THE TWO FASTEST AMERICANS on the yearly list, NCAA champion Athing Mu and Shamier Little, opted for other events, leaving this race as wide open as any at the meet.
The semis, run into a stiff backstretch wind, provided some clarity. Quanera Hayes emerged as a possible favorite, and many distinguished veterans — Jessica Beard, Natasha Hastings, Phyllis Francis, Jaide Stepter Baynes — departed.
The next day’s final commenced on a very warm, sultry evening with little wind. At the gun, the crowd’s sentimental favorite, 35-year-old medalist supreme Allyson Felix, was off fastest, along with UCLA junior Shae Anderson, who had opened some eyes with a 49.98 relay leg at the NCAA. Felix in lane 7 quickly made up the stagger on converted short sprinter Kaylin Whitney, in lane 8, who accelerated to stay with her.
On the backstretch, Hayes and Kendall Ellis moved quickest, and at the 200 they were the clear leaders from Felix, Doha 4th-placer Wadeline Jonathas and Lynna Irby. Hayes took command on the curve, and Jonathas eased slightly past her as Felix faded and seemed out of contention.
With 100m to the finish, the order was Jonathas, Hayes, Irby, Taylor Manson, and Ellis, with Felix 6–8m in arrears just ahead of Anderson and Whitney. Some 50m out, Hayes powered to the front and moved away to win handily at 49.78. Jonathas led Irby and Ellis by 2m, with Felix another meter back.
Then the super-veteran unleashed a terrific drive, passing Irby and Ellis with 10m left and Jonathas by inches at the finish, 50.02–50.03, with Ellis at 50.10. Whitney never faded, recording her third PR of the meet to edge Irby for 5th, 50.29–50.35. Manson in 7th (50.79) and Anderson in 8th (50.84) also set lifetime bests.
Hayes, who finished just 0.06 off the PR she set in ’17 — became a mother in the interim and was gratified to share the spotlight with the meet’s best-known mom. “It’s unreal,” she said. “Our kids give us so much strength and so much power. Someday they will think, ‘She fought till the end. She made the Olympic Team. That means I should fight for things and never give up.’ It’s stuff like this that makes it all worthwhile.”
En route to her fifth Games and perhaps more medals, Felix was humbled by her achievement, saying, “I am proud of making it to this moment. There has been so much that has gone into this and there were many times when I didn’t think I would get to this. I told myself before the race that when it comes down to it, I have to fight. That’s been a theme of mine for the past couple years. I was just gonna give my all and leave it all on the track.”
Asked whether she’s sure that she won’t try for Paris 2024, she answered, “I’m absolutely sure.”
WOMEN’S 400 RESULTS
1. Quanera Hayes (Nik) 49.78;
2. Allyson Felix (Athleta) 50.02;
3. Wadeline Jonathas (adi) 50.03;
4. Kendall Ellis (NBal) 50.10;
5. Kaylin Whitney (Nik) 50.29 PR;
6. Lynna Irby (adi) 50.35;
7. Taylor Manson (Fl) 50.79 PR;
8. Shae Anderson (UCLA) 50.84 PR
(lanes: 2. Irby; 3. Manson; 4. Anderson; 5. Jonathan; 6. Hayes; 7. Ellis; 8. Felix; 9. Whitney)
(reaction times: Felix 0.172; 2. Hayes 0.202; Ellis & Jonathas 0.235; Anderson 0.248; Irby 0.253; Whitney 0.311; Manson 0.547)
HEATS (June 18)
I–1. Felix 50.99; 2. Jessica Beard (adi) 51.10; 3. Jaide Stepter Baynes (unat) 51.21; 4. NaAsha Robinson (unat) 51.30 PR; 5. Chloe Abbott (OnAC) 52.52; 6. Joanna Atkins (unat) 52.89; 7. Stephanie Davis (SC) 52.89.
II–1. Hayes 52.34; 2. Manson 52.37; 3. Brittany Aveni (Duke) 52.54; 4. Aaliyah Birmingham (OkSt) 52.64; 5. Francena McCorory (unat) 52.93; 6. Bailey Lear (USC) 53.54; 7. Honour Finley (Ks) 57.11.
III–1. Jonathas 50.64; 2. Irby 50.91; 3. Whitney 50.94 PR; 4. Phyllis Francis (Nik) 51.34; 5. Natasha Hastings (UArmNYAC) 51.92; 6. Olivia Bechtel (MiaO) 52.11; 7. Kendall Baisden (unat) 53.17.
IV–1. Ellis 51.02; 2. Anderson 51.32; 3. Talitha Diggs (Fl) 51.74; 4. Courtney Okolo (unat) 52.37; 5. Ziyah Holman (Mi) 52.83; 6. Isabella Whittaker (Penn) 52.96; 7. Jordan Lavender (unat) 53.06.
SEMIS (June 19)
I–1. Ellis 50.83; 2. Felix 51.01; 3. Anderson 51.27; 4. Beard 51.49; 5. Stepter Baynes 51.77; 6. Diggs 52.04; 7. Francis 52.12; 8. Hastings 52.35.
II–1. Hayes 50.07; 2. Jonathas 50.24; 3. Whitney 50.35 PR; 4. Irby 50.58; 5. Manson 51.11; 6. Robinson 52.04; 7. Bechtel 52.28; 8. Aveni 52.31.