Youth Olympic Games — Grace Stark Wins The Only U.S. Gold

Grace Stark wants to emulate legendary Gail Devers as a combo sprinter/hurdler. (VICTOR SAILER/PHOTO RUN)

Buenos Aires, Argentina, October 11-16—Grace Stark knew it as soon as she got off the line in “stage 2” of the Youth Olympic Games 100H. “I knew that I got out before everyone else,” she said. “The announcer said something else, but I knew from the beginning that I was going very well.”

The 17-year-old senior from Lakeland High School in White Lake, Michigan, was one of only 7 Americans selected to compete at the IOC’s Youth Olympics and was the only U.S. trackster to win gold. At the end of the competition, she was selected as the flagbearer for Team USA.

Athletes faced a unique set-up at the third edition of the IOC’s Olympics for kids in the 14–18 age range. Rather than running in heats and then finals, all of the competitors ran in two “stages” with the medals determined by combining their two performances. In the 1500, 3000 & 2000 steeple, athletes had to combine their track performances with their results in a team cross country race.

It meant that each round was equally important. “I adjusted to it,” said Stark. “It was just something that was different.”
In her first stage, Stark won in 13.31 despite cold, blustery conditions. “It’s cold but it’s not Michigan cold,” she quipped. In the second stage, with conditions warmer and the sun shining, a 2.8mps breeze helped the athletes along. Stark, though, took control of the race early and hurdled powerfully to a 12.83–12.96 win over Jamaica’s Ackera Nugent. Australia’s Sophie White, 3rd in 13.01, took the silver once the math was done.

While 30-inch hurdles are rarely run in the U.S. at the high school level, they are what the IAAF recommends for the U18 set. As such, Stark’s performance equaled the No. 1 U.S. mark ever in all-conditions (Californian Tara Davis ran 12.83w last year over the regulation-height barriers), and No. 3 on the world list.

“I gave my all in both races,” said Stark. “I know my second race is half a second faster. [In stage 1] it was a lot colder and harder to warm up.” For Stark, our No. 2 prep All-America this year, the 12.83, wind or no, is very significant. “It gives me a lot of hope for the next season because this is usually my off-season. It’s a really awkwardish time period and it’s surprising that I ran that fast. Even though I trained for it, I just didn’t really expect to run that fast of a time. I knew that day I was going to produce something fast because my practice the day before went very well. I knew I was ready to run something.”

The 30-inch hurdles are nothing new to Stark. That’s all she practices over, ever since the former gymnast started hurdling in the 6th grade. “They needed a hurdler and no one really had a choice. They just put me in it and I was godawful at it. [But] I said I was a hurdler and I just kept going.”

In the 7th grade she started working with coach Tyrone Logan and his Elite Performance club. All of his young hurdlers have trained at 30-inches and some significant names are on that list, including World Junior champ Anna Cockrell in her early years. Stark progressed steadily each season, hurdling 14.72 and 14.64/14.49w in the next two years. As a soph she made a big jump, reaching 13.54 and bringing her dash under 12-seconds with an 11.86.

This season, she blistered the indoor track and it took the camera to separate her and eventual No. 1 All-Am Tia Jones at the New Balance Indoor, with identical 8.05s setting a new junior-class national record. Outdoors, Stark set a PR 13.16 to win Michigan’s State Meet, coming back just 7 minutes later to capture the 100 in 11.74. At the New Balance Nationals, Stark won her specialty in 13.24 and came back to place 3rd in the 100 in a PR 11.47. The 5-4 (1.62) Stark’s sprint/hurdle abilities evoke comparisons to Gail Devers, who won international golds in both events. That’s no accident, Stark said. “100%. She is the person I strive to be like as an athlete and even as a person. It’s a big goal for me to be just as dominant in the sprint as I am in the hurdles. To be able to do the double is very rare.”

What’s next for Stark? A college choice should be coming soon, but she still has one more visit to make. It isn’t easy, she admitted, explaining, “Once you hit that July first of your junior year, you get the reality of I have so-and-so coming to my house to present themselves to me to get me to come to their school and then they start talking about money. You have to figure all that out and then you have to figure out the education and who’s the best coach, who has the best program, who has the best reputation, what kind of academic programs they offer.

“I think like it really hits you at that point and it becomes super, super stressful. I know I had a bit of a hard time handling it at the beginning just because I kind of thought I had where I wanted to go, but then everything started to hit. Now it’s like more questioning where I want to go, but I think I’m coming to a decision.”

Then there’s indoors. “I’m just hoping to get better. I know that national record [8.02 in the 60H], me and Tia are both really close to it and that’s a big goal. I’m just hoping to continue to improve in both my 60 and my 60H. In outdoor season I really hope to better that state record and to become the state champion in both and possibly get the 100 state record (11.26). I know that’s going to be really hard.”

Stark wasn’t the only one who impressed in Buenos Aires. The standout performance on the field came in the high jump, where Ukraine’s Yaroslava Mahuchikh leapt 6-4¾ (1.95) for a yearly World Junior (U20) leader, raising her own mark by a centimeter.

The only other medals for the U.S. came in the girls 800, where Athing Mu (Central, Trenton, New Jersey) finished 2nd, and in the boys 400, with Nicholas Ramey (Brookwood, Snellville, Georgia) finishing 3rd. There were 2 other boys competitors: Charles McBride (Apex, North Carolina) finished 11th in the high jump and Malcolm Clemons (St. Mary’s, Berkeley, California) didn’t compete in stage 2 of the long jump. The other girls were Meghan Hunter (Provo, Utah), 10th in the 400 and Skylar Ciccolini (Mifflin, Lewistown, Pennsylvania), 6th in the javelin.


YOUTH OLYMPIC GAMES RESULTS

Buenos Aires, Argentina, October 11-16 (athletes aged 14–18)—

(1500, 3000 & steeple medals awarded by combining times of those races with the XC race; other medals awarded by combining marks from qualifying and finals. The results listed here are for the top final in each event.)

BOYS RESULTS

100(3.4): 1. Luke Davids (SA) 10.15w; 2. Akintola Alaba (Ngr) 10.24w; 3. Seiryo Ikeda (Jpn) 10.30w.

(Medals: 1. Davids 20.71; 2. Alaba 21.00; 3. Ikeda 21.12)

200(0.1): 1. Abdulaziz Salim Mohamed (Qat) 20.68; 2. Lucas Conceicao Vilar (Bra) 20.99; 3. Antonio Watson (Jam) 21.08.

(Medals: 1. Mohamed 41.78; 2. Watson 42.41; 3. Vilar 42.67)

400: 1. Kennedy Luchembe (Zam) 46.36; 2. Luis Aviles (Mex) 46.78; 3. Nicholas Ramey (US) 47.27.

(Medals: 1. Aviles 1:34.23; 2. Luchembe 1:34.34; 3. Ramey 1:34.87)

800: 1. Tasew Yada (Eth) 1:50.38; 2. Mehmet Çelik (Tur) 1:50.96; 3. Francis Pesi (Ken) 1:51.02.

(Medals: 1. Yada 3:39.76; 2. Mohamed Ali Gouaned (Alg) 3:41.74; 3. Celik 3:41.79)

1500: 1. Melese Nberet (Eth) 3:52.95; 2. Anas Essayi (Mor) 3:53.75; 3. Meron Goitom (Eri) 3:54.39.

(Medals: 1. Jean De Dieu Butoyi (Bdi); 2. Essayi; 3. Nberet)

2000St: 1. Abrham Sime Tufa (Eth) 5:34.94 (WJL); 2. Ahmed Sayf Kadri (Tun) 5:44.56; 3. Louis Vandermessen (Bel) 5:46.07.

(Medals: 1. Tufa; 2. Baptiste Guyon (Fra); 3. Abel Yamane (Eri))

3000: 1. Oscar Chelimo (Uga) 8:08.20; 2. Berihu Aregawi (Eth) 8:09.17; 3. Jackson Muema (Ken) 8:09.95.

(Medals: 1. Muema; 2. Aregawi; 3. Chelimo)

110H (36”) (1.2): 1. Owaab Barrow (Qat) 13.17 ; 2. Kenny Fletcher (Fra) 13.25; 3. Lok Hei Wong (HK) 13.39.

(Medals: 1. Barrow 26.50; 2. Fletcher 27.01; 3. Wong 27.13)

400H: 1. Haruto Deguchi (Jpn) 51.28; 2. Dániel Huller (Hun) 51.86; 3. Martin Fraysse (Fra) 52.72.

(Medals: 1. Deguchi 1:42.68; 2. Huller 1:43.84; 3. Mohammed D. Al-Muawi (Sau) 1:45.81)

5000W: 1. Suraj Panwar (Ind) 20:35.87; 2. Oscar Oswaldo Patín (Ecu) 20:38.17; 3. Jan Moreu (PR) 20:54.04.

(Medals: 1. Patín 40:51.86; 2. Panwar 40:59.17; 3. Moreu 41:59.29)

XC: 1. Jackson Muema (Ken) 11:12; 2. Berihu Aregawi (Eth) 11:13; 3. Oscar Chelimo (Uga) 11:28.

Field Events:

HJ: 1. Long Chen (Chn) 7-3¼ (2.22) 2. Oscar Miers (Aus) 7-3¼; 3. Oleh Doroshchuk (Ukr) 7-¼ (2.14);… 11. Charles McBride (US) 6-8 (2.03).

(Medals: 1. Chen 4.35; 2. Miers 4.27; 3. Doroshchuk 4.23;… 9. McBride 4.08)

PV: 1. Baptiste Thiery (Fra) 17-5½ (5.32); 2. Kazuki Furusawa (Jpn) 17-1½ (5.22); 3. Dmitriy Kachanov (Rus) 16-9½ (5.12).

(Medals: 1. Thiery 10.37; 2. Furusawa 10.32; 3. Kachanov 10.32)

LJ: 1. Lester Lescay (Cub) 25-10¾w (7.89); 2. Josh Cowley (Aus) 25-8 (7.82); 3. Koki Wada (Jpn) 25-1¾w (7.66). (Malcolm Clemons (US) dnc in 2nd round; 24-5¾/7.46 in 1st round)

(Medals: 1. Lescay 15.54; 2. Cowley 15.53; 3. Wada 15.12)

TJ: 1. Jordan A. Díaz (Cub) 55-11 (17.04); 2. Yahor Chuiko (Blr) 52-4½ (15.96); 3. Yun-Chen Li (Tai) 51-7¾ (15.74).

Qual: Díaz 56-2¾ (17.14).

(Medals: 1. Díaz 34.18; 2. Emmanuel Meyiwa Ineh (Ngr) 31.85; 3.aveen Chithravel (Ind) 31.52)

SP(5kg): 1. Nazareno Sassia (Arg) 69-8¾ (21.25); 2. Jialiang Xing (Chn) 68-6½ (20.89); 3. Carmelo Musci (Ita) 68-1½ (20.76).

Qual: Sassia 71-11¾ (21.94).

(Medals: 1. Sasia 43.19; 2. Xing 41.74; 3. Musci 41.43)

DT(1.5kg): 1. Connor Bell (NZ) 217-4 (66.24); 2. Gracjan Kozak (Pol) 195-3 (59.52); 3. Enrico Saccomano (Ita) 195-2 (59.49).

Qual: Bell 219-3 (66.84).

(Medals: 1. Bell 133.08; 2. Jorge Contreras (PR) 115.06; 3. Kozak 114.92)

HT(5kg): 1. Myhaylo Kokhan (Ukr) 279-4 (85.14); 2. Valentin Andreev (Bul) 267-11 (81.67); 3. Qi Wang (Chn) 249-0 (75.90).

Qual: Kokhan 282-0 (85.97); Andreev 269-11 (82.29).

(Medals: 1. Kokhan 171.11; 2. Andreev 163.96; 3. Wang 155.36)

JT(700g): 1. Topias Laine (Fin) 258-8 (78.85); 2. Martin Florian (CzR) 250-1 (76.24); 3. Kunwer Ajai Raj Rana (Ind) 246-3 (75.06).

(Medals: 1. Laine 153.42; 2. Agustín Osorio (Arg) 150.28; 3. Florian 150.24)

GIRLS RESULTS

100(3.3): 1. Rosemary Chukwuma (Ngr) 11.17w; 2. Julien Alfred (StL) 11.23w; 3. Gabriela Anahí Suárez (Ecu) 11.29w.

(Medals: 1. Chukuma 23.20; 2. Alfred 23.22; 3. Suárez 23.26)

200(1.9): 1. Dalia Kaddari (Ita) 23.45; 2. Gudbjörg Jóna Bjarnadóttir (Ice) 23.47; 3. Leticia Maria Lima (Bra) 23.71.

(Medals: 1. Bjarnadóttir 47.02; 2. Kaddari 47.69; 3. Lima 47.87)

400: 1. Barbora Malíková (CzR) 54.68; 2. Marie Scheppan (Ger) 55.15; 3. Mingilishi Nidy (Zam) 55.32;… 10. Meghan Hunter (US) 56.08.

(Medals: 1. Malíková 1:48.86; 2. Scheppan 1:50.06; 3. Nidy 1:50.48;… 9. Hunter 1:52.91)

800: 1. Keely Small (Aus) 2:04.76; 2. Athing Mu (US) 2:05.23; 3. Hirut Meshesha (Eth) 2:06.25.

(Medals: 1. Small 4:10.44; 2. Mu 4:13.24; 3. Meshesha 4:14.60)

1500: 1. Edina Jebitok (Ken) 4:16.68; 2. Jayla Hancock-Cameron (Aus) 4:18.44; 3. Maryem Azrour (Mor) 4:21.22.

(Medals: 1. Jebitok; 2. Hancock-Cameron; 3. Lemlem Hailu (Eth)

2000St: 1. Fancy Cherono (Ken) 6:26.08; 2. Mekides Abebe Demewoz (Eth) 6:27.93; 3. K.M.P.Wasanthi Maristela (SrL) 6:33.06.

(Medals; 1. Cherono; 2. Demewoz; 3. Maristela)

3000: 1. Sarah Chelangat (Uga) 9:11.63; 2. Mercy Chepkorir (Ken) 9:13.59; 3. Aberash Minsewo (Eth) 9:14.99.

(Medals; 1. Chelangat; 2. Chepkorir; 3. Minsewo)

100H(30”) (2.8): 1. Grace Stark (US) 12.83w; 2. Ackera Nugent (Jam) 12.96w; 3. Sophie White (Aus) 13.01w.

(Medals: 1. Stark 26.14; 2. White 26.40; 3. Nugent 26.41)

400H: 1. Valeria Cabezas (Col) 58.39; 2. Loubna Benhadja (Alg) 59.70; 3. Julia Lovsin (Can) 59.89.

(Medals: 1. Cabezas 1:57.58; 2. Benhadja 2:00.68; 3. Carla Garcia (Spa) 2:00.76)

5000W: 1. Ricuo Xi (Chn) 22:40.23; 2. Ólga Fiáska (Gre) 23:23.89; 3. María Belén Villalba (Ecu) 23:26.70.

(Medals: 1. Xi 45:03.49; 2. Sofia Ramos (Mex) 45:58.97; 3. Ólga Fiáska (Gre) 46:10.02)

XC: 1. Sarah Chelangat (Uga) 12:32; 2. Edina Jebitok (Ken) 12:37; 3. Fancy Cherono (Ken) 12:51.

Field Events

HJ: 1. Yaroslava Mahuchikh (Ukr) 6-4¾ (1.95) (WJL);

2. Mariya Kochanova (Rus) 6-1½ (1.87) =PR; 3. Elizabeth Moss (Aus) 5-11½ (1.82).

(Medals: 1. Mahuchikh 3.87; 2. Kochanova 3.71; 3. Jessica Kahara (Fin) 3.63)

PV: 1. Leni Freyja Wildgrube (Ger) 13-8¼ (4.17); 2. Kristina Kontsevenka (Blr) 13-¼ (3.97); 3. Emma Brentel (Fra) 12-10¼ (3.92).

(Medals: 1. Wildgrube 8.12; 2. Brentel 7.82; 3. Kontsevenka 7.72)

LJ: 1. Maite Beernaert (Bel) 20-8½w (6.31); 2. Klaudia Endrész (Hun) 20-6½w (6.26) (20-4¼/6.20); 3. Ingeborg Grünwald (Aut) 20-4¼w (20-3¾/6.19).

(Medals: 1. Beernaert 12.32; 2. Endrész 12.31; 3. Grünwald 12.31)

TJ: 1. Aleksandra Nacheva (Bul) 45-5¾ (13.86); 2. María Vicente (Spa) 44-10¼ (13.67); 3. Mariya Privalova (Rus) 42-9 (13.03).

(Medals: 1. Nacheva 27.62; 2. Vicente 27.43; 3. Ivalova 26.07)

SP(3kg): 1. Xinhui Li (Chn) 60-1¾ (18.33); 2. Lizaveta Dorts (Blr) 57-6¼ (17.53); 3. Nina Capaţina (Mol) 57-2 (17.42).

Qual: Li 60-5¼ (18.42).

(Medals: 1. Li 36.75; 2. Dorts 35.13; 3. Dane Roets (SA) 34.64)

DT: 1. Melany Matheus (Cub) 180-3 (54.95); 2. Violetta Ignatyeva (Rus) 178-2 (54.32); 3. Alida van Daalen (Hol) 174-1 (53.07).

(Medals: 1. Matheus 108.65; 2. Ignatyeva 107.79; 3. Özlem Becerek (Tur) 103.86)

HT(3kg): 1. Valeriya Ivanenko (Ukr) 236-6 (72.08); 2. Rawan Ayman Ibrahim (Egy) 218-2 (66.50); 3. Elísabet Rut Rúnarsdóttir (Ice) 208-5 (63.52).

Qual: Ivanenko 245-9 (74.90).

(Medals: 1. Ivanenko 146.98; 2. Ibrahim 136.17; 3. Alegna Osorio (Cub) 127.00)

JT(500g): 1. Elína Tzénggo (Gre) 202-7 (61.74); 2. Ying Wang (Chn) 187-5 (57.14); 3. Münevver Hancı (Tur) 187-2 (57.06);… 6. Skylar Ciccolini (US) 180-8 (55.07).

Qual: Tzénggo 207-10 (63.34); Yulesy Anahí Angulo (Ecu) 196-3 (59.82).

(Medals: 1. Tzénggo 125.08; 2. Angulo 115.03; 3. Hancı 114.47;… 7. Ciccolini 104.97)