the block, though they will meet for the first time, on the field, in Saturday afternoon’s senior long jump competition.

“We’ve communicated via social media,” Bartoletta said on Wednesday. “She is extremely talented.”

The USA swept the 100 meter hurdles at the Rio Olympics, even with world record-breaker Keni Harrison failing to make the team at the USA Trials. She won the 2016 Diamond League, however, so has a pass to the worlds. The USA finished 2016 with the world’s top seven 100 meter hurdlers.

McLaughlin, who was already a 2016 Olympian in the 400 hurdles after her junior year at Union Catholic, is focused on winding down a busy June schedule of championship-caliber meets, focusing on the 400 meter hurdles in Sacramento.

She finished her high school season last week at the New Balance Nationals in Greensboro, N.C., anchoring Union Catholic to a national record in the 1000 meter Swedish medley relay with a spectacular 49.85 split, the only known time a high school runner has recorded a sub-50 second lap clocking.

Together the current prep duo control a third of 2017 high school leaders list. McLaughlin leads the 200 meters (22.96), the 400 meters (51.88), the 300 hurdles (national high school record 38.90) and 400 hurdles (record 54.03). Davis paces the 100 hurdles (13.01 legal and 12.83 wind-aided — all-time high school best), and long jump (22-2 legal, which is No. 3 all-time, plus 22-3 3/4 wind-aided) and is No. 3 in the triple jump for 2016 at 43-4 – which  ranks No. 12 on the all-time high school list.

The high school long jump record of 22-5 by Kate Hall of Lake Region (Naples, Maine) in 2015 remains a target for Davis before she enrolls at Georgia in the fall.

Davis is also contending for berths in in next month’s Pan American Junnior  Championships in Trujillo, Peru – by finishing among the top two in the concurrent junior nationals here. She is on track to face sometimes overlooked Tia Jones, who set the current high school 100 meter hurdles record of 12.84 in this meet last year as a junior at Walton (Marietta, Ga.)

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