McLaughlin-Levrone Ready For 400H Return

Nearly 2 years have elapsed since Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone hurdled 50.68 at Oregon22, and nearly 22 months since her last 400H race. (KEVIN MORRIS)

SYDNEY McLAUGHLIN-LEVRONE is returning to her comfort zone.

At the Edwin Moses Legends Meet at Morehouse College she’ll run her first 400H race since August 08, 2022. (Read here how her outing played out.)

“I just want to have a qualifying mark and have a clean race,” McLaughlin-Levrone said at a pre-meet press conference. “I’m not worried about anything else other than that, honestly. As long as those two things happen and I stay healthy, I have no complaints.”

The qualifying standard for the Paris Olympics is 54.85 seconds. McLaughlin-Levrone, the WR holder at 50.68, already has a bye into the U.S. Olympic Trials based on her status as reigning Olympic champion.

The 24-year-old flirted with the flat 400 last year, running the second-fastest time in U.S. history, 48.74, before a knee injury forced her out of the World Championships in Budapest.

However, coach Bob Kersee announced on May 17 — the day before McLaughlin-Levrone ran a blistering PR of 22.07 in the 200 — that she would pursue another long hurdles gold medal instead of venturing back into the 400.

“This is what I love to do,” McLaughlin-Levrone said. “It’s my main event and I think it was really fun running the open 400 last year. Obviously, the season kind of got cut a little bit short.”

But with the Olympics on the horizon this year, the New Jersey native said she wanted “to do something that I was familiar with and comfortable with. I think I’m still getting to know the 400. But this is what I know best, so being able to come back to this and trying to do it better than I have and improve upon myself, I think there is just some confidence and security in that and in a year as big as this one.”

Meet director Paul Doyle of the Puma American Track League announced a “million-dollar hurdle challenge” in the men’s 400H for the meet held on the Edwin Moses Track. Any athlete who betters Moses’ PR of 47.02 — the World Record from 1983 to ’92 — will receive $900,000 while a lucky fan in the stands will take home $100,000.

Where’s the women’s million-dollar bonus? McLaughlin-Levrone laughed. “I don’t know,” she said. “It’s all good, though. You know, in the first race… let’s just get the qualifying mark.”

Going after a World Record in her first lap hurdles race of the season, McLaughlin-Levrone said, “That doesn’t sound smart.”

The Atlanta meet is not McLaughlin-Levrone’s latest opener in her specialty, however. On June 6, 2021, she ran 52.83 at the Music City Track Carnival in Nashville. At the same meet on June 5, 2022, she ran 51.61 for the fastest time on U.S. soil — even though the fifth hurdle was set in the wrong position. Both of those races were her only 400H appearances in those seasons before the Olympic Trials/USA Outdoor Championships.

“I don’t think people choose the 400 hurdles; I think it chooses them — at least that is what it is for me,” McLaughlin-Levrone said. “I think the open 4 actually hurts more than the 400H. I believe that the hurdles, I enjoy jumping over them, and they almost distract me from the fact that I’m running a 400. So being able to focus on stride pattern, technique, all of those things, makes it almost more enjoyable going around. I can think about what I have to execute as opposed to sprinting and sprinting some more without anything in front of me.

“It’s a very hard event. It takes a lot of mental focus, endurance, speed, all those things combined. I think that’s the beauty of it. Like Edwin says, once you can clean up those little mistakes, it adds up, especially if you’re doing that over 10 hurdles.”

This season, as she has done in previous years, McLaughlin-Levrone has run other events to tune up and get back in the rhythm of racing.

“There’s so much we’re doing in practice and training that it’s not so much trying to go run a super crazy fast time,” she said. “It’s really just part of the training blocks of seeing where we’re at.”

McLaughlin-Levrone ran a 4×1 leg at Mt. SAC on April 20, then posted a formidable double at the Occidental Invitational in LA on May 4, clocking 22.38 in the 200 and 12.71 in the 100H. Two weeks later she lowered that 200 time to 22.07 en route to winning at the USATF Los Angeles Grand Prix.

“We had a few practices last year over hurdles,” McLaughlin-Levrone said. “This year we started a little sooner in the season, just kind of doing some hurdles stuff. But I think it was a longer progression.”

And yet it felt like home. The 400H she said, “is my bread and butter. This is what I love to do and it feels most comfortable, so I think this is just my choice, I guess.”

Moses, who won two Olympic gold medals and a bronze, said the distance is the only similarity between the 400H and the flat 400.

“The way you run, the way you position your body, your stride, cadence, steps,” he said. “It’s difficult to go back and forth without risking injury.”

McLaughlin-Levrone said staying healthy is always the key, which is why she has run so sparingly. “Being an Olympic year, health and therapy being so huge,” she said, “just some of that travel on the body, and just wanting to be smart about making sure that everything is in check, especially ahead of the Trials.”

McLaughlin-Levrone plans to compete at the New York Grand Prix on June 09, but has not confirmed which event. Although she hasn’t raced any Diamond League events, she said, “I love the European meets. I love being able to go over there and get those experiences. But just in a year as big as this and making sure that the body was healthy, it just made more sense to stay home.”

In her penultimate 400H outing in ’22 McLaughlin-Levrone lowered her own World Record in the event to 50.68 at the World Championships in Eugene. She then ran one more race, at the Gyulai Memorial in Hungary to cap an 8-race undefeated season with a 51.68. She also ran one 100H and was a part of the gold-medal 4×4 at the World Championships. Her campaign, although brief, earned her the ’22 T&FN Women’s Athlete Of The Year award.

“I think the key is not comparing where I am now to where I was 2 years ago,” McLaughlin-Levrone said. “It’s very easy to compare, but injuries take place, things happen, and being able to appreciate where I am right now, and take it day by day.

“So, whatever the stride pattern is tomorrow, being OK with that and just getting that qualifying mark. And then we still have time over the next couple of weeks to continue to fix things.”

McLaughlin-Levrone said she doesn’t know how her 22.07 speed will translate to the 400H, especially incorporating her stride-pattern over the 10 hurdles. “It’s still 200 more meters,” she said, “so I don’t know how well I can add those two together and figure that out.”

Rushell Clayton of Jamaica currently tops the world list (53.72 in Kingston on May 11) while Anna Cockrell is the top American (53.75 in LA on May 18).

Moses noted the possibility of producing world-leading times on his namesake track, “specifically for Sydney,” he said. “Not to put any pressure on her, but it’s going to be hard for her not to do that.”

Femke Bol, the reigning world champ and McLaughlin-Levrone’s top rival, has not run a 400H race yet this year. After winning the World Indoor 400 with a 49.17 WIR in March, she ran 11.47 for 100 and 17.10 for 150 in late April in Curaçao. A week later, she helped the Netherlands qualify for the Olympics in the 4 x 400 mixed relay with a 49.63 split on the anchor leg.

McLaughlin-Levrone said she believes a woman will someday run 49 for the 400H. “Obviously, it takes a lot of strength endurance, mechanical efficiency to get that done and putting that race together,” she said. “But I do think the numbers show that it is possible. It would be a very fast race, a very painful race.”

Yet McLaughlin-Levrone is not focusing on the clock. “Always aiming for gold,” she said. “I think that’s every athlete’s desire. But I think that doesn’t come unless I stay healthy. So that’s No. 1 on my list — really, truly, is staying healthy.”

If her body holds up, could McLaughlin-Levrone go all the way through the ’28 Los Angeles Olympics? “I don’t know… We’ll find out!” she said with a laugh. “It’s 2024, that’s all I can say right now!”

Subscription Options

Digital Only Subscription

  • Access to Current Articles
  • Access to Current Issues
  • eTrack Results Newsletter
  • Unlimited Content from our Technique Journal, Track Coach

$88 per year (recurring)

Digital Only Premium Archive

  • Unlimited Articles
  • Access to Archived Issues
  • eTrack Results Newsletter
  • Unlimited Content from our Technique Journal, Track Coach

$138 per year (recurring)

Print + Digital Subscription

  • Access to Current Articles
  • Access to Current Issues
  • eTrack Results Newsletter
  • Unlimited Content from our Technique Journal, Track Coach
  • 12 Monthly Print Issues

$125.00 USA per year (recurring)
$173.00 Canada per year (recurring)
$223.00 Foreign per year (recurring)

Print + Digital Premium Archive

  • Unlimited Articles
  • Access to Archived Issues
  • eTrack Results Newsletter
  • Unlimited Content from our Technique Journal, Track Coach
  • 12 Monthly Print Issues

$175.00 USA per year (recurring)
$223.00 Canada per year (recurring)
$273.00 Foreign per year (recurring)

Print Only Subscription

  • 12 Monthly Print Issues
  • Does not include online access or eTrack Results Newsletter

$89.00 USA per year (recurring)
$137.00 Canada per year (recurring)
$187.00 Foreign per year (recurring)

Track Coach
(Digital Only)

  • Track Coach Quarterly Technique Journal
  • Access to Track Coach Archived Issues

Note: Track Coach is included with all Track & Field News digital subscriptions. If you are a current T&FN subscriber, purchase of a Track Coach subscription will terminate your existing T&FN subscription and change your access level to Track Coach content only. Track & Field News print only subscribers will need to upgrade to a T&FN subscription level that includes digital access to read Track Coach issues and articles online.

$19.95 every 1 year (recurring)

*Every 30 days