News Digest — Big Happenings In May

At the Oxy Invitational ’22 world champion Michael Norman served up his fastest 400 season opener since ’19. (JEFF COHEN)

BIG NAME PROS began their Olympic season ramp-ups and frosh Sophia Beckmon equaled the long jump American Junior (U20) Record as April turned into May, which showcased a profusion of fine performances.

Oxy Invitational — Norman, Hiltz, SML Wins

Eagle Rock, California, May 04 — A number of elite pros showed rising form at the Oxy Invitational, with comeback races of a kind for Michael Norman and Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone eliciting interest in the still young pre-Paris Games campaign.

Norman returned victorious to the lap wars with his fastest opener since 2019. The ’22 world champion, who turned in just 3 races in shorter sprints early last season, roared into the final stretch well ahead of the field and stopped the clock at 44.21.

There was a USC flavor up front. Alum Norman turned back current Trojan senior Johnnie Blockburger (45.20) and Isaiah Jewett (45.50), who earned a Tokyo Olympic 800 spot as a USC senior in ’21.

Norman — who led the 400 world lists in ’18, ’19 & ’22 and authored 4 of the 5 fastest marks put up since ’17 — had parted ways with coach Quincy Watts for a time last summer but is now back in training with the Trojan head as his guide.

All-conquering 400 hurdler Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone has not raced that event since her World Record victory at the ’22 World Championships and saw limited action in other events last season.

Here — apparently with the “minor knee issue” that cut short her ’23 season healed — McLaughlin-Levrone stayed clear of the lap hurdles also but turned a 100H/200 double that may have been targeted as training for her signature event.

The hurdles came first and she took charge mid-race to run away from NCAA indoor 60H titlist Jasmine Jones 12.71–12.86. Run into a -0.4 wind, the time is SML’s career No. 2 clocking after a 12.65 run at Mt. SAC last year.

Some 3½ hours later, McLaughlin-Levrone took to the oval for her first 200 since ’18. She churned the half lap in 23.38w (wind 2.9) to win by 0.88 from training mate Morolake Akinosun.

World Indoor 1500 medalist Nikki Hiltz also turned a double, 400/800 in that order with about 90 minutes in between. Hiltz, with no known prior 400s on their career record, covered the lap in 54.40.

Hiltz had said after scoring 1500 silver in Glasgow, “I know how good my last 200 is,” and here it was that portion of the race which delivered a 2:00.33–2:00.81 win over Anna Camp-Bennett. Hiltz trailed in 4th at the bell at about 59.5 — a second behind. Camp-Bennett’s lead did not change through 600, at which juncture Hiltz attacked to overtake the BYU alum with about 40m to go.

Nico Young outlegged Northern Arizona teammate Colin Sahlman in a noteworthy 1500, 3:34.56–3:34.64. Young’s time advanced the 5000/10,000 CR holder to No. 3 all-time collegian. The mark by Sahlman, the American CR holder, was the No. 4 all-time collegiate clocking.

Notably, 3rd  went to ’16 Olympic gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz in 3:35.39, his fastest clocking since the Tokyo Olympics semis. Next came Abdihamid Nur (3:35.63) and Craig Engels (3:36.11).

Roughly 2 hours later, Young won the 5000 in 13:36.58 to complete a more than solid evening’s work.

Beckmon Long Jump =AJR

Champaign, Illinois, May 04 — Competing at home in the Illini Tuneup meet, Illinois frosh Sophia Beckmon spanned 22-6¼ (6.86) in the long jump to equal the American Junior Record set by Stanford’s Alyssa Jones last season.

Beckmon — whose prep senior season for Oregon City High (Oregon) saw her jump 22-4 (6.80), just an inch off the HSR — reached 21-11 (6.68), her longest in ’24, on her first jump, ran through her second and then scored a crisp strike that caught most of the board to fly into the record book.

With her performance landing her bang on the Paris Q standard, Beckmon passed her remaining attempts.

Beckmon’s senior teammate Tacoria Humphrey went nearly as far, jumping 22-4¼w (6.81) and then 22-3¾ (6.80) with legal wind in her series for 2nd.

Coach Petros Kyprianou was pleased with what he saw at the Illinis’ last pre-conference comp. “Our athletes are going in with some good confidence and we had too many highlights to mention them all,” said Kyprianou. “Obviously, Sophia Beckmon’s 6.86m Olympic standard long jump shows that she’s somebody we can rely on down the road. She’s a freshman and I like the way all our jumpers are responding.”

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone’s 12.71 at Oxy was the second-fastest of her career. (JEFF COHEN)

Davis-Woodhall Jumps Long

Fayetteville, Arkansas, May 03 — Opening her own LJ outdoor season hot at the Arkansas Twilight, Tara Davis-Woodhall flew out to an outdoor world leader, 23-6 (7.16). The 24-year-old Olympian’s effort was the longest wind-legal jump sans altitude aid since Nigeria’s Ese Brume went a centimeter farther in May of ’21.

Woodhall opened with a foul and reached 23-1½ (7.07) to equal her outdoor career long on her second attempt before the big one.

The always effusive Davis-Woodhall indicated she competed with less than fresh legs. “I’m loaded,” she tweeted. “Yes this is impressive. But there’s more. I just clean-pulled 200 pounds this week. I haven’t tapered at all… I’m coming off jumping 7m from 16 steps indoor.” Her USATF Indoor winner at altitude measured 23-6¾ (7.18) and she won World Indoor gold with 23-2½.

Andersen Rebounds With World Lead

Tucson, Arizona, May 04 — At the USATF Throws Festival, hammer thrower Brooke Andersen, the ’22 world champion, led the field from round 2 onward and sent her sixth throw out to 262-2 (79.92) to capture the world lead. The cast was the fourth-longest all-time by an American.

Her win — by more than 20ft over China’s Jie Zhao — marked an encouraging return to form for Andersen, who PRed at 263-0 (80.17) to move to No. 3 on the all-time world list last May but then from June onward battled through “a very painful shoulder issue” for the remainder of the ’23 season.

Throwing in pain in the World Champs qualifying round, Andersen managed only a non-advancing 222-2 (67.72). She called it “a tough loss to swallow.”

After nearing her highest level ever here, Andersen declared herself “blessed to have my second best performance yesterday. It’s always nice coming back to Arizona!” The 28-year-old thrower scored back-to-back NCAA runner-up placings for Northern Arizona in 2017–’18.

On the men’s side of the meet, putter Payton Otterdahl continued on the roll he started at the Drake Relays, reaching 73-6¼ (22.41), second-longest of his career. He sent two other puts past 73ft (22.25).

Hammer man Daniel Haugh won with 259-2 (79.01) from the Netherlands’ Denzel Comenentia (255-1/77.75) and Rudy Winkler (252-3/76.89).

Furlani Long Jump Record WJR

Savona, Italy, May 15 — Mattia Furlani long jumped a world-leading 27-5¼ (8.36) to break the World Junior (U20) Record at this Continental Tour Challenger meeting on the Italian Riviera. He just barely nicked the old record of 27-4¾ (8.35) set by Russia’s Sergey Morgunov in 2012.

Furlani, now 19, had shown he was capable when he leaped a windy 27-8 ¼ (8.44) at the same meet last year. Indoors, he just missed the standard with his 27-4½ (8.34) at the Italian championships in February. “Finally!” he said. “I have been looking for this result for a long time and it means a lot.

’22 Gold Medalists Walking Well

La Coruña, Spain, May 18 — Many of the world’s best walkers descended upon this coastal city, with ’22 world champion Kimberly García of Peru dominating the 20K in 1:26:41, just a second off her best. Alegna Gonzalez of Mexico closed fast to grab 2nd in a PR 1:26:57 and China’s ’16 Olympic champ Liu Hong 3rd in 1:27:11.

With a blazing kick in a fast-paced race, Japan’s Toshikazu Yamanishi, the ’22 World champion, triumphed over Spain’s Álvaro Martín, 1:17:47–1:17:49, with Brazil’s Caio Bonfim close behind at 1:17:52.

The race came a month after the Spanish men and the Chinese women won titles at the World Team Walking Championships in Türkiye.

USATF 25K Champs — Records Fall

Grand Rapids, Michigan, May 11 — The USATF 25K Champs at the River Bank Run again saw American Records, as Diego Estrada won the overall title with 1:13:09, topping Parker Stinson’s 1:13:48 from 2019. Two others also went under the old mark, Nicolas Montañez (1:13:30) and Abbabiya Simbassa (1:13:44).

Said Estrada, who collapsed at the line, “I made sure to put everything I had so there was nothing left in the reserves. When I finished, I was like I hope it doesn’t hurt because I’m going down.”

Betsy Saina also got a record with her win, clocking 1:22:32 to stay ahead of Anne Frisbie (1:22:37). In 3rd came soon-to-be Olympic marathoner Dakotah Lindwurm, her 1:23:09 edging Emily Durgin by a second. Saina’s time is a women’s-only American Record, chopping 45 seconds off the AR 1:23:17 set by Makena Morley in 2019 on this course.

“Good Season Start” For Warholm

Bergen, Norway, May 22 — In his first outdoor test at the Trond Mohn Games, 8 days before Oslo, Karsten Warholm attacked his own 300 hurdles record and came up 0.02 short, clocking 33.28 for the No. 2 time ever.

He called the exhibition in front of a sparse crowd a “good season start.”

Outdoor Best HS Miles At HOKA Fest

St. Louis, Missouri, May 30 — High schoolers Allie Zealand and Sadie Engelhardt went after the prep mile record in consecutive races at the Hoka Festival of Miles.

First, Zealand, a homeschooler from Lynchburg, Virginia, won the high school girls race in 4:30.38, an outdoor prep record. Then Engelhardt (Ventura, California) lined up against the pro women. She finished with 2:11.51 last 800 to place a close 2nd in 4:28.46. Another outdoor best, but Mary Cain’s indoor 4:28.25 is still the absolute HSR. Intrinsically, Addy Wiley’s 1600 run of 4:26.16 in 2022 is the fastest of all, converting to a 4:27.71. ◻︎

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