Olympic Trials Men’s 100 — A Year’s Delay Changed Everything

Trayvon Bromell, Ronnie Baker & Fred Kerley likely wouldn’t have been in the 100 picture a year ago, whereas Noah Lyles probably would have been very prominent. (KEVIN MORRIS)

ON ONE LEVEL, Trayvon Bromell — who in victory here matched the 9.80 time Justin Gatlin ran to win the ’16 Trials — may be thankful that time skipped a beat in Pandemic 2020 and this final went off a year later than planned. So might Ronnie Baker, who went out after the semis in ’16 yet in this final placed 2nd with a PR 9.85.

For that matter, Fred Kerley was a Worlds bronze medalist 400 man in ’19 and might not have considered racing the shortest dash a year ago. Pivoting this season to the speedy end, he too churned a PR, 9.86, to nail down the third Games berth in a sharply competitive race that saw 39-year-old super-vet Gatlin hobble home injured and emotional that his long run is at or near its end.

Baylor alum Bromell — now 25 and only returned to world-class performance levels last summer after 3 seasons spent on the sidelines — showed with his 9.84w heat (wind 2.7) full intent to keep his ’21 unbeaten string alive. Baker’s 9.88 that prevailed in heat IV from Kerley (9.93) and ’18 USATF champ Noah Lyles (9.95) was remarkably fast as well.

In the next day’s first semi Bromell’s legs beat out the drumbeat of “favorite” as he dashed 9.90 clear of Kenny Bednarek (9.96 PR) and Gatlin (10.00). Kerley (9.92) and Baker (9.94) led the second section from Lyles (9.97). Rio Olympian Marvin Bracy-Williams, No. 2 on the U.S. list coming into the meet, limped in injured. List No. 3 Isiah Young ran a non-Q 6th in semi I (10.08).

For the final some 90 minutes later, interest, not unusually, centered in the middle of the track: Bromell in 5 with Baker and Lyles to his right, Kerley, Bednarek and Gatlin (lane 2) to his left on the inside.

At the gun’s report, Bromell’s 0.144 reaction time led the getaway. Neither Kerley, Bednarek nor Gatlin was letting him go, though, and the field was a rather united front approaching 50m. Baker was now hammering, out of an early deficit, and from the midpoint the eventual top 3 unleashed their bona fides.

Arrayed in an off-kilter delta with Bromell at the point, Baker forming his right wing, and Kerley and Bednarek his left, they sped home, Bromell inches but unassailably in front.

As four bettered 9.90 at a Trials/USAs for the first time with legal wind (0.8), 4th-placer Bednarek’s 9.89 was another PR. Micah Williams’ 9.91 was the best-ever 5th-place time in the meet. World 200 champion Lyles had hoped to vie for double gold in Tokyo but started sluggishly and trailed in 7th (10.05).

Gatlin looked to fall behind the driving tempo after halfway and abruptly slowed at 70m. In a post-race interview punctuated by tears, he revealed he had strained a hamstring in his semi yet vowed he would tape and go in the final.

“It was a heck of a race,” said Bromell, now a Trials winner after dashing to 2nd in ’16. “Going in I knew my competitors, their strengths. I had to stay humble and give every athlete in the field their respect. Coming out of the blocks I knew my legs were heavy just like everyone else. Once the race began, I told myself ‘knees up.’

“I’m a spiritual runner, I run for God, for Christ. When I won, I was happy, and I actually felt his presence. It was a crazy race, I don’t know what to say honestly.”

MEN’S 100 RESULTS

(June 20; wind +0.8)

1. Trayvon Bromell (NBal) 9.80;

2. Ronnie Baker (Nik) 9.85 PR (=6, x A);

3. Fred Kerley (Nik) 9.86 PR (=10, x A);

4. Kenny Bednarek (Nik) 9.89 PR;

5. Micah Williams (Or) 9.91 PR;

6. Cravon Gillespie (Nik) 10.00;

7. Noah Lyles (adi) 10.05;

8. Justin Gatlin (Nik) 10.87

(lanes: 1. Gillespie; 2. Gatlin; 3. Bednarek; 4. Kerley; 5. Bromell; 6. Baker; 7. Lyles; 8. Williams)

(reaction times: Bromell 0.144; Gillespie 0.151; Kerley 0.152; Bednarek 0.160; Williams 0.164; Gatlin 0.167; Lyles 0.185; Baker 0.189)

HEATS (June 19)

I(-0.3)–1. Bednarek 10.07; 2. Isiah Young (Nik) 10.08; 3. Gillespie 10.20; 4. Cravont Charleston (NCSt) 10.23; 5. Chris Royster (unat) 10.34; 6. Cole Beck (VaT) 10.35; 7. Devin Quinn (unat) 10.40(10.391).

II(2.7)–1. Bromell 9.84w; 2. Gatlin 9.93w; 3. Williams 9.95w; 4. Jaylen Bacon (adi) 10.04w; 5. Michael Rodgers (Nik) 10.13w; 6. Marcellus Moore (Pur) 10.14w; 7. Ameer Webb (Nik) 10.21w; 8. Rodney Rowe (unat) 10.22w.

III(2.0)–1. Marvin Bracy-Williams (Nik) 10.00; 2. Christopher Belcher (Nik) 10.01; 3. Kyree King (Nik) 10.05; 4. Bryan Henderson (SamH) 10.12 =PR; 5. Matthew Boling (Ga) 10.13; 6. Nolton Shelvin (unat) 10.18; 7. Jeff Demps (adi) 10.48; 8. Jaylen Slade (FlHS) 43.79.

IV(1.9)–1. Baker 9.88; 2. Kerley 9.93; 3. Lyles 9.95; 4. Bryce Robinson (Tracksm) 10.13; 5. Kendal Williams (adi) 10.15; 6. Lance Lang (Ky) 10.27; 7. Denzell Feagin (unat) 10.35; 8. Demek Kemp (Asics) 10.40.

SEMIS (June 20)

I(-0.3)–1. Bromell 9.90; 2. Bednarek 9.96 PR; 3. Gatlin 10.00; 4. Williams 10.02; 5. Gillespie 10.03; 6. Young 10.08; 7. Bacon 10.17; 8. Rodgers 10.23.

II(0.7)–1. Kerley 9.92; 2. Baker 9.94; 3. Lyles 9.97; 4. Belcher 10.11; 5. Henderson 10.16; 6. King 10.18; 7. Boling 10.22; 8. Bracy-Williams 17.82.

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