USATF Women’s 400 — Wimbley Joins The Sub-50 Club

The rest of the field was already out of it when Shakima Wimbley hit the homestretch. (KEVIN MORRIS/PHOTO RUN)

A relative newcomer and an all-but-forgotten veteran made breakthroughs in the 1-lap final. Miami alum Shakima Wimbley went under 50 for the first time, clocking 49.52 to tie Bahamian training partner Shaunae Miller-Uibo for the yearly world lead. Jessica Beard, whose PR had been stuck at 50.56 since ’09 until she ran 50.52 in Kingston in May, had her second lifetime best of the year in taking 2nd at 50.08. Kendall Ellis, coming off an epic 4×4 anchor for USC at the NCAA, was 3rd in 50.37 with World Indoor gold medalist Courtney Okolo 4th at 50.65.

Beard was out fastest in lane 4, soon making up the stagger on Okolo (5) & Ellis (6). Wimbley (3) was 0.1 ahead of Beard at halfway (23.6–23.7) and kept building her lead through the curve. She had an 0.6 margin with 100 to go and while Beard clawed back a 10th of that it wasn’t nearly enough.

Said the 23-year-old Wimbley, who moved to No. 7 on the all-time U.S. list, “I was in total shock. You put that time on your vision board, but you don’t expect that to happen so quickly. That’s my first year out of college, so that was a far-fetched goal for me. To get it now, it’s just amazing. I can’t really explain it.”

One way to explain it: She is in the training group with Miller-Uibo, coached by Lance Brauman in Clermont, Florida. Wimbley’s college career featured an NCAA title indoors and an outdoor runner-up finish a year ago. And she won silver behind Okolo at March’s indoor Worlds. Her pre-’18 PR was 50.36 in finishing 5th at last year’s USATF. That earned her a spot in the 4×4 pool at the World Championships, which turned into a gold medal after she ran the third leg in the final.

She said it has been motivating to be around Miller-Uibo, the Rio gold medalist, and that she felt a breakthrough coming. She recalls saying, “‘You know, Shaunae, if I train with you and we do this every day, I’m going to try to execute this in a meet.’ As of now, I’m just in shock. Did I really just do this?”

The 29-year-old Beard was back at the site of her NCAA title from ’11, when she also ran an NCAA record split of 49.13 for Texas A&M. “I usually live in lane 2 when we have a final, or lane 8 and 1,” she said. “I wanted to give myself an opportunity to get a preferred lane this time to do just enough for an opportunity to win or set a career best. I didn’t feel Shakima through the curve until she ran up beside me. Being a competitor, my first thought was to go with her, but I remember my coaches telling me to run my race and go at my spot. So, I was mindful of that. I’ve been working on my finish a lot, along with my start. When I set my race up I put myself in a good position.”

The field was missing Sydney McLaughlin (who pulled out at the last minute), WC gold medalist Phyllis Francis (who instead cast her lot in the 200), NCAA champion Lynna Irby (who announced after the NCAA that she was shutting it down) and mega-medalist Allyson Felix (who is going through a less-than-stellar campaign so far).

Given all that, it is extraordinary how much depth the United States has in the women’s 400. Said Wimbley, “I just feel like it’s going to be a great future for all of us.” She also said young sprinters are following Felix and Sanya Richards-Ross in “continuing that greatness.”


FINAL (June 23)

1. Shakima Wimbley (adi) 49.52 PR (=WL; AL) (7, x A) (23.6, 12.4 [36.0], 13.6) (23.6/26.0);

2. Jessica Beard (adi) 50.08 PR (23.7, 12.9 [36.6], 13.5) (23.7/26.4);

3. Kendall Ellis (USC) 50.37 (24.5, 12.4 [36.9], 13.5) (24.5/25.9);

4. Courtney Okolo (Nik) 50.65;

5. Brionna Thomas (Pur) 51.16;

6. Briana Guillory (Ia) 51.30 PR;

7. Jasmine Blocker (Oise) 51.52;

8. Kiana Horton (Bay) 52.86.

HEATS (June 21)

I–1. Guillory 52.23; 2. Jordan Lavender (unat) 52.88; 3. Horton 53.08; 4. Jolie Carbo (Ms) 53.33; 5. Ayana Walker (unat) 53.91.

II–1. Wimbley 51.89; 2. Blocker 52.55; 3. Thomas 53.23;

4. Katara Nelson (NMSt) 54.14; 5. Nicole Fotinos (NnAz) 54.38; 6. Faith Dismuke (unat) 54.45.

III–1. Ellis 51.91; 2. Naasha Robinson (unat) 53.39; 3. Felecia Majors (Tn) 53.63; 4. Jasmine Malone (NnAz) 53.86;

5. Daina Harper (unat) 55.18.

IV–1. Okolo 51.39; 2. Beard 51.97; 3. Briyahna DesRosiers (Or) 53.38; 4. Tatum Waggoner (Az) 53.98;

5. Asha Ruth (CPark) 54.34; 6. T’Sheila Mungo (unat) 55.06.

SEMIS (June 22)

I–1. Wimbley 50.57; 2. Ellis 50.80; 3. Blocker 51.46 PR; 4. Thomas 51.81;

5. DesRosiers 53.08; 6. Lavender 53.11; 7. Walker 53.13; 8. Malone 54.29.

II–1. Beard 50.65; 2. Okolo 50.80; 3. Guillory 51.99; 4. Horton 52.48; 5. Robinson 53.11; 6. Carbo 53.12; 7. Waggoner 53.24; 8. Majors 53.27. □