USATF Women’s 400 — A Rare NCAA/USATF Double

Talitha Diggs of Florida became the first NCAA champ to win the USATF 400 the same year since Sanya Richards of Texas in ’03. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

THE 3 MEMBERS of the ’21 Olympic team — Quanera Hayes, Allyson Felix and Wadeline Jonathas — were back, but less than a year later, questions lingered over all three. This was an event in transition.

Hayes, now 30, had run 49.78 to win last year’s Trials but only 53.29 this spring. The indomitable Felix, near the end of her career, had vowed to make one more U.S. team. At 36, even for Felix, was this possible? Jonathas, the find of the ’19 campaign, when at 21 she won the NCAA and made the Worlds team, had run just 53.68 on June 02 in France.

Questions were quickly answered in the first round. In heat I, Felix showed she was ready for war, not merely advancing but winning, in a modest 52.30. Alexis Holmes, 4th 2 weeks earlier for Kentucky at the NCAA in 50.71, was 4th in 52.68, failing to advance.

Jaide Stepter won II in the fastest time of the day, 51.05, while Hayes was well back in 7th in 54.13, her Worlds quest quickly over. III had 6 qualifiers, five of them collegians, as the youth of the event asserted itself. Last was Shakima Wimbley, U.S. champion four years earlier.

Eight of the 16 semifinalists ran college this spring. Semi I went to Talitha Diggs, the Florida soph who had won the NCAA on this track just 2 weeks earlier in 49.99. She looked confident in 50.88. Many eyes were also down the track. Felix had aged considerably overnight. With 100 to go, she was dead last, her dream of one more berth going down on tired legs.

But then, who knows where Felix’s will comes from? In the next heart-pounding 13 seconds, she went from 8th to 4th. This still, however, left her one place from advancing. At 51.32, she would have to wait for the results of SF II. When Na’Asha Robinson finished 4th in 51.50, Felix was headed to one more final.

In that climactic race, Lynna Irby, in 7, went out hard, leading at 200 (24.09). Felix (24.77), again, was last. At 300, Irby remained in front, three tenths up on Diggs, but from there the 19-year-old daughter of the legendary Joetta Clark began an inexorable run to victory.

The NCAA win behind her, “I was ready to get out there and get after it again,” Diggs said.

As for Felix, with 150m left she was still last. From that point on she gained ground on half the field — Irby, Kennedy Simon, Stepter and Kaylin Whitney — to finish 6th.

“I’m happy,” a panting Felix said afterward, because “I have no more open 400s ever in my life. I hope,” she added judiciously, “to be considered for one of the relays.”


WOMEN’S 400 RESULTS

FINAL (June 25)

1. Talitha Diggs (Fl) 50.22

(12.39, 11.99 [24.38], 12.47 [36.85], 13.37) (24.4/25.84);

2. Kendall Ellis (NBal) 50.35

(12.55, 11.74 [24.29], 12.44 [36.73], 13.62) (24.29/26.06);

3. Lynna Irby (adi) 50.67

(12.13, 11.96 [24.09], 12.43 [36.52], 14.15) (24.09/26.58);

4. Wadeline Jonathas (adi) 50.84

(12.52, 12.00 [24.52], 12.61 [37.13], 13.71) (24.52/26.32);

5. Kennedy Simon (Tx) 50.90

(12.36, 12.13 [24.49], 12.52 [37.01], 13.89) (24.49/26.41);

6. Allyson Felix (Athleta) 51.24

(12.25, 12.52 [24.77], 12.61 [37.38], 13.86) (24.77/26.47);

7. Jaide Stepter (unat) 51.30

(12.47, 12.03 [24.5], 12.89 [37.39], 13.91) (24.50/26.80);

8. Kaylin Whitney (NikRB) 51.31

(12.59, 11.73 [24.32], 12.72 [37.04], 14.27) (24.32/26.99).

HEATS (June 23)

I–1. Felix 52.30; 2. Simon 52.42; 3. Jermaisha Arnold (CCar) 52.57; 4. Alexis Holmes (Ky) 52.68; 5. Stephanie Davis (SC) 52.73; 6. Moriah Oliveira (Mia) 53.42; 7. Brittany Aveni (unat) 53.74.

II–1. Stepter 51.05; 2. Irby 51.42; 3. Taylor Manson (Fl) 51.78; 4. Na’Asha Robinson (unat) 51.78; 5. MaKenzie Dunmore (SC) 51.89; 6. Courtney Okolo (unat) 52.37; 7. Quanera Hayes (Nik) 54.13.

III–1. Rosaline Effiong (Ar) 51.17; 2. Diggs 51.32; 3. Kaylin Whitney (Nik) 51.36; 4. Shae Anderson (UCLA) 51.51; 5. Taiya Shelby (Vand) 51.65; 6. Delecia McDuffie (NCAT) 51.87; 7. Shakima Wimbley (adi) 53.06.

IV–1. Ellis 51.69; 2. Jonathas 51.73; 3. Kyra Jefferson (unat) 52.09; 4. Jessica Beard (unat) 52.79; 5. Bailey Lear (USC) 52.95; 6. Kayla Armstrong (ConcCh) 54.80; 7. Chloe Abbott (unat) 55.11.

SEMIS (June 24)

I–1. Diggs 50.88; 2. Simon 51.11; 3. Stepter 51.26; 4. Felix 51.32; 5. Whitney 51.42; 6. Arnold 51.78; 7. McDuffie 51.82; 8. Anderson 52.14.

II–1. Ellis 51.06; 2. Irby 51.28; 3. Jonathas 51.29; 4. Robinson 51.50; 5. Manson 51.63; 6. Jefferson 51.66; 7. Effiong 51.81; 8. Shelby 52.40. ◻︎

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