Moses Legends Meet — McLaughlin-Levrone Hurdles To World Lead

The World Record holder’s first 400H since August of ’22 yielded the ninth-fastest time of her career. (STEVE STROTHER)

ATLANTA, GEORGIA, May 31 — As Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone raced her first 400H in nearly two years, she had a lot on her mind. [Ed: Don’t miss the preview feature here.]

“Just curiosity, to be honest,” she said. “What leg’s going to come [up]? How’s it going to feel? How am I going to feel that last 200? And I think it answered a lot of questions for us.”

In her eagerly anticipated return to the event, McLaughlin-Levrone ran a controlled race — just as coach Bob Kersee ordered — as she prepares to defend her Olympic title. She clocked 52.70 at The Edwin Moses Legends Meet on Friday night to move into the world lead by more than a second while easily securing the Olympic qualifying standard of 54.85.

SML had not run a 400H since August 08, 2022. Last season she ran mostly open 400s and this year the 24-year-old ran a leg on a 4×1, one 100H and a pair of 200s.

“I think for a first race out, getting the rust off, shaking the nerves off, I’ll take a 52.70,” said McLaughlin-Levrone, who finished more than 3 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor. “I think it’s a good start. Definitely a lot to build upon and just happy to be back out here competing in it.”

The crowd at Morehouse College buzzed with excitement going into the race, which was the final event of the meet.

“That adrenaline kicks in when you hear them screaming,” McLaughlin-Levrone said.

Based on her impressive PR of 22.07 in a 200 on May 18, there was speculation she would run 51-something.

But that wasn’t part of Kersee’s plan. “I didn’t want to — in horse racing terms — ‘open her up’ yet,” he said. “I just held the reins on her. All due respect, it was a practice run. I just wanted her to get back on the track in the 400m hurdles, stay in the safe zone and then we start going from there.”

He said he kept his prize pupil more in a 400 cadence than a 400H cadence.

While setting the World Record of 50.68 at the ’22 World Championships, she had a 14-step stride pattern through 7 hurdles, with 15 steps going into the last 3.

In this race, McLaughlin-Levrone used a 15-step pattern through 8 and 16 for the final 2. That meant she only hurdled with her left leg on the ninth barrier.

“I wanted her to run a 52-something,” Kersee said. “She did, so I’m satisfied.”

Running in lane 6, McLaughlin-Levrone quickly moved into the lead, building a substantial cushion over the rest of the field. Michelle Smith of the British Virgin Islands (and a Florida prep) finished 2nd in 55.96, followed by Grace Claxton of Puerto Rico in 58.26.

This was also McLaughlin-Levrone’s first complete lap around the track in competition since July 08, 2023, due to a knee injury that curtailed her season.

“I think that first 400 always takes a little something out of you, but I was shocked that I wasn’t as exhausted as I thought I would be,” said McLaughlin-Levrone, who was chatting with Moses barely a minute after crossing the finish line.

In the next couple of weeks, she and Kersee will work on alternating which leg goes over the hurdles, although she’ll run the flat 400 at the New York Grand Prix on June 09.

“I love to see progress,” she said. “I’m an athlete who needs to see little things chip away, so every day for me is what can I improve upon, how can I see that progress to know that I’m headed in the right direction.”

Kersee said that with three rounds at the Olympic Trials later this month, they can continue to hone McLaughlin-Levrone’s technique.

In the first round, will she be back to a 14-step stride pattern? “I have no idea yet,” Kersee said with a laugh.

McLaughlin-Levrone vaulted over Jamaican Rushell Clayton’s 53.72 on the world list, but her reign may not last long. Femke Bol will race her first 400H of the season Sunday in Stockholm.

Although McLaughlin-Levrone has no plans to compete in Europe this season until the Olympics, she watches the meets.

“I’m just a fan of the sport and I love seeing people push their bounds because it makes me want to push mine,” she said.

McLaughlin-Levrone and Bol have only raced twice in their careers, with the American winning at the Tokyo Olympics and the ’22 Worlds. Bol won the ’23 world title with McLaughlin-Levrone at home nursing her injury and the Dutch runner also captured the this year’s world indoor title in the 400 in a WR 49.17.

“It builds anticipation in our event for sure,” McLaughlin-Levrone said. “She’s doing her thing and it’s amazing and I’m working on my thing, so I think it just makes for really great matchups when they do happen.”

The Moses Legends Meet, held on the track named for the 400 hurdles great, honored Olympic medalists including Gail Devers, Gwen Torrence, Angelo Taylor, Veronica Campbell Brown, Dwight Phillips and Terrence Trammell. This was the first pro track meet held on an HBCU campus.

Christopher Bailey captured the men’s 400 with a PR of 44.42 two days after his 24th birthday; He jumped to No. 9 on the world list with Michael Norman (44.21) and Bryce Deadmon (44.41) the only Americans ahead of him.

“I’m banking on it taking something fast to win [at the Trials],” Bailey said. “It’s going to be a dogfight.”

Quanera Hayes won the women’s 400 in 50.88 while Salwa Eid Naser, the early leader, faded to 5th in 51.70. The ’19 world champ from Bahrain was injured last season.

“It’s like I’m learning to run 400 again and I don’t now what my body’s capable of doing now,” she said after her third individual race this season at the distance. “So, I tried to push myself hard today. It didn’t work out, but I know with more training, I’ll get back.”

Olympic silver medalist Keni Harrison won her second 100H race in Atlanta in a 2-week span, posting a time of 12.60 to beat Masai Russell by 0.03.

In the closest finish of the meet, Heather MacLean of the U.S. held off Canada’s Lucia Stafford in the women’s 1500, 4:02.64–4:02.65, with Addy Wiley close behind in 4:02.78. Sam Prakel surged down the stretch to take the men’s 1500 (3:35.73).

Pjai Austin won the men’s 100 in 10.03, with Ronnie Baker 2nd in 10.15, while Tamara Clark won the women’s 100 in 11.04, followed by Celera Barnes (11.08) and Morolake Akinosun (11.14).


100(-0.9): 1. Pjai Austin (US) 10.03; 2. Ronnie Baker (US) 10.15; 3. Jelani Walker (Jam) 10.19; 4. Duan Asemota (Can) 10.20; 5. Rikkoi Brathwaite (BVI) 10.21; 6. Cejhae Greene (Ant) 10.29; 7. Elijah Hall-Thompson (US) 10.34; 8. Matthew Boling (US) 10.38.

200(0.6): 1. Terrance Laird (US) 20.30; 2. Christian Miller (US) 20.54; 3. Boling 20.58; 4. Hall-Thompson 20.62.

400: 1. Chris Bailey (US) 44.42 PR; 2. Jacory Patterson (US) 45.19; 3. Brian Faust (US) 45.30 PR; 4. Alonzo Russell (Bah) 46.14; 5. Wil London (US) 46.16.

800: 1. Jesús López (Mex) 1:45.79; 2. Alex Amankwah (Gha) 1:46.18; 3. Quamel Prince (Guy) 1:46.23; 4. Abraham Alvarado (US) 1:46.47.

1500: 1. Sam Prakel (US) 3:35.73; 2. John Reniewicki (US) 3:35.90 PR; 3. Johnny Gregorek (US) 3:35.99; 4. Kieran Tuntivate (Tha) 3:36.22 NR; 5. Casey Comber (US) 3:36.35; 6. Amon Kemboi (Ken) 3:36.36.

400H: 1. Shakeem Smith (Bah) 48.79 PR; 2. Khallifah Rosser (US) 48.99; 3. Aldrich Bailey (US) 49.19; 4. James Smith (US) 49.40.

LJ: 1. Isaac Grimes (US) 26-3 (8.00); 2. Damarcus Simpson (US) 26-2¼ (7.98); 3. Kyle Garland (US) 25-4½ (7.73).


100(0.8): 1. Tamara Clark (US) 11.04; 2. Celera Barnes (US) 11.08; 3. Morolake Akinosun (US) 11.14; 4. Audrey Leduc (Can) 11.17; 5. Favour Ofili (Ngr) 11.20; 6. English Gardner (US) 11.24.

200(1.1): 1. Leduc 22.36 NR; 2. Tamari Davis (US) 22.39; 3. Kynnedy Flannel (US) 23.13; 4. NaAsha Robinson (US) 23.34.

400: 1. Quanera Hayes (US) 50.88; 2. Kendall Ellis (US) 51.05; 3. Paola Morán (Mex) 51.30; 4. Talitha Diggs (US) 51.64; 5. Salwa Eid Naser (Bhr) 51.70.

800: 1. Shafiqua Maloney (StV) 1:59.31 NR; 2. Kate Grace (US) 2:00.68; 3. Olivia Baker (US) 2:01.06; 4. Kendra Coleman (US) 2:01.56.

1500: 1. Heather MacLean (US) 4:02.64; 2. Lucia Stafford (Can) 4:02.65; 3. Addy Wiley (US) 4:02.78; 4. Joselyn Daniely Brea (Ven) 4:05.78 NR; 5. Dorcus Ewoi (Ken) 4:06.08.

100H: I(0.2)–1. Kendra Harrison (US) 12.60; 2. Masai Rusell (US) 12.63; 3. Christina Clemons (US) 12.65; 4. Paula Salmon (US) 12.92.

II(-0.2)–1. Andrea Carolina Vargas (CR) 12.97;… 4. Anna Hall (US) 13.67.

400H: 1. Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone (US) 52.70 (WL);

2. Michelle Smith (VI) 55.96 NR; 3. Grace Claxton (PR) 56.26; 4. Alanah Yukich (Aus) 56.62 PR; 5. Sage Walker (Can) 56.94; 6. Daniela Rojas (CRC) 57.27.

HJ: 1. Vashti Cunningham (US) 6-2¾ (1.90); 2. Zarriea Willis (US) 5-11¼ (1.81); 3. Mercedeez Francis (US) 5-11¼;… 7. Hall 5-8¾ (1.75).

LJ: 1. Tiffany Flynn (US) 22-¼ (6.71); 2. Sha’Keela Saunders (US) 21-5¼ (6.53); 3. Tyra Gittens (Tri) 21-4¼ (6.51).