Olympic Trials Women’s 200 — A Race Second To One

Gabby Thomas’s stunning 21.61 has only ever been bettered by Florence Griffith-Joyner. (KEVIN MORRIS)

A WORLD-LEADING 21.98 PR in her heat? When Gabby Thomas was asked about going so fast in the first round, she replied, “I was surprised. I slowed down at the end. I think I have more left.” The only faster race in the first of 3 rounds ever? A 21.76 by Flojo at the ’88 Olympics.

After her semi in another PR, a world-leading 21.94 that moved her to No. 10 on the all-time U.S. list, she admitted, “My expectations for myself have just gotten even higher. When I get on the track, I expect to run sub-22.”

That said, Thomas wasn’t alone in stamping a name for herself. Jenna Prandini’s lifetime bests of 22.14 and 21.99 would be more than enough to remind Thomas that the final would not be a walk in the park.

Oregon alum Prandini knew she was on the brink of something special going into the final when she said after her semi, “It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been running times for a couple years now and my coach says I can run really fast. I just had to put together a race, to be able to do it at Trials is exciting.”

Oh yeah, and then there was Allyson Felix, who, after making the team in the 400, was looking to add to her Olympic résumé after posting the third-fastest mark from the semis, 22.20.

Thomas drew lane 6 for the final, with Prandini (5), ’19 USATF champ Dezerea Bryant (4), Lynna Irby (3) and Morolake Akinosun flanking her on the inside and Felix (7), Anavia Battle (8) and Tamara Clark (9) filling the outer lanes.

Felix reacted best at the gun, but Prandini had Thomas in her sights and was nearly even with the Harvard grad midway through. Prandini then took a slight lead before Thomas shifted into another gear with 70m left. Felix, keying off Battle and Clark, was holding her own, but down the straight it was the collegians who had a bit more in the tank.

Pulling away from Prandini and realizing victory was imminent, Thomas thrust her arms in the air 5m from the line, celebrating even more when her time of 21.61 flashed on the board. Not only was it a meet record, but Thomas was now the No. 2 all-time performer (with the No. 3 performance) behind Flojo.

Prandini confirmed that she is truly a medal threat with her third PR of the meet, 21.89, ahead of Ohio State’s Battle, whose 21.95 edged Alabama’s Clark (21.98) for 3rd. Felix gamely hung on for 5th with her 22.11.

Said Thomas, now a grad student at Texas coached by Olympian Tonja Buford-Bailey, “I have not processed it yet. I’ve been working so hard, I moved to Austin to train for this. I still just cannot believe it. I’m so, so happy. I’ve been working so hard, and I’m really grateful.”

Asked whether the WR was within her reach, she responded, “I don’t want to put a limit on myself so I’m not going to say it’s unattainable.”

A non-advancing 4th in the Rio semis, Prandini said, “I’m really excited. We’ve been working really hard in practice, me and coach Flo [Edrick Floréal], so to be able to come out here and execute what I’ve been doing in practice, I know we have a lot more that we can improve on, which is exciting, but to be able to come out here and perform well, get a place and punch my ticket to Tokyo is really exciting and I’m really thankful for that.”

A grateful Battle simply replied, “I dropped to my knees, I was so shocked and full of happiness. I just started crying. I was just overwhelmed.”

WOMEN’S 200 RESULTS

(June 26; wind +1.3)

1. Gabby Thomas (NBalTBB) 21.61 PR (WL, AL) (2, 3 W; 2, 3 A) (MR);

2. Jenna Prandini (Pum) 21.89 PR (10, x A);

3. Anavia Battle (OhSt) 21.95 PR (12, x A);

4. Tamara Clark (Al) 21.98 PR (13, x A);

5. Allyson Felix (Athleta) 22.11;

6. Dezerea Bryant (Nik) 22.24;

7. Lynna Irby (adi) 22.46;

8. Morolake Akinosun (adi) 22.49.

(best-ever mark-for-place: =3, 4)

(lanes: 2. Akinosun; 3. Irby; 4. Bryant; 5. Prandini; 6. Thomas; 7. Felix; 8. Battle; 9. Clark)

(reaction times: 0.163 Felix; 0.173 Thomas; 0.186 Clark; 0.190 Bryant & Irby; 0.191 Prandini; 0.197 Akinosun; 0.207 Battle)

HEATS (June 24)

I(1.7)–1. Cambrea Sturgis (NCAT) 22.37; 2. Teahna Daniels (Nik) 22.54; 3. Irby 22.75; 4. Cassandra Hall (UNLV) 22.97; 5. Jada Baylark (Ar) 23.11; 6. Ashley Henderson (adi) 23.25.

II(1.2)–1. Battle 22.37; 2. Bryant 22.71; 3. Brittany Aveni (Duke) 23.09; 4. Alfreda Steele (Mia) 23.61; 5. Thelma Davies (LSU) 23.65.

III(1.9)–1. Prandini 22.14 PR; 2. Brittany Brown (adi) 22.49; 3. Quanera Hayes (Nik) 22.58; 4. Anglerne Annelus (USC) 22.76; 5. Alexa Rossum (Stan) 23.26.

IV(0.7)–1. Thomas 21.98 PR (WL, AL) (10, x A);

2. Kynnedy Flannel (Tx) 22.31 PR; 3. Kyra Jefferson (Nik) 22.57; 4. Maia McCoy (Tn) 23.24; 5. Caisja Chandler (Cinc) 23.59.

V(1.0)–1. Clark 22.44; 2. Akinosun 22.48 PR; 3. Felix 22.56; 4. Kennedy Blackmon (Ok) 23.33; 5. Bri’Anna Branch (unat) 24.36.

SEMIS (June 25)

I(-0.3)–1. Prandini 21.99 PR (=11, x A); 2. Felix 22.20; 3. Bryant 22.37; 4. Akinosun 22.44 PR; 5. Irby 22.45; 6. Flannel 22.46; 7. Sturgis 22.68; 8. Annelus 22.78.

II(1.8)–1. Thomas 21.94 PR (WL, AL) (10, x A);

2. Battle 22.32; 3. Clark 22.35; 4. Daniels 22.62; 5. Jefferson 22.75; 6. Hayes 22.83; 7. Brown 22.97; 8. Hall 23.32.

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