USATF Men’s 100 — Lyles Running With The Big Dogs

And in the photos-can-be-deceiving department, note that Noah Lyles actually beat Ronnie Baker by 0.02. (VICTOR SAILER/PHOTO RUN)

Coming 10 months after the first World Champs 1-2 in the century for the U.S. since ’01, the 100 was bound to be a story of new blood in the event and an indicator of its direction leading into the WC and Olympic seasons ahead. The sense the final would be a signpost clash tingled under gray cloud cover far more palpably than it had before either of the last two off-year 100s in ’14 & ’10.

London gold and silver men Justin Gatlin (pacing his 36-year-old body as he looks to keep it going for 2 more years) and World Indoor 60 gold medalist Christian Coleman (hamstring injury) passed on the meet. Last year’s surprising 3rd-placer Christopher Belcher had not run a 100 this year, had no races at all since mid-April and was also absent.

That left ’14 (and ’09) winner Mike Rodgers, the U.S. list leader at 9.92 and 33 years old, facing the hot hand on the DL circuit, Ronnie Baker, NCAA champ Cameron Burrell and 20-year-old 200 savant Noah Lyles two weeks on from a 9.93 PR in Kingston, Jamaica.

Also on the start list was Isiah Young, whose 9.96 heat and 9.92 final at a low-key meet in Florida 2 weeks earlier led his résumé of 5 wind-legal sub 10.00s in the last 5 seasons. Collegians Jaylen Bacon (9.97) and Kendal Williams (9.99) rounded out the list of entrants with sub-10 times this year.

Baker won heat I easily in 10.00 and then Young sprinted 9.93w. In the third, Rodgers laid down a 9.89 world leader ahead of a 9.93 =PR for Burrell but then called it a meet, eschewing the semis. The final heat went to Lyles at 9.92w.

The next day’s semis pointed to a Baker/Lyles matchup. In the first, TCU alum Baker at 9.94 led Burrell (10.00). The second brought a smashing statement from Lyles, a 9.89 PR to equal Rodgers’ world lead and make him the =No. 12 American ever. Young (10.01) and Williams (10.02) were next on the other side of 10-flat.

For the final, roughly 90 minutes later, Lyles coach Lance Brauman told his student, “I’m giving you the all clear to go all out.”

The sprinter’s reaction was exultant: “It’s on!”

But Baker had scorched a wind-aided 9.78 at the Pre Classic and the Kentucky native’s dragster start was expected as a formidable force Lyles would have to overcome. When the field assembled for the final under leaden clouds, Bacon (10.09 heat, 10.12 semi) failed to appear in his lane 8 slot.

Lyles bounced high with a single semi-jumping jack to loosen up behind his blocks, shook out his arms and legs, and then they settled in. Attention centered on the track: Baker in lane 3, Lyles in 4, Burrell in 5, Young in 6.

At the gun the expected broke out: Baker stormed away hard, as did Burrell and in lane 1 Jeff Demps, former NFL running back and ’12 Olympic relayist. Lyles, to be fair, was in the thick through the first few steps but by 10m Baker was gapping the field. By 60, though, Lyles was rolling even with Burrell, who also had a challenge to his right from Young. Crucially, Lyles had narrowed Baker’s advantage. With a full head of steam over the final 30, Lyles inched up on Baker, and in the last 10 his legs ate the margin with each step. In the 5m before the line Lyles burst ahead with an elegant lean and sewed up a 9.88–9.90 win, the times PRs for both.

Out in lane 7, Williams leaned with his last two strides and collared Young, both timed in 10.00 with the Georgia sprinter 0.006 ahead in the race for 3rd. Burrell in 5th clocked 10.04.

World leader, USATF champion, Lyles was now a 100 man, and he cut loose with a joyful dance—”I don’t know the name of it,” he said noting its hops and kick moves are famous from the video game Fortnite. Then Lyles bowed toward the stands.

He allowed later that patience when he fell behind early was invaluable (click to read more).

“I didn’t think that my first USATF championship was going to be [as] a 100 gold medalist,” he said. “I thought it was going to be always the 200, so to come out here and win the 100 made me very happy. I’m proving, one, that I’m not just a 200 runner, and two, that I’m out here with the big dogs and I’m trying to be just as great as them.”


FINAL (June 22; wind +1.1)

1. Noah Lyles (adi) 9.88 PR (WL, AL) (=9, x A);

2. Ronnie Baker (Nik) 9.90 PR;

3. Kendal Williams (Ga) 10.00;

4. Isiah Young (Nik) 10.00;

5. Cameron Burrell (Hous) 10.04;

6. Jeff Demps (adi) 10.13;

7. Bryce Robinson (unat) 10.55;

… dnc—Jaylen Bacon (ArSt).

HEATS (June 21)

I(1.9)–1. Baker 10.00; 2. Bacon 10.09; 3. Chris Jefferson (SHous) 10.12 PR; 4. Cordero Gray (unat) 10.13; 5. Remontay McClain (unat) 10.13;

6. Tevin Hester (unat) 10.23; 7. Chris Royster (unat) 10.24; 8. Darryl Haraway (FlSt) 10.40.

II(1.9)–1. Young 9.93w; 2. Demps 10.02; 3. Cravon Gillespie (Or) 10.127;

4. Jarrion Lawson (Asics) 10.23; 5. Justin Walker (unat) 10.24; 6. Tarrik Brock (USC) 10.25; 7. John Teeters (UArm) 10.27; 8. Maxwell Willis (Bay) 10.41.

III(1.4)–1. Mike Rodgers (Nik) 9.89 (WL, AL);

2. Burrell 9.93 =PR; 3. Kenzo Cotton (Ar) 10.13; 4. Riak Reese (Kent) 10.14 PR;

5. Demek Kemp (SC) 10.19 PR; 6. McKinely West (SnMs) 10.22; 7. Micah Larkins (NWnLa) 10.24; 8. LeShon Collins (TPerf) 10.48.

IV(3.4)–1. Lyles 9.92w; 2. Williams 10.03w; 3. Robinson 10.07w; 4. Ryan Clark (Fl) 10.18w;

5. Naron Rollins (PittSt) 10.25w;… dq—Brandon Carnes (adi).

SEMIS (June 22)

I(1.2)–1. Baker 9.94; 2. Burrell 10.00; 3. Robinson 10.10; 4. Bacon 10.12;

5. Gray 10.18; 6. Gillespie 10.23; 7. Clark 10.26;… dnc—Rodgers.

II(0.7)–1. Lyles 9.89 PR (=WL, AL) (=12, x A);

2. Young 10.01; 3. Williams 10.02; 4. Demps 10.04;

5. Cotton 10.14; 6. Reese 10.27; 7. McClain 10.28; 8. Jefferson 10.37.